Message of Patrick D. Flores, Curator of Tie A String Around the World, Venice Biennale

April 17, 2015

Curator, Tie A String Around the World
Press Conference on the Philippine Participation in the 56th International Art Exhibition, Venice Biennale
15 April 2015 | DFA Building, Pasay City

In 1950 in the Philippines, the filmmaker Manuel Conde and the painter Carlos Francisco worked together to do the first film ever on Genghis Khan. Telling the tale of the conqueror’s rite of passage from warrior to overlord in the form of a metrical romance and an adventure, it fascinated both Hollywood and Venice. The Philippine Pavilion returns to Venice after fifty-one years through this exemplary film to reflect on the country’s modernity and the present scheme of a world being redrawn on the surface of water. Around this premise, Jose Tence Ruiz alludes to the Philippine ship Sierra Madre on the South China Sea, at once “slum fortress” and armature of archipelago. Manny Montelibano for his part repurposes the sound and image of a threshold of territory to scan both the epic of survival and the radio frequency of incursion. Surveying his dominion at the end of the seminal film, Genghis Khan professes to his beloved that he would tie a string around the world and lay it at her feet, a gesture of breathtaking affection and conceit. Manuel Conde, Carlos Francisco, Manny Montelibano, and Jose Tence Ruiz are the artists of the Philippine Pavilion in Venice in 2015.

As the Philippines renews its participation in Venice in 2015, so is the film revisited as a trajectory into the very idea of Venice as a site of convergence and also of dispersal.  Translated in sixteen languages, Genghis Khan was re-edited and narrated by the writer-critic James Agee and screened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Venice Film Festival in 1952, where it competed with the films of Chaplin, Clement, Fellini, Bergman, and Mizoguchi. This travel indexes an aspiration; at the same time, it offers an opportunity to reflect on the condition of the world today and the potential of a Philippine Pavilion in Venice to initiate a conversation on its changing configurations, specifically on certain entitlements to nature, freedom, political and ecological well being, and a shared patrimony. The Pavilion risks an interpretation of an archipelagic world in relation to the cinema and the sea and converses with the vision of Venice Biennale curator Okwui Enwezor about how the world stands – or hangs in the balance — in the present and how artists persistently endeavor to transform it.

The Philippine Pavilion in Venice in 2015 is both a history of world making and the history of modern and contemporary art in the Philippines, spanning decades of productive art making, from the fifties through the nineties and beyond, involving two National Artists, an exemplary figure of politically committed art in the seventies, and a dynamic filmmaker from Negros Occidental. We are all inspired and honored to present in Venice this lively and vital spectrum of Philippine art.