KAPUT 4: TOGETHER AT VARGAS MUSEUM
For the fourth installment of its hit party series, KAPUT takes underground dance culture to the UP Vargas Museum, a veritable institution of Manila’s local art scene.
The Jorge B. Vargas Museum, located in the historic University of the Philippines campus, has long been a sanctuary for art enthusiasts and cultural aficionados. The gallery hosts an ever-evolving collection of contemporary art as well as a permanent display of Filipino masterpieces from Vargas’ personal collection. Exhibits by modern practitioners and exceptional student work come together under one roof along with paintings and sculptures by National Artists such as Felix Hidalgo, Fernando Amorsolo, and Napoleon Abueva. The revered establishment carries a legacy of earnest joy and inclusivity for the arts. In celebration of its namesake founder’s 133rd birthday, the museum inaugurates the Vargas After-Hours program, drawing from the history of the Kawilihan compound, Mr. Vargas’ former residence which became a setting for various social events in the evenings.
The upcoming collaboration with KAPUT and post-rock band Monochrome sets the stage for this novel project bridging the art world and Manila’s nocturnal denizens.
We met multidisciplinary artist and KAPUT founder Derek Tumala to talk about the upcoming event and the story behind his unique art and rave collective. Derek shared, "I first encountered the name Kaput as a club in Bogota, Colombia when I was there for a show in November 2021… and I thought ‘KAPUT’ has a nice twang to it plus the meaning is so relevant to me."
"Kaput," which means "broken" in German, encapsulates a profound sentiment aligned with the founder's vision. Derek explained, "I thought everything was broken—our systems, society, and our collective thinking. So I thought it was fitting to call it KAPUT since it feels like everything seemed hopeless and grim. Ironic, I know, but I thought it was a way of coping for me, an escape through mounting raves and building this micro-utopia.”
“The very essence of rave is to reach some form of utopia,” Derek elaborates. “And you won’t achieve that if the collective atmosphere is geared towards competition, bad quality, or capitalist aspirations.”
From its inception to the present, KAPUT’s transformative journey echoes the subversive potential of rave culture’s do-it-yourself attitude and pleasure-seeking ethos. Like many endeavors borne of the pandemic, KAPUT came about as a reaction to isolation. Before the lockdowns happened, Derek found inspiration during his travels to New York, attending New Year’s Eve parties and raves like Large Marge, Merge, and Locked Groove. "So I thought maybe I can start and copy how they do things," he concedes.
This led to clandestine gatherings with friends during the dreariest days of the pandemic, sneaking out of Manila to nearby provinces to find solace with friends and fellow artists, fueled by music and the desire for connection. "Small parties, Bluetooth speakers, lights, projectors. We just hung out the whole night and listened to techno and everything else," Derek shared. This intimate experience sparked the momentum for these gatherings to grow to a larger scale, starting with private test runs at a heritage building in Escolta, Manila where Derek formerly held his studio space, KAPUT eventually launched its first major public event at an abandoned commercial space, recommended by yet another close confidant. Central to KAPUT’s vitality is the supportive network of friends met through years of attending other local parties and underground events.
This further translates to Derek’s process for featuring artists. He emphasized, "Number one I look for is the curation. Taste and sensibilities over technique. I always consult with my friends, and ask them what they think of this or that DJ. For me, it’s a consensus among friends too." So far, KAPUT has championed emerging DJs together with industry veterans and lesser-known, often overlooked talents alongside video and light installations by visual artist colleagues.
Vargas Museum curator Tessa Maria Guazon attended the second installment of KAPUT, and that became the launchpad for this upcoming fourth chapter. “I feel that rave and museum are worlds apart but finally have a chance to converge.” Derek is enthusiastic about the opportunity to bring underground subculture to a different audience and celebrate the friendships he’s built around mounting raves. In Derek's vision, KAPUT serves as a bridge between art and rave culture. “Blurring boundaries is an impulse that is recurring in my art practice and I think this resonates with that as well,” he affirmed.
Part of the Vargas After-Hours showcase is a panel discussion with Kiko Escora, Christina Bartges, Wesley Valenzuela, Tessa Guazon, and Derek Tumala himself, talking about the alternative music scene, rave culture, and nightlife. Derek continued, “For the rave to be put on a pedestal is a chance to explore its sensibilities.”
Our conversation shed some light on these sensibilities. “Rave is like a microcosm of society,” Derek pondered. “To congregate people towards an idea of having fun—that’s collective action. I always imagine raves as utopias, in the sense that for a short amount of time, all our egos, dilemmas, and expectations dissipate. If you think about it, what does a world with no aspiration for power look like? What if we give in to the music and be put in a trance?”
Besides challenging stereotypes associated with partying and creating immersive experiences that go beyond the ordinary, KAPUT is motivated by a return to the core of raving. “My main motivation was always and always will be: fun,” Derek asserted. “At its core, people forget to have fun… For me, I just want to share the things that I love… KAPUT is an imagining of a better world. I just want KAPUT to exist,” he concluded, comparing it to his creative compulsion as an artist. “Like in art, it just needs to be out there.”
Experience firsthand this utopic vision come to life and join the transcendent pursuit of fun at Vargas Museum on September 30, beginning with the talks at 5:00 PM followed by all-night revelry to the buzz and groove of Monochrome along with back-to-back DJ sets by James Clar and Manila Animal, Badkiss and Nomoclassiq, and DQMX and Christal. On display will be artworks by Micaela Benedicto, Jao San Pedro, Jellyfish Kisses, and ThirdworldBB.
Photo Credit : Gio Dionisio @giocities