Vernissage of the Philippine Pavilion at the 58th Venice Art Biennale

May 8, 2019

The Philippine Pavilion exhibition Island Weather held its vernissage today at the Artiglierie of the Arsenale in Venice, Italy. The event marked the Philippines’ entry to the 58th Venice Art Biennale, and the country’s fifth consecutive participation in the world’s biggest contemporary art exposition.


Island Weather is curated by Tessa Maria Guazon and features artist Mark Justiniani and his immersive and massive installation titled Arkipelago. The exhibition is an exploration of how an archipelagic state such as the Philippines forms its national consciousness shaped by its many islands, which all have its own unique vernacular culture and history.


According to Guazon, “Island Weather focuses on place histories but it’s also vision, the nature of vision, the way we perceive the world and how that perception shapes the way we understand where we are in a very specific moment in time.”


Guzaon further explained, “Island Weather brings attention to the dynamic art practice in the Philippines and a springboard to think about Philippine contemporary art in relation to everything else that is happening in Southeast Asia and the world.”


Justiniani’s work Arkipelago is the sole installation in the Philippine Pavillion and is composed of three island-like structures made of shaped metal frames filled with glass and objects, both formed and newly formed.


Arkipelago is part of the artist’s Infinity series that explores Justiniani’s fascination to concept, time and space. Guazon explained,  “Mark looks at how the setting, the local shapes time and space as we experience it.”


She said, “For Island Weather, we are grounding on the explorations in a local context and I think that’s very important aspect of the Philippine representation of the Venice Biennale, to look at locality the translocal and how that shapes contemporary art production and what makes Philippine contemporary art.”


Arkipelago was built in Metro Manila, Philippines and its hundreds of moving parts had to be shipped to Venice, Italy as early as February. It took one month for Justinani and his team from the Philippines and Italy to assemble and install the work at the Philippine Pavilion at the Arsenale in Venice.


The Philippine Pavilion is a collaborative undertaking of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Office of Senator Loren Legarda.


NCCA Chairman Virgilio S. Alamario, also the commissioner of the Pavilion, said, “When we join the global contemporary art stage, we get exposed to the process and discipline of mounting these kinds of exhibitions. Our participation allows us to interact with the global art community which helps inform our own process and thinking.”


Almario emphasized, “Most importantly, our participation in the Venice Biennale gives us a voice to tell our truths and respond to what the rest of the world is discussing.”


Senator Loren Legarda, the prime mover of the country’s return to the Venice Biennale after 51 years of absence, said that the Philippine participation in the 58th Venice Art Biennale brings to fore Filipino contemporary visual art, and hopes to make Filipino creativity a strong presence in world art.


“Apart from bringing the Filipino talent to the global stage, I envision our participation in the Venice Biennale to open more opportunities for the growth of our curators and artists and encourage more Filipinos to unleash their creativity,” she said.


Legarda added, “We hope to highlight the richness and vitality of art traditions that have ancient roots in Philippine society. But more importantly, we hope to make our pavilion a space to foster patriotism and nationalism in the present.”


The Philippine Pavilion’s Island Weather will be open to the public from May 11 to November 24, 2019. The Philippine Pavilion is the country’s national participation at the 58th International Art Exhibition, titled May You Live In Interesting Times curated by Ralph Rugoff.