VENICE, Italy—As the Philippines prepares to roll out the carpet to its pavilion in the 56th International Art Exhibition, also known as La Biennale de Venezia, art curator Prof. Patrick D. Flores notes the special attention the event gives to the ongoing conflict between the country and China in the West Philippine Sea.
Flores, however, insisted he does not want to dilute the message of the Philippine pavilion—which features the works of Filipino artists Jose Tence Ruiz and Mariano Montelibano III—to the political issue.
“There is a specific focus on the particular situation in the West Philippine Sea that the pavilion is trying to respond to… but we do not want to reduce the message of the pavilion to that situation,” Flores said.
Flores was chosen from among 16 applicants to curate the Philippine pavilion in the prestigious art competition.
His proposal called “Tie A String Around the World” links the artworks of Ruiz, an intermedia artist, and Montelibano, a media artist and film director, to the groundbreaking 1950s film of Manuel Conde and Carlos “Botong” Francisco titled “Genghis Khan.”
The film traces Khan’s evolution from a fledgling warrior to a confident conqueror. At the conclusion, Khan promises to “tie a string around the world” and present it before his servile woman.
The Philippine pavilion held a special preview this morning in Venice (5 p.m. Manila time). The vernissage or formal opening takes place tonight (9 p.m. Manila time).
My Art Guide Venice 2015 lists the Philippines as one of the 88 countries with national pavilions participating in the Venice Biennale.
This is only the second time, after 51 years, that the Philippines has sent an official delegation to the Biennale. The first was in 1964, with the Art Association of the Philippines playing a key role in presenting the works of painter and multi-media artist Jose Joya and sculptor Jose V. Abueva.
Using “Genghis Khan” as his starting point, Flores chose artist Ruiz’s haunting piece “Shoal” that references the dilapidated military ship BRP Sierra Madre currently beached at the Ayungin Shoal as an anemic assertion of the country’s claim to several islands in the West Philippine Sea.
Director Montelibano’s 20-minute, three-channel film “A Dashed State” includes in its audio the incursions of Chinese radio signals into local broadcast and discusses its effect on a bucolic coastal town in southern Palawan.
Sen. Loren Legarda, a major contributor to the Philippines’ biennale comeback, said the exhibit “hopes to elicit awareness to China’s aggressive infiltration and reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea.”
“The Philippine pavilion touches on a relevant political issue yet raises interesting questions on a philosophical level,” she explained.
“It tries to get everyone to see the issue against a larger frame where history and the present have come together,” added Legarda, erstwhile chair of the Senate foreign relations committee.