Filipino Artist David Medalla Performs at PHL Pavilion in Venice Biennale

August 20, 2015

Internationally renowned Filipino artist David Medalla will perform today at the Palazzo Mora in a collateral event of the Philippine Pavilion at the 56th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia.


Medalla’s performance titled Pangarap sa Panglao was inspired by a trip he and his longtime collaborator, Adam Nankervis, made in 2013 to the island of Panglao in Bohol where he fell into a daydream.


The performance alludes to the pirate Li Ma Hong who fled China at the end of the Ming Dynasty and came to the Philippines, the T’ang Dynasty artist Wu Tao-tzu, the 20th-century writer Lu Hsun, and the explorer-scholar Antonio Pigafetta of Vicenza, whose chronicle of the voyage of Ferdinand Magellan inspired the idea of space-time relativity.


Medalla is expected to do a performance that would require participation from the audience. Meanwhile, Nankervis will project a video installation on the walls of Palazzo Mora while Medalla is performing.


Philippine Pavilion curator Patrick Flores, who was greatly involved in the preparation for Medalla’s performance, said “It’s fun working with David, whose robust mind and vast knowledge of Filipiniana and world history and art history border on the mad. It’s a roller coaster ride that may lapse into meditation.”


He described Medalla’s contribution to Philippine art and global art history as “immense, radically shifting notions of ‘art,’ its ‘earth’ and its ‘life.’”


National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) Chairperson and Philippine Pavilion Commissioner Felipe de Leon Jr. said, “In seeing a David Medalla performance, one must not expect the obvious because he challenges one’s creative imagination to find a deeper level of meaning based on the clues that he offers.”


Senator Loren Legarda, who aside from spearheading the country’s return to the Venice Biennale after 51 years of absence also initiated the idea of a Medalla performance at the Philippine Pavilion, said “the unpredictability of Medalla’s art is what makes it more exciting.”


“As a spectator, you would already anticipate that you will be involved in the performance but as to how, you would only know when it’s your turn. That is the experience I want people to feel when I first thought of having a David Medalla performance. I want people, especially Filipino artists, to be inspired by his boldness and spontaneity,” said Legarda.


The Senator recalled that when he first met Medalla in London, she had already dreamt of having a David Medalla show and she saw that opportunity when the Philippines got invited to participate in the 56th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia.


“Our return to the Venice Biennale after a 51-year hiatus is already spectacular and memorable in itself, then here comes David Medalla and his remarkable performance. Today is another milestone for Philippine contemporary art, for history and for our country,” she said.


Meanwhile, Flores explains the link between the Philippine Pavilion and Pangarap sa Panglao.


“The Philippine Pavilion, titled Tie A String Around the World, rests on an argument on world-making and the formation of empires. From the vantage of Genghis Khan, the first film ever made on the conqueror directed by Manuel Conde and co-written and designed by Carlos Francisco, the Pavilion lays out its premise while placing it within an exceptional lineage. The film is key to the proposition of the Pavilion, affording it a long arc from early modernity to a contemporary global time in which the Philippines is in the midst of a dispute over parts of the West Philippine Sea, which is being claimed by China. Around the film, the installation of Jose Tence Ruiz and the multi-channel video of Manny Montelibano generate discourses on this current predicament. Medalla’s performance further inflects the argument of the Pavilion on the saga of empires and the resistance against them,” said Flores.


Medalla also had a successful performance at the Microclima in Giardini last August 18, a space that is “a rich source of exchange and hybridization of culture, art, music and people.”


On August 22, he will have another performance at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.


Medalla’s series of performances is a collateral event of the Philippine Pavilion accredited by la Biennale di Venezia.


The Philippine Pavilion titled Tie A String Around the World is the only national pavilion that represents the Philippines at the 56th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia.


The Philippine participation was made possible through the joint effort of the NCCA, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Office of Senator Loren Legarda, with the support of the Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Tourism Promotions Board.