PHL Pavilion at Venice Biennale Earns Praises from Visiting VIPs

May 19, 2015

“I think it’s a great show,” says Renaud Proch referring to the Philippine Pavilion at the 56th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia.


Proch, Executive Director of Independent Curators International (ICI), is one of the guests at the vernissage of the Philippine Pavilion who commended curator Patrick D. Flores for seamlessly weaving together the works of Manuel Conde and Carlos Francisco (for Genghis Khan), Manny Montelibano (for A Dashed State), and Jose Tence Ruiz (for Shoal).


“It’s really nice to see it coming together. It is a really great succession of works that take a similar point of departure from the historical film but they have the space to express themselves individually. Great Pavilion,” says Proch, who was one of the jurors who deliberated on the curatorial proposals for the Philippine Pavilion 2015.


He adds, “It was a proposal that really told a story and that offered many points of entry to the pavilion and to the curatorial proposal. From sculpture, from installation, from video; from the point of view of history, from the point of view of politics, it seems very relevant to today’s concerns and today’s world. And I think it has grown even more relevant ever since the jury was held in September (2014).”


Proch’s fellow juror, Mami Kataoka, said that Flores’ curatorial proposal was relevant for the Philippines’ comeback after a 51-year absence.


“Knowing the story that the Philippines have not participated for half a century, I was curious to see what was missing in between. And also how we could look at history but also to have a better context and connection with the contemporary time. I think the jurors, including myself, were fascinated by the starting point, Genghis Khan, but also because of its association with the sea territory issue, which had been surrounding us in Southeast Asia. The story had been very well interwoven and we see also its connection to Venice, we see how the story of half a century ago had been activated through the curatorial thread,” said Kataoka, chief curator of the Mori Art Museum in Japan.


Meanwhile, Shabbir Hussain Mustafa, curator of Singapore’s Pavilion, said he was excited to see the Philippine Pavilion as he was already initially drawn by the pavilion’s theme, Tie A String Around The World, which he describes as inviting and very poetic.


Mustafa explains, “The moment I entered the Pavilion, I immediately felt that there was something intense, but to experience that intensity, I had to wait. And so I began by very patiently watching the film, Genghis Khan, which shows what it means to be in an extreme environment, what it means to survive, but also suggesting that our history might be a little too land-based, and that there is something called the sea.”


He continues, “The sea is calling us and asking us, what are you going to do now? And it is through that, that I entered the three-channel film and I immediately realized that there is so much density, so much emotion. I realized that it is indeed the sea which is territorialized, securitized and it may even now be the new frontier where different ideas and experiences will be clarified for us, for humanity in that sense. Then you wait for that final moment when you experience the legendary, Jose Tence Ruiz’s wreck, baroque object. I’m still resisting from using the word sculpture. I’m still moving towards thinking about it as an object because I haven’t fully figured it out. But I think eventually at the end of the day, going around in the three rooms is a highly charged experience and I came out with more questions than answers and for me, fundamentally, that’s how exhibitions succeed.”


Nicole Revel, Emeritus Professor of Linguistics at Paris Descartes University and who recorded the Palawan epic, said that she was pleased to see the Philippines’ comeback pavilion with such interesting ideas and implementation of concepts.


She particularly described her experience watching Montelibano’s A Dashed State.


“I like the movie very much. It’s very interesting. Aesthetically, it’s beautiful and done with the drone, is even more extraordinary. And also done is the mirror-like effect that helps him to reconstruct landscapes. And mirror also means boundary so it’s a metaphor, there are many metaphors in the movie, which I appreciate. The more you see, the more you will enjoy the metaphors,” Revel said.


Senator Loren Legarda, principal advocate and visionary of the project, was elated with the reviews and assured that the Philippines’ participation in the Venice Biennale this year is just the starting line.


“My vision is for the country to have an active role not only in the Venice Biennale but in global contemporary art scene through other biennales and art events with the support of the government. In this manner, our unique realities can be communicated through our own work and interpreted by our own artists,” she said.


Among the guests at the vernissage from the art industry were Alessio Antoniolli, director of Gasworks Gallery in London; Qinyi Lim, curator of Hongkong’s Para/Site Art Space; Berlin-based curator Anselm Franke; Hyunjin Kim, curator of Arko Art Center, South Korea; Russell Storer and Adele Tan, curators of the National Gallery Singapore; Tyler Rollins, owner of Tyler Rollins Fine Art in New York; Vanessa Scully and Liam Scully of Arts Council England; Yoshiko Mori, chairperson of Mori Art Museum in Japan; Sarina Tang and Pieter Vermeulen of ICI.


The Philippine Pavilion was also regarded in several international reviews as a must-see national pavilion.


Art Radar, an editorially independent online news source on contemporary art across Asia; fine arts auction house Christie’s;ArtsHub, Australia’s leading portal for professionals working within the arts; and a-n The Artists Information Company, all included the Philippine Pavilion in their list of 10 must-see national pavilions at the Venice Biennale 2015.


The Philippines’ return to the Venice Biennale, 51 years after its first participation in 1964, 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, and with the support of the Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Tourism Promotions Board of the Philippines.