The return of the Philippines to the Venice Art Biennale in 2015 is an opportunity for the country to re-establish and reaffirm its presence in the international contemporary art scene since the Philippines’ first participation at the prestigious event in 1964, where National Artists Jose Joya and Napoleon Abueva represented the country.
Through the collaborative efforts of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Office of Senator Loren Legarda, the Philippines is once again embarking on a journey that would re-connect it to the Venice Biennale, after a 50-year hiatus.
The idea of participating in the Venice Biennale was initially conceived in 2013, when Senator Loren Legarda posed the question during the budget hearings of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and of the cultural agencies.
It is worth noting that Senator Legarda had conducted several visits to museums and contemporary art spaces over the past years. She even had the opportunity to personally visit Venice in November 2013 to see the national pavilions from several countries. Noting the participation then of countries such as the Maldives and Tuvalu, the Senator was determined to have a national pavilion for the Philippines.
Emphasizing the necessity for the Philippines to engage the international community on the cultural level, the Senator convinced the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the DFA to work on the Philippines’ entry to the Venice Art Biennale in 2015.
In January 2014, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs and the Chairman of the NCCA jointly submitted a letter of intent to Mr. Paolo Baratta, President of La Biennale di Venezia. Mr. Baratta, in a letter dated January 17, 2014, extended a formal invitation to the Philippines to participate in the Venice Art Biennale 2015.
To facilitate coordination among government agencies involved and to carry out the necessary preparations for the Philippine participation, a Coordinating Committee comprised primarily of the NCCA, the DFA and the Office of Senator Loren Legarda was created.
The NCCA was also appointed Commissioner for the Philippine participation. As the Commissioner, it is tasked to supervise the country’s participation in the Venice Art Biennale.
25 JULY 2014
To ensure that the selection process would be “open, transparent and democratic,” an advisory for an open call for curatorial proposals was released by the Coordinating Committee for the Philippine participation to the Venice Art Biennale 2015. Deadline for proponents to submit was set on August 28, 2014.
28 AUGUST 2014
A new advisory was released, extending the deadline for the open call for curatorial proposals to September 3, 2014, providing artists and curators more opportunity to participate.
3 SEPTEMBER 2014
Deadline set for the open call for curatorial proposals. It is interesting to note that there was a significant number of submissions on deadline day itself. In the end, 16 curatorial proposals were received by the Coordinating Committee.
4 AND 5 SEPTEMBER 2014
A panel of jurors composed of Mami Kataoka, Chief Curator, Mori Art Museum in Tokyo; Paul Pfeiffer, New York-based multi-media artist; Renaud Proch, Executive Director, Independent Curators International; Cid Reyes, respected Filipino art critic, artist, and writer; Felipe M. de Leon, Jr. NCCA Chairman; and Senator Loren Legarda, principal advocate and visionary behind the Philippine participation at the Venice Biennale, deliberated on the 16 submissions. A press conference introducing the panel of jurors was also held on September 5, 2014.
7 SEPTEMBER 2014
The NCCA and the DFA, in partnership with the Office of Senator Loren Legarda, announced the representative for the Philippine participation at the 56th Venice Art Biennale 2015: Dr. Patrick Flores’ curatorial proposal titled Tie A String Around the World. Dr. Flores is a Professor at the Department of Art Studies of the University of the Philippines and Curator of the Vargas Museum. He is Adjunct Curator of the National Art Gallery in Singapore, a member of the Guggenheim Museum’s Asian Art Council, and a guest scholar of the Getty Research Institute in 2014.
22 OCTOBER 2014
Traditional meeting with the representatives of countries participating in the 56th International Art Exhibition was scheduled in Venice. The meeting was chaired by Mr. Paolo Baratta, President of the Venice Biennale, and by Mr. Okwui Enwezor, the Artistic Director for the Venice Biennale. Enwezor is the current Director of the Haus der Kunst in Munich, Germany. He also served as Artistic Director for several major exhibitions, including the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale in South Africa (1996-1998), documenta 11 in Kassel, Germany (1998-2002), the Bienal Internacional de Arte Contemporáneo de Sevilla in Spain (2005-2007), the 7th Gwangju Biennale in South Korea (2008) and the Triennal d’Art Contemporain of Paris at the Palais de Tokyo (2012).
A press conference tour was conducted in key cities, namely, Venice, Italy (March 5), Munich, Germany (March 6), Paris, France (March 9), London, United Kingdom (March 10), New York (March 12) and Shanghai, China (March 16).
8 MAY 2015
The vernissage of the Philippine Pavilion is scheduled on this date, at 3:00 p.m., at the European Cultural Centre-Palazzo Mora in Venice, Italy.
18 AUGUST 2015
David Medalla and his long-time collaborator Adam Nankervis performed at Microclima located at the Serra dei Giardini, through the invitation of artistic director Paolo Rosso. Medalla and Nankervis wore cut-out masks during their performance while assistant David Kupferberg recited a German text. During the performance, Medalla laid on the floor while Nankervis tenderly painted his face. The performance was an ode by both Medalla and Nankervis to the myths of the indigenous peoples of the Philippines and the aboriginals of Australia where Nankervis was born and among whom he lived during his early days as an artist.
19 AUGUST 2015
Medalla with his group went to Vicenza, a 45-minute train ride from Venezia, where he gave tribute to Antonio Pigafetta, the Venetian explorer born in Vicenza. Pigafetta travelled with Ferdinand Magellan as his assistant and he kept an accurate journal. He served as captain after Magellan’s death in a battle with Lapu-Lapu.
Medalla brilliantly weaved Pigafetta’s role as explorer and chronicler from Venetia who came to the Philippines in the 16th century. In his performance he literally tied a string to the statue and then brought it back the Pavilion showing the interconnectedness of past, present, Italy and the Philippines.
Medalla then led the group to the statue of Pigafetta, where he tied colored strings around the statue while singing Filipino folk song Sitsiritsit Alibangbang.
20 AUGUST 2015
At the Philippine Pavilion, Medalla would continue his performance. The event started with an open discussion between Medalla, Nankervis and Philippine Pavilion curator Patrick Flores on the state of contemporary art in the Philippines and the world. Taking off from the Pigafetta performance, Medalla asked the group who went to Vicenza to form a straight line in front of the audience and wear masks. He asked the group to wear the paper masks, which were cut-outs from old magazines, while singing traditional folk song Sitsiritsit Alibangbang.
22 AUGUST 2015
Medalla’s performance at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection was inspired by the story of Chuang-tzu (the Daoist philosopher). Medalla, Nankervis and Kupferberg created a giant caterpillar (like a moving dragon), which was transformed into many butterflies.
22 NOVEMBER 2015
The Philippine Pavilion held its finissage which is both a closing ceremony for the exhibit and a get-together of 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.
NCCA Chairman de Leon, Jr. announced that the Philippines will be joining the 2017 La Biennale Arte.