The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), together with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Office of Senator Loren Legarda, has officially presented to the media the country‘s official participation in the 57th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia: The Philippine Pavilion – The Spectre of Comparison.

philippine pavilion jurors

The Spectre of Comparison was chosen among 12 curatorial proposals submitted to the Philippine Arts in Venice Biennale (PAVB) Coordinating Committee by the panel of jurors during deliberations held last August 29, 2016 at the NCCA Office in Manila. The jury was composed of Dr. Eugene Tan, Director of the National Gallery Singapore; Florentina P. Colayco, President of Metropolitan Museum of Manila; Luis “Junyee” E. Yee, Jr., a pioneer of installation art in the Philippines; then NCCA Chairperson Prof. Felipe de Leon, Jr.; and Senator Loren Legarda, principal advocate of the project.

Joselina Cruz

Joselina Cruz, the curator, brings together two artists, Lani Maestro and Manuel Ocampo, for the 2017 Philippine Pavilion, which will be mounted in the Artiglieri of the Arsenale in Venice, Italy. The Arsenale is one of the two main exhibition spaces of the Venice Biennale.

Lani Maestro

Manuel Ocampo

The Philippine Pavilion will hold its vernissage on May 11, 2017. The Commissioner for the Philippine Pavilion is NCCA Chairman Virgilio Almario.

The Pavilion: The Spectre of Comparison

Drawn from Jose Rizal‘s Noli Me Tangere is the phrase el demonio de las comparaciones (also translated to ‗the spectre of comparisons‘)—the impulse for the exhibition and the framework for the practices of Maestro and Ocampo.

“The phrase encapsulates the experience of Rizal‘s protagonist, Crisostomo Ibarra, when he gazes out at the botanical gardens of Manila and simultaneously sees the gardens of Europe. This point of realization suggests the loss of Ibarra‘s (and Rizal‘s) political innocence, this doublevision of experiencing events up close and from afar: no longer able to see the Philippines without seeing Europe nor gaze at Europe without seeing the Philippines, Cruz explained.

With this as spectral pivot, Maestro‘s and Ocampo‘s practices, aesthetically worlds apart from each other and produced through a multiplicity of contexts, are brought together in Venice.

Both artists have lived and practiced outside of the Philippines, but have maintained active engagement with the country throughout their careers. Their practice and their subject matters are deeply involved with their experiences as immigrants or citizens of a new diaspora that also reflect the complexity of a contemporary Philippine identity.

“The exhibition looks at their practices as emblematic of the experience of Rizal‘s spectre of comparisons, the juxtaposition of their works, the manifestation of political and social commentary from afar, as they saw the events of the Philippines and their adopted countries ‘through an inverted telescope’,” said Cruz.

She further explains, “Rizal‘s experience and understanding of Europe and the connections he continually made as he flipped back and forth between the contexts of home and the foreign crystallized the double-consciousness of a colonial e migre of the 19th century. The Spectre of Comparison, the exhibition, accords this global gaze to Ocampo and Maestro, not just as the simple in-between location or a knowledge of two (or several) worlds, but as a more complex imagining of the local and global as each artist re-define political resistance within their experience of shifting localities throughout their artistic careers. Woven within this twinning of practices is the space of the spectre of comparison that haunts the imagery and making of nationalisms fraught with colonial and imperialist pasts.”

The 2017 Venice Art Biennale

The 57th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, titled Viva Arte Viva, is under the directorship of French curator Christine Macel.

Macel highlights the importance of art in society and in every person‘s life: Today, in a world full of conflicts and shocks, art bears witness to the most precious part of what makes us human. Art is the ultimate ground for reflection, individual expression, freedom, and for fundamental questions…It stands as an unequivocal alternative to individualism and indifference. It builds us up and edifies us. At a time of global disorder, art embraces life, even if doubt ensues inevitably.*

*Viva Arte Viva, Introduction by Christine Macel.