IMITATION MAY be the sincerest form of flattery, but in a world where brands, artists, and services strive to be original and different, fakery — or bootlegging — can really get annoying.
Bootleg is a term with origins in the late 19th century which comes from smugglers’ practice of concealing bottles in their boots. It is an informal term that means to make, sell, and distribute unlawfully products especially liquor and records, but has grown scope to include fashion, design, and literature.
The thriving black market in the Philippines is the highlight of The Bootleg Project, on view at the Vetro Gallery, an emerging platform for contemporary Filipino artists to showcase their works and connect with like-minded creatives.
The Bootleg Project will open on June 9 with discussions on intellectual property and appropriation in art, design, and new forms of media.
“Bootlegging is deeply ingrained in the Filipino culture, and it’s interesting how it has penetrated the art scene where it’s generally accepted and remains unquestioned. I thought of starting The Bootleg Project to create a critical space where we can constructively tackle this practice and reflect on the bigger impact it has to the creative community,” Adrian Emmanuel Mariñas, artist and one of the initiative’s co-founders, said in a statement.
The project started with a joke: “I was wearing a bootlegged shirt and my friends were making fun of me because of it. Pero naisip ko, ‘lahat naman tayo may bootleg eh! Depende na lang kung aaminin mo,’ (But I thought, ‘all of us have something that is bootlegged. It just depends on whether we admit it),” said Mr. Mariñas.
Featuring interdisciplinary local artists exploring emerging forms of media and interactive art, the show will exhibit and tackle different forms of counterfeiting in various industries: fashion, art, design, literature, technology, music, and technology.
The show will present critical works that highlight and blur the rules governing appropriation in art and design, ownership, and responsibility in digital piracy, as well as pieces that probe into how capitalism and the country’s history of colonization have shaped and influenced the practice of commodification in the creative community. It will also focus on how social and cultural objects are turned into economic products for mass consumption.
Vetro gallery curator and artist Indy Paredes said that the show is a vehicle to start critical conversations about the culture of bootlegging in the country.
“The exhibit will have talks and forums, and we really want people who are not in the art scene to be part of the conversation, like lawyers and writers. While art is a highly intellectual pursuit, it’s really critical to have a platform to discuss these issues in the community, I think this concerns matters not only in our industry but also in others, like tech and music,” said Mr. Paredes.
The Bootleg Project — which will run until June 30 — will have installations where people can touch and play with the artworks for a more immersive understanding of the theme.
Vetro Gallery is at 135 Congressional Ave., Project 8, Quezon City. — Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman