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We won the world in Venice

May 12, 2015

‘The Venice Biennale is the place where you see what happens in the world through a better pair of lenses. This is the forum where the global world can be better analyzed. This is the melting pot of shared knowledge.’ Paolo Baratta, president of La Biennale di Venezia

VENICE — This we clearly won.

Shortly before the vernissage of the Philippine Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2015, I asked Sen. Loren Legarda, who had been pushing for the Philippine participation in the prestigious art tilt, “What does the country stand to gain from participating in the Venice Biennale?”

Without hesitation, Legarda replied, “We stand to gain the world.”

And starting last May 8, in this romantic city of the most picturesque works of art, the Philippines did.

Here in Venice, Legarda said, “We did gain the world. Remember, Patrick Flores (curator of the Philippine Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2015) said we would tie a string around the world. They would just be awed by the immense creativity and talent and brilliance of the Filipino artist and the Filipino nation and I think it is a time for us to pursue most vigorously cultural diplomacy, which the Department of Foreign Affairs has been doing but even more so now with our comeback to the Venice Biennale.”

“We have shown the world our greatness,” Legarda said at the vernissage for the Philippine Pavilion at the Plaza Mora here.

The pavilion included three rooms each showcasing the components of the Philippine entry. The first room exhibited the 1950s film of Manuel Conde and Carlos Francisco’s Genghis Khan, the second the documentary of Manny Montelibano about the incursion of the Chinese into our islands and the third an interpretation by Jose Tence Ruiz in velvet of the BRP Sierra Madre, the lone sentinel guarding disputed shoals in the West Philippine Sea. The title of Ruiz’s installation is Shoal — representing our contested land, and the rise and fall and rise again of our lands. (Because shoals rise and fall with the tides.)

Patrick Flores curates Tie a String Around the World, the second official Philippine national participation in the Venice Biennale, returning after a hiatus of 51 years. The exhibition spans this gap, bringing together three generations of practitioners. Taking Conde and Francisco’s Genghis Khan as a starting point and curatorial reference, the exhibition also introduces work from Ruiz and Montelibano, who both explore socioeconomic issues of sea nations, global politics and the volatility of borders through installation and film respectively.

The Philippine Pavilion also sends out a strong message against the incursion of Chinese vessels into Philippine territory.

Why do that in an art forum?

Because, “Art is politics,” Legarda pointed out.

The Philippines was named as one of the must-see national pavilions.

There are 89 official national pavilions at the 56th Venice Biennale, situated in the Giardini, Arsenale and venues across the city. On the eve of the Biennale’s three-day preview prior to its opening to the public on May 9, Pippa Koszerek picked 10 countries to visit. These are Armenia’s Armenity/Hayoutioun; Britain’s I Scream Daddio; Chile’s Poéticas de la Disidencia/Poetics of Dissent; The Netherlands’ To be all ways to be; Iceland’s The Mosque: The First Mosque in the Historic City of Venice; Ireland’s Adventure: Capital; New Zealand’s Secret Power; Ukraine’s Hope!; the United States’ They Come to US without a Word; and the Philippines’ Tie a String Around the World.

Armenia won the Golden Lion at the 2015 Venice Biennale.

National Commission for Culture and the Arts chairman Felipe de Leon Jr., for his part, said: “It is important that we are represented here because the world does not know enough about who we are, that we are very contemporary, at the same time, basing our ideas on what we have traditionally, because we harness the talents of the Filipino. The talents have been here for centuries but we can show the world that these talents can be harnessed in a very contemporary and relevant way. We must make an impact because the more we represent ourselves in the global arena, the more we harness or develop what is called cultural energy of the Filipinos. Cultural energy is strengthened by participation, by representation in human activities worldwide because when we are absent there, Filipinos will not feel that they matter.”

“If they feel that they matter, they will become more productive in all areas of their work including economic, political, technological, scientific and so on. This is what is engendered by what is called cultural energy, which is the motivation for work and achievement. Creativity and productivity of our people can only be harnessed when people are represented and recognized not only nationally but internationally.”

“It’s about time for the Philippines to take part in prestigious art exhibits, like the Venice Biennale,” said Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. “It’s been a long time coming for our Filipino artists to get noticed on the global stage. We have made a lot of world-class artworks since our last participation in Venice Biennale in 1964. We have also produced many contemporary artists who brilliantly capture the spirit of our country in their works and who are eager to share their talent to the world.”

Italian Ambassador to the Philippines Massimo Roscigno believes that by just being represented at the Biennale, the Philippines is already standing tall.

“I don’t think there would be any pavilion that will stand out among the others because each one is (special). So what matters is exactly being there for the Philippines. Once you are there, you are exposed to the world and you would have scholars, merchants of arts and scouts, people who are very interested to find new proposals and ideas that would go there and find something that they like. So it is so complex in the Biennale that you cannot have somebody standing out over the others. Each one is to be there and matters for what it is. This is a fantastic opportunity for the Philippines.”

The Venice Biennale 2015 runs until Nov. 22.

Source: Philstar