The Philippine Pavilion at the Venice Biennale as an island of transformation
MANILA, Philippines — It seems like just yesterday when we were trying to fill the puzzling absence of the Philippines in the Venice Biennale after 51 years of hiatus, but today, we are already opening our fifth Philippine Pavilion.
I am proud that for five consecutive years we have maintained our presence in the oldest and most prestigious contemporary art platform in the world, and that our pavilion is housed at the Artiglierie of the Arsenale, one of the main exhibition spaces of the Venice Biennale.
But I am prouder of our exhibition for this year’s Arte Biennale. Our 2019 Philippine Pavilion, “Island Weather,” curated by Tessa Maria Guazon, features the work of Mark Justiniani.
This exhibition brings us once more to our storied colonial past, which has inevitably shaped our nation. We may have achieved liberty more than a century ago, but our colonial history is a vital aspect of our nation’s truth, that every Filipino needs to live and struggle with. While our past does not necessarily colonize our future, a complex knowledge of it helps in fortifying the values we will carry as we decisively chart an unforeseeable fate.
The 2019 Philippine Pavilion brings to the fore Filipino contemporary visual art, and hopes to make Filipino creativity a strong presence in world art. 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 venue to foster patriotism and nationalism.
We have come a long way from the time we were angling for a return in the Venice Biennale in 2015. The Philippine Pavilion, while it organizes different exhibitions every biennale, is a story in itself. It is like an island, which may undergo transformation throughout the years, decades and centuries, but the very soil is the foundation that remains a witness to our struggles, aspirations, frustrations and triumphs.
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.
On this note, I offer my congratulations to everyone who made our participation this year happen — the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) headed by our National Artist, Virgilio S. Almario; the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA); and the Philippine Arts in Venice Biennale (PAVB) Secretariat. Thank you for helping me realize my vision of making our country a part of this global conversation.
Most importantly, congratulations to Tessa and Mark and to all who participated in completing the 2019 Philippine Pavilion.
Hopefully, the Philippine Pavilion and our continuing presence in the Venice Biennale will enhance Filipinos’ sense of self-worth and dignity and pride in our own cultural achievements, and will become a potent force for national unity.
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(Message of Senator Loren Legarda for the vernissage of "Island Weather," the Philippine Pavilion at the 58th Biennale Arte, delivered on May 8 in Venice, Italy by Ambassador Domingo Nolasco, Philippine Ambassador to Italy.)