(SPOT.ph) Poblacion in Makati City is well known for the hippest bar concepts and hole-in-the-wall restaurants that go beyond the usual. It's a diverse neighborhood: on one corner, there's a curious restobar that features "midget boxing," and on the other, there's a secret soju bar inside a Korean restaurant. This idea of experimentation extends to the newest addition in Poblacion: KONDWI, a restaurant, bar, art gallery, and performance space all rolled into one, which opened its doors in October 2019.
"Hindi lang visual arts. The design maximizes the space. [It's not like] your standard white cube gallery," David Laboy, art space manager of KONDWI, tells SPOT.ph. The idea, according to him, is for artists to transform KONDWI in any way possible. It helps a lot that the structure has two storeys. The first level is a restaurant where all corners are filled with art: from hand-shaped sculptures on tables to glass ornaments hanging from the ceiling. An ornate chair, designed by KONDWI’s creative director Leeroy New, stands out from the eclectic space.
The second floor is reminiscent of a black-box theater with a high ceiling. With a floor area of 150 square meters, it’s ideal for all types of shows—KONDWI’s answer to the lack of dedicated performance spaces in the Metro. During their soft opening in October, The Filipino Superwoman Band gave a preview performance that was first staged at the 14th Sharjah Biennial in March 2019 and again for Tanz in Bern, Switzerland, in November 2019. The all-female ensemble, led by Eisa Jocson, performs sonic choreography and their repertoire revolves around Karyn White's song "Superwoman," which explores themes of labor and migration.
Laboy explains that there are no strict requirements for artists wishing to perform their pieces or display their works at the gallery, except for one: "Paglaruan niyo 'yong space, push the limits of your imagination." Artists are welcome to punch holes in the plywood wall, maximize the space with various genres, and just let their creativity go wild. "We encourage our collaborators to experiment."
Outside, KONDWI has started painting its walls with murals: the first two are by Georjanno Abenoja and Danikah Novio. Certain areas have also been identified along Albert and Palma Streets as possible spaces for public art. Even the bare façade is a canvas in itself, as it already has hanging provisions and electric connections. "Gusto nilang maglagay ng sobrang laking installation diyan, game kami for that," adds Laboy.
There are weekend bazaars planned, with varying themes per week. One of the Kondweekend Bazaars—as it is called—sold succulents, terraria, and plant accessories for the plantitas; while another had canvases from local artists like Abbey Batocabe, AK Ocol, Bibi Belgica, and more.
To say that there's a lot going on at KONDWI is an understatement. It wants to be many different things at once, a sentiment most evident in its name: a play on the word "conduit."
"The idea of KONDWI is to become a conduit for the different forms of art and the different markets. The partners, [celebrity-entrepreneur Marvin Agustin and New], wanted to Filipinize the word. Gawin nating K, tanggalan natin ng T, palitan natin 'yong UI na W. Turns out, KONDWI is actually a French Creole term, which also translates to conduit. It kind of fell into place,” Laboy explains.
And with that, Poblacion gained a new conduit for its burgeoning creative scene—transforming what’s known as a neighborhood that can easily fill your hungry stomach into one that can satisfy your soul through art.
KONDWI is at 6109 Albert Street, Poblacion, Makati City. It is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 1 p.m. to 1 a.m.; and every Sunday, from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Photos by Majoy Siason