Philippine Pavilion Stirs Up the 58th Venice Art Biennale
The buzz began on the first day of the vernissage of the Philippine Pavilion at the 58th International Art Exhibition at the Venice Biennale. There was a non-stop flow of guests who had a special invitation to view the exhibits in the two locations—Arsenale and Giardini—before the formal opening in three days. Several reports in both traditional and non-traditional media listed the Philippine Pavilion as a must-see in this six-month major international art exhibition that happens every two years.
True enough, when the exhibit opened to the public on May 11, the Philippine Pavilion averaged 3,000 visitors a day. The representatives of the organizing institutions—National Commission for Culture and the Arts, Department of Foreign Affairs, Metropolitan Museum—and the volunteer invigilators hardly had any time to rest their vocal chords nor their feet as they were barraged by questions.
But there were so many reasons to forget fatigue. Hearing superlatives like “awesome,” “amazing,” and “astonishing” was music to the ears. It was not rare to see familiar faces going back to the pavilion, bringing along with them other faces. And about two or three countries have already laid down their invitation to the curator Tessa Maria Guazon and the participating artist Mark Justiniani to show this exhibition.
Guazon wrote a thesis titled “Island Weather” and chose Justiniani to provide the artistic expression. In his three-pronged installation Arkipelago, Justiniani creative a reflective media with cast objects. He made three installations representing the three major islands of the Philippines. Each carried a theme: the weather, the Visayas, political climate. And each held countless objects viewed from the glass floor that invite questions and dialogues.
But what is disorienting, and what initially draws visitors to the pavilion, is looking down at seemingly cavernous archeological digging littered with objects from everyday Philippine life. The feeling of falling is there though in reality, Justiniani’s installation is only two-feet deep. From toddlers to seniors, the approach to the installations is always precarious but once the initial fear is overcome, the experience is always jaw-dropping. Some simply negotiate the glass circle then get off, others gather more courage and climb up a few steps for more height.
It is a tradition for the Philippine pavilion at the Venice Biennale to be installed in the country after its Venetian sojourn. From its Biennale reception, expect Guazon’s “Island Weather” interpreted by Justiniani’s Arkipelago to create not just a buzz here but a storm.