Potters need clay, shoemakers need leather, machinists need metal. Anyone who makes things becomes a citizen of a kind of underground railroad — a net of destinations woven by the needs of his projects. Among the most important of these destinations are the sources of the parts and materials, establishments so central to ones projects their names will often become passwords by which students and adepts identify one another.
When I was around nine, the place that loomed largest in my mind was probably Botica Boie, where my parents took me to buy laboratory glassware. I was in my Chemistry phase, and even just the names of the glassware seemed to have a kind of magic in their syllables, passwords and badges to the elite fraternity of scientists that I aspired one day to join. I must have been taken there all of twice at the most, which made it glow in my mind like the memory of a legend. I remember (or think I remember) cabinets filled with laboratory glassware, tubes within crystal, anastomosing tubes, gleaming and alchemical. It was also there where I got my half-kilo of copper sulfate there (blue crystals that, my books assured me, was deadly poison and that I should therefore wash my hands thoroughly after working with it) that I needed for my electroplating experiments.
As I began to work more and more with machines and electricity, drug stores and laboratories faded from the map, to be replaced by a constellation of hardware stores and electronics retailers. We lived in Marikina then, and I developed an attachment to a small electronics store on the road we took to school. I bought wire and speakers there, small electric bulbs, switches, doorbells, and so on.
Accidentally destroying an IC chip building a friend’s science project led to my introduction to Raon, now named Gonzalo Puyat, where, a congeries of stores — some specializing in, say, high voltage fixtures, others splitting the difference between sporting goods, musical instruments and diverse electronics parts, still others so old they still they have the word “Emporium” in their name — nestles in a street where tool vendors, freelance speaker coil rewinders, used-parts dealers and the odd porn vendor, make the street almost impassable to motor vehicles.
Deeco has a branch there, and so does Alexan, two stars in the firmament of Philippine electronics. The arrival of personal computers put Virra Mall, (now called V-Mall, sigh) then the corner of Gilmore and Aurora on the map as the places to buy anything related to computers.
Currently however, it must be said that CD-R King is the store most central to Philippine new media art. E-gizmo, the secret and solitary kingdom of robotics on the outskirts of LaSalle Taft, may be more esoteric, but CD-R King is like Moore’s Law, pure futurity raining down on the just and unjust alike, Toffler’s deluge rising up about our ankles, drowning the dog and carrying off the family car.
Generic electronics goods, sporting incomprehensible instruction manuals and scrolling with misspelled menus, cheap enough to buy on speculation, to break open just out of curiosity, which is what I did for this piece I called the iPatch, (as far as I know the smallest video installation in the Philippines, maybe Asia, maybe the world?) where I mounted a little MP4 player onto the glasses of Teddy Co, the tireless curator of Philippine regional cinema, who lost sight in one eye a few years back. I cut a couple of 160×128 videos to loop in the screen over his blind eye: some footage of his other eye, the word “eye” in 44 languages, and a scrolling quote from Erasmus: in regione caecorum, rex est luscus: “In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”
Tad studied Zoology in the University of Hiroshima, and graduated with a degree in Philosophy from the University of the Philippines. He was a founding member of the seminal sound art band The Children of Cathode Ray and is a leading media artist who uses sound, video, programming and electronics in the creation of his films and installations, which have been exhibited in numerous local and international festivals and galleries. Email Tad at firstname.lastname@example.org.