Philippine Pavilion at the Venice Biennale to be Exhibited at the UP Vargas Museum in 2016

November 22, 2015

VENICE, ITALY- “We’ve made it back to the Venice Biennale and this is just the beginning,” National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) Chairperson Felipe de Leon, Jr. stated.


After five decades of absence, the Philippines returned to the Venice Biennale and its participation, which featured esteemed curator Patrick Flores’ exhibit Tie A String Around The World, successfully finished its six-month run with aplomb, receiving plaudits from international art critics and writers.


The Philippine Pavilion held a finissage this afternoon, which was both a closing ceremony for the exhibit and a celebration with the Filipino community in Italy.


An official announcement was made during the festivities regarding the exhibit being mounted in several venues in the Philippines, the first of which will be at the University of the Philippines Jorge Vargas Museum in Diliman, Quezon City.


The project’s visionary Senator Loren Legarda said, “May our exhibit provide pride to our overseas Filipino communities, and may we be known globally for our artistry and talent. This finissage is dedicated to our OFWs.”


Legarda added, “This finissage is not seen as a conclusion, but as a way to move forward with our aim– to bring this exhibit back home where everyone can  enjoy and reflect on its meaning.”


Tie A String Around The World will be mounted at the UP Vargas Museum in 2016 after the artworks have been shipped back to the Philippines from Venice.


The concept for the Philippine Pavilion curated by Flores brilliantly links the artworks of four Filipino artists–Manuel Conde and Carlos Francisco for Genghis Khan, Manny Montelibano for A Dashed State, and Jose Tence Ruiz for Shoal–to raise the issue of the disputed West Philippine Sea/South China Sea, although Flores clarifies that the exhibit is not limited to this explosive political issue but instead aims to encourage conversation on “what makes a common sea and where lie frontier and edge, melancholy and migration.”

Montelibano’s work, a 20-minute, three-channel video with sound installation, ponders on “the creation of new boundaries and territories, like the Nine Dash Line. It is a reflection of the state of our people, the state of our country, and the state of the world.”

The Bacolod-based filmmaker expounds, “A Dashed State tackles the different levels of bodies, the physical body which is the source of history, the body of land, air and sea, a body of people. But also considering that there are other bodies that exist–bodies that have different needs, culture and tradition and how they affect each other. The incursion of Chinese radio signals into the local radio exposes this effect. It affects us, our family, beliefs and tradition, culture, and our world in the making.”

Ruiz’ Shoal, an impressive installation made of pre-fabricated steel and marsala red velvet, is an interpretation of BRP Sierra Madre. The New York Times describes it as the vessel of Vietnam War vintage that “the Philippine government ran aground on the reef in 1999 and has since maintained as a kind of post-apocalyptic military garrison, the small detachment of Filipino troops stationed there struggling to survive extreme mental and physical desolation.”


Ruiz says, “One of the things in the back of my head every time is, first and foremost, this is art, this is about the unfolding of human experience and history. The particular vessel that I’m interested in has gone through at least several epochs starting from the Second World War to the present, and therefore, it embodies an entire statement about history of nations. I would also not like to just pin it down to just a specific moment because we have here an opportunity to be able to deal with the broader idea of human experience.”


Meanwhile, Flores said, “The National Pavilion is a global platform, but it should also make sense locally. I tried to organize a pavilion that was relevant in the Philippine context as it was responsive to the global conversation. In the process, I thought of as many afterlives as possible after Venice.”


He added, “Tie A String Around the World should not be a singular spectacle in Venice. It should mutate beyond the Venice Biennale; otherwise it becomes export art that merely caters to the expectations of the international audience.”


Meanwhile, NCCA Chair de Leon, who also stands as the Pavilion’s Commissioner, also announced that the Philippines will be joining the 2017 La Biennale Arte.


Among those present during the Philippine Pavilion’s finissage are members of the Department of Foreign Affairs including the Honorable Domingo Nolasco, Philippine Ambassador to Italy, who gave a short lecture about art as a tool in addressing challenges of OFWs.