Legarda: Filipino Artist David Medalla to Perform at PHL Pavilion in Venice Biennale

August 8, 2015

Internationally renowned Filipino artist David Medalla will perform at the Philippine Pavilion at the 56th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia, Senator Loren Legarda announced.

Legarda, the visionary behind the Philippines’ return to the Venice Art Biennale after a 51-year absence said, “David Medalla’s performance at the Philippine Pavilion will be something to remember and it will go down as an important event in Philippine art history. He is known for engaging concepts which defy category.”

Medalla will perform at the Philippine Pavilion in Palazzo Mora, Strada Nuova, Venice, Italy on August 20, 2015 at 3:00 p.m. His performance titled Pangarap sa Panglao (Dream in Panglao) will be done in collaboration with Adam Nankervis, and a conversation with the curator Patrick Flores.

His performance at the Philippine Pavilion is based on “telekinethetic dreams.” He revisits his previous sorties in Venice. In 1964, for instance, his sand sculpture was set up at the Villa Foscari in a nocturnal exhibition. Figuring in one of these dreams is the intriguing legend of the pirate Li Ma Hong, “who fled China at the end of the Ming Dynasty and came to the Philippines.” In Medalla’s words, Li Ma Hong was a kind of “hero (or more accurately an anti-hero)” of his boyhood.

His performance likewise alludes to 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 will also have collateral events at the Serra dei Giardini on August 18 and at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection on August 22.

Medalla was a seminal contemporary artist in the Philippines, initiating a significant break from western modernism and internationalism in the fifties in Manila. He organized poetry readings and performances and held his first exhibition of visual art at the artist-initiated space called La Cave D’Angely in Ermita, Manila in 1957.

In 1960, he sailed for Europe. In London, he co-founded the Centre for Advanced Creative Study (which later became Signals London). He was involved in exhibitions that paved the way for much of what we know as contemporary art today: White on White in 1966; Air Art in 1968; Earth Art and Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form in 1969.

Although working outside his country, Medalla prospected a lively kind of Philippine subjectivity, suspicious of structures and notions of identity, and innovative in approaches to art making through performative and relational provocations.

“Medalla is a dynamic and inspiring icon in contemporary art. He is celebrated and globally renowned but remains Filipino through and through. His performance at the Philippine Pavilion adds another dimension to our exhibition,” Legarda said.

The Philippine Pavilion, curated by Flores, features the works of Manuel Conde and Carlos Francisco (Genghis Khan), Manny Montelibano (A Dashed State), and Jose Tence Ruiz (Shoal). It is housed at the Palazzo Mora and is open to the public from May 9 to November 22, 2015.

The Philippine participation was made possible through the joint effort of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (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 of the Philippines.