What started out as a dive into the female form and a drunken night of thinking of a new Instagram handle, Darlingkink has grown into a beacon, if I may say, for Filipinos to embrace sex positivity and allow women to be confident in their want for pleasure.

Among the many creative individuals forced into a work-from-home setup, Kay Aranzanso makes herself busy with her work with And A Half Branding and Design Studio, and other freelance illustrations she does on the side while giving us artworks that delight whenever she can. Now that we can’t take a single step out the door and with our faces glued to our phones, we catch up with wavemakers who share what their days have been like during this region-wide enhanced community quarantine. Welcome to Lockdown Sessions.

There is no shortage of events and gatherings that are hit terribly by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Just as the disease promised the arrival of a strict quarantine, Foolish Hearts, for example, which is an exhibition by Filipina erotica artist Darlingkink at Purveyr Post in Poblacion, had to be halted.

Foolish Hearts was supposedly her entry back into exhibition following her 2-year hiatus from such. Nevertheless, Kay has been doing everything other than resting with her recent collaborations such as one with clothing line Revere and 8!Botanicals, both released in February. Other than that, she, along with Birdie Silva, designed Happy Ending Game–an adult card game made to create the sexual tension without getting the sexual gratification too early or ever in the game.

We as a culture and a country, we are conservative and lead by very Christian values. However, wrapped in a package of romantic, aspirational themes present in both pocketbooks and telenovelas, erotica can be acceptable and is part and parcel of these stories.

Kay Aranzanso

Tell us more about Foolish Hearts and Its collaborators.

Foolish Hearts is heavily inspired by Tagalog romance novels, colloquially known as pocketbooks. We as a culture and a country, we are conservative and lead by very Christian values. However, wrapped in a package of romantic, aspirational themes present in both pocketbooks and telenovelas, erotica can be acceptable and is part and parcel of these stories. I wanted to take such a universally accepted and massed-produced form of erotica (even if people don’t acknowledge that fact) and make art from the themes that are present in there.

The exhibition also features the works of 13luckymonkeys, Ayer Arguellas, Janina Camille and Zei Tacasa. Each artist with their own unique genres already had works in conception by the time the ECQ hit. I chose them exactly because I knew they were really fit for what I had in mind as far as the flow and the narrative of the show was going to be. I really just wanted the show to be an homage to pocketbooks.

How do you feel about Foolish Hearts being postponed? What were your plans for the exhibition?

Before the lockdown, I was hard at work on Foolish Hearts. It’s been 2 years since my last show so this got me really excited. But even with more time now, I don’t plan on adding more things because the show is essentially finished and good to go. All that is left was the actual experience of walking into it. Unfortunately, the lockdown happened and we had to put this on hold.

It was definitely unfortunate but this crisis and how to navigate it took precedence over everything. The safety of everyone became the priority so I didn’t really feel heartbroken about it. I had already made plans about the adjustments with Purveyr so that’s something to look forward to after the lockdown.

What’s your routine like during this quarantine?

I practically kept the same routine at first but it became increasingly hard to concentrate since I was pressuring myself into being productive as if nothing had changed. It was also a challenge for And A Half to make the necessary adjustments now that everyone is sheltering in place but we had to make it work. We still had to push through to keep the studio going.

When it comes to productivity, a routine and a personal space helps. Keeping the weekends from melding into weekdays is also key because of course, I occasionally need a break from obligations.

With working for And A Half, was the transition from office to work-from-home particularly easy?

We, at And A Half, thrive in a collaborative environment in which we value being able to actually interact with each other in our own studio. We’ve built such a good working relationship and I’m glad to say it’s my second home.

Personally, I like a mix of both working from home and in-office but I do thrive in an office setup. The ECQ has been a challenge for team morale but to answer, we do allow working from home even before this pandemic happened. It isn’t a long-term goal however, and as I mentioned, we’re a team that’s most effective when physically working together but of course, we always find a way. We are working around the limits of the ECQ and I’m proud to say we have successfully launched a couple initiatives in aid of the crisis (@helpfromhomeph and #designdialoguesph). 

Could you describe your whole lockdown experience so far with a photo or an illustration?

Here’s a page from Kabuwanan, published in 2017 by Haliya Publishing. Kabuwanan is a collective comics featuring works of female artists, Mine was entitled Sa Kama Tuwing Gabi. To describe this lockdown, this page is pretty straightforward, just moments of my routine every day, or what used to be my routine. I keep reading about how keeping a routine can aid in getting through the quarantine so I think it’s spot on!

Although people think my page shouldn’t be “political”, I’d argue that the very existence of Darlingkink is. The personal is political, as they say.

Kay Aranzanso

Could you share your feelings about the ECQ with us?

I feel that the response to the pandemic has been grossly mishandled; the fear-mongering, threatening, and lack of accountability and transparency from the current administration amidst this crisis have become its norm which I believe is not what the Filipino people deserve.

Although people think my page shouldn’t be “political”, I’d argue that the very existence of Darlingkink is. The personal is political, as they say. What politicians decide during and after this crisis affects our liberties, and it is only right to call out the government when they fumble around policies and solutions, use violence and make threats instead of doing an efficient job during such a crisis.

I think with every emotion, art serves as a good conduit for any feeling both for artists and audiences alike.

Kay Aranzanso, in response to using her platform for voicing public grief

With everybody on their phones these days, do you have artists you would like for people to follow or give a shout out to, platforms that you think need more support?

It’s only appropriate to put the spotlight on the many front-liners, from medical professionals to blue-collar workers, who risk their lives every day to help in this crisis. People can check out helpfromhome.ph / @helpfromhome, an information hub that has consolidated relevant efforts for the COVID-19 crisis.

As for artists, if you want to dive more into Philippine Erotica, @tokwap, @stainedpaper, @ayerarguelles, @hubineer, @__isagani, @dearprudence.ph, @jansunday_pq would be a good mix to start with locally.

After having Happy Ending Game, is more merchandise something Darlingkink is heading towards?

For Darlingkink, I only plan to put out a website but that’s about it. Branding-wise, I think I need to take a step back to take a better look at it since it’s growing at a good rate organically but I don’t know if that’s enough to put out its own merch.

It was for a better part of a year that Birdie and I worked on the game until its production but he, together with his wife, Arlene, was of course, the masterminds behind it all. I just did the branding and the graphics which I was of course, very thankful for. 

Lastly, when the lockdown ends, what’s the first thing you’re doing?

Take it slow! I don’t think it’ll be a fast transition going back to normal for the world. I’ll definitely work on Foolish Hearts again!

Photos provided by Darlingkink

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