THE Philippine Art Venice Biennale
The Philippine Art Venice Biennale (PAVB) is a collaborative undertaking of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Office of Senator Loren Legarda. PAVB’s role is to mount and support the Philippine Pavilion in the Venice Biennale International Art Exhibition.
For the 56th Venice Biennale 2015, the Philippine Pavilion will be located at the second floor of the European Cultural Centre – Palazzo Mora. NCCA Chairman Felipe M. de Leon, Jr. was appointed the Commissioner for the Pavilion.
An Open Call for Curatorial Proposals was announced in July 25, 2014, and the selection process was done in September 4-5, 2014 by an international panel of jurors composed of Chairman de Leon of the NCCA; Cid Reyes, art critic; Mami Kataoka, chief curator of the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, Japan; Paul Pfeiffer, visual artist; Renaud Proch, Executive Director of Independent Curators International; and Loren Legarda, Senator of the Republic of the Philippines and principal advocate of the PAVB.
On September 7, NCCA announced that Dr. Patrick Flores’ Tie a String Around the World was selected to represent the country in the 56th Venice Biennale.
The PAVB Coordinating Committee, which is responsible for the operations, is housed at the International Affairs Office of the NCCA in Intramuros, Manila.
In 2013, Senator Loren Legarda personally visited the 55th Venice Biennale and noticed that the Philippines was absent in the world’s oldest art exposition. She recounted that “It seemed odd that the Philippines, a nation rich in culture and in people with remarkable artistic talent and skills, was not part of the oldest, most prestigious art biennale in the world.”
Senator Legarda added that countries like Bangladesh and Tuvalu had their respective exhibits, but the Philippines had only participated in the Venice Biennale once, fifty years ago in 1964. Through the efforts of Art Association of the Philippines (AAP), it was the works of painter Jose Joya, and sculptor Napoleón Abueva, both of them now National Artists, that represented the country in the 32nd Venice Biennale. That would be the first and last time the Philippines had its own national pavilion.
This is why Senator Legarda sought the support of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA). DFA Secretary Albert F. del Rosario and NCCA Chairman Felipe de Leon, Jr. submitted a joint letter of intent to Mr. Paolo Baratta, President of La Biennale di Venezia. Mr. Baratta, in a letter dated January 17, 2014, then extended a formal invitation to the Philippines to participate in the Venice Art Biennale 2015.
OPEN CALL FOR CURATORIAL PROPOSALS
The Philippine Art Venice Biennale was established in a bid to facilitate coordination among government agencies and carry out preparations for the Philippine participation. The NCCA was also appointed Commissioner tasked to supervise the country’s participation. To ensure that the selection process would be “open, transparent, inclusive, and democratic,” an advisory for an open call for curatorial proposals was released on July 25, 2014. To provide artists and curators more opportunity to participate, the deadline of submission was extended from August 28 to September 3, 2014. Proposals were received until midnight of September 3 and there was an overwhelming number of submissions on deadline day itself. In the end, the committee received a total of sixteen (16) curatorial proposals. This was a sign of the lively interest in the biennale as well as in curatorial practice in the country; indeed, the decision to make an open call provided an opportunity or platform for this curatorial interest to find a productive space and for a community of curators to nurture it. This investment in the process should lay a solid groundwork for future endeavors in the Biennale front.
Part of ensuring that the selection process would be democratic and inclusive, highly respected and credible people in the international contemporary art world were invited to form the panel of jurors. In the end, after a tedious process of inviting and selecting, the Philippines had the privilege of having as jurors respected personalities in the art field. Mami Kataoka, Chief Curator, Mori Art Museum in Tokyo; Paul Pfeiffer, New York-based multimedia artist; and Renaud Proch, Executive Director of Independent Curators International, together with Cid Reyes, respected Filipino art critic, artist, and writer; NCCA Chairman De Leon; and Senator Loren Legarda as principal advocate of the Philippine participation in the Venice Art Biennale, eventually formed part of the panel.
For two days, September 4 and 5, the panel deliberated on the proposals. Impressed with the submissions, the panel found the selection process to be arduous yet fulfilling. The best minds in the contemporary art world, equal in their passion, weighed each proposal and debated its merits. Ultimately, in the late afternoon of the second day of discussions, a proposal that exhibited intellectual rigor, depth and immense creativity was selected.
On September 7, the representative for the Philippine participation at the 56th Venice Art Biennale was officially announced: Patrick Flores’ curatorial proposal, Tie a String Around the
Together with intermedia artist Jose Tence Ruiz and filmmaker Manny Montelibano, Flores, Professor at the Department of Art Studies of the University of the Philippines and Curator of the Vargas Museum, will show the world how remarkable the Filipino is. And this Filipino subjectivity is complex and always transforming, open to the dynamic interpretations of the kind of contemporary art that a biennale like Venice would like to harness.
Today, the Philippines is ready for its triumphant return to the Venice Biennale.
Hon. Loren Legarda
Senator, Republic of the Philippines
Senator Loren Legarda has long been an advocate of traditional arts promotion and cultural preservation. As Chair of the Senate Committee on Cultural Communities, she has led various initiatives to promote culture, showcase the exceptional skills and world-class crafts of indigenous peoples, and address the concerns of indigenous communities.
As she is known to champion the cause of IPs, Senator Legarda is equally passionate about contemporary art, having grown up in an environment immersed in arts and culture, with her late mother being an avid art collector.
Senator Legarda is the visionary behind the comeback of the Philippines to the Venice Biennale after a 50-year hiatus. Convinced that Philippine artistry and culture would leave other nations in awe, she has encouraged the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to work on the Philippines’ entry to the Art Venice Biennale 2015.
She believes that the country’s return to the Art Venice Biennale will be a big boost to Philippine contemporary art and will open gates of opportunity for Filipino artists and curators to be recognized abroad.
Senator Legarda has also supported the Philippines’ participation in the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale. She brought together the NCCA, the Office for Initiatives in Culture and the Arts (OICA) of the University of the Philippines-Diliman, and the DFA to ensure the country’s participation in the collateral event “Time Space Existence” Exhibit at the Palazzo Mora in Venice, Italy organized by the Global Art Affairs Foundation, from 7 June to 23 November 2014.
Prof. Felipe M. de Leon, Jr.
Chairman of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts
Chairman de Leon received a B.A. in Humanities from the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman. His graduate studies were in Fine Arts (UP College of Fine Arts, 1973-74); Composition and Music Theory (UP College of Music, 1974-75); Musicological Studies (Madras Music Academy in India, 1976-77); and Philippine Studies (UP College of Arts and Letters, 1989-91). He is the current Chairman of the NCCA and the Head of the NCCA’s Committee on Intangible Heritage and National Committee on Music and Commissioner of the Sub-Commission on the Arts.
He was the former chairman of the humanities department of UP Diliman. During his term as the Department Chair, the Department made a major shift from a Eurocentric to a World Art approach, with emphasis on Southeast Asian and Philippine arts. As Commissioner of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, he delivered a series of lectures on Philippine culture entitled “Philippine Development: A Cultural Perspective” at the Center for Pacific Asian Studies, Stockholm University on May 2, 2006; “Approaches to Understanding Philippine Culture” at the Philippine Embassy on May 3, 2006; and “Management by Culture” in Copenhagen, Denmark on May 4, 2006.
He specializes in the humanities, aesthetics, music theory, Philippine arts and culture, Language and Social Transformation, Semiotics, Mythology and Institutional Dynamics, and Accompanying People’s Movements. He is active in promoting and preserving Philippine indigenous musical forms, such as the musikong bumbong. In 2003, he was project director of the First National Bamboo Music Festival.
CHIEF CURATOR, MORI ART MUSEUM (MAM), TOKYO
Ms. Kataoka graduated from Aichi University of Education, Aichi Prefecture (BFA) Teacher’s Certification for elementary school, junior high school and art in high school Certification of museum curator (Ministry of Education). She has been the Chief Curator at the Mori Art Museum (MAM) in Tokyo since 2003, where she curated Roppongi Crossing (2004), which provided an overview of the recent art scene in Japan; Ozawa Tsuyoshi (2004); All About Laughter: Humor in
Contemporary Art (2007); Ai Weiwei: According to What? (2009); Sensing Nature:
Perception of Nature in Japan (2010); and most recently, Lee Bul: From Me,
Belongs to You Only, the first large-scale solo exhibition of Asia’s leading female artist.
Further, she has extended her curatorial practice to many international projects including the 9th Gwangju Biennale (2012) in South Korea as the Joint Artistic Director; Phantoms of Asia: Contemporary Awakens the Past (2012) at Asian Art Museum in San Francisco as guest curator; and Ai Weiwei: According to What? (2012) at Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington DC, which will tour other North American venues. She was the International Curator at the Hayward Gallery in London between 2007 and 2009, and curated Laughing in the Foreign Language (2008) and co-curated Walking in My Mind (2009). She was Chief Curator at Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery from 1998 to 2002. Kataoka also frequently writes and gives lectures on contemporary art in Asia.
Kataoka is a key figure in documenting and analyzing trends within contemporary Japanese art since 2000, as well as in considering relevant social, historical, and generational themes evident in contemporary Japanese art.
Paul Pfeiffer is a New York-based sculptor, photographer, and video artist whose work incorporates the use of found footage and images from popular culture. He employs computer technology in “shaping consciousness.” His works are often presented on small LCD screens and are played on a loop.
One of his well-known works, a piece entitled The Long Count, shows original television broadcasts of Muhammad Ali’s major championship fights. The bodies of both boxers have been extracted digitally, leaving the outlines of the same on the screen. Digital editing is used to address the question of historical visibility or invisibility.
Paul Pfeiffer has had solo shows at the UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2001); the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2002); the Barbican Arts Center, London (2003); The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2003); The Project, New York (2007); Carlier I Gebauer, Berlin (2008); MUSAC, Leon, Spain (2008); and Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin (2009). He has participated in the Whitney Biennial in 2000 and was awarded the inaugural Bucksbaum Award. In 2001, meanwhile, he participated in the 49th Venice Biennale.
Executive Director, Independent Curators International
Renaud Proch is the Executive Director of Independent Curators International (ICI) and served as its Deputy Director from December 2009 to March 2013. Prior to this, he was the Senior Director at the Project New York, where he worked on developing the careers of a roster of 21 artists. Proch was also the Director of MC in Los Angeles, a gallery dedicated to the production and presentation of new solo projects by internationally established artists.
He co-founded ART2102 of Los Angeles in 2003, a non-profit organization that incorporated gallery-based exhibitions, panel discussions, and screening, and functioned as both a structural support for projects realized on- and off-site and as a place for critical reflection for artists, curators, and critics. Proch also co-founded the Backroom, a growing archive and itinerant research-oriented project, which provides access to over 60 international artists’ source materials.
Most recently, he co-curated a retrospective of South African performance artist Tracey Rose for the Johannesburg Art Gallery, South Africa. He has lectured at Camberwell College, London; the Royal College of Art, London; the California College of the Arts, San Francisco; and Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles. In March 2013, ICI collaborated with the Bag Factory Artists’ Studios to produce ICI’s first Curatorial Intensive professional development program in Africa.
Cid Reyes is an eminent art critic, scholar and artist who has had seventeen solo exhibitions, and has authored books on several National Artists, including Arturo Luz and Napoleon Abueva. He also co-authored Herencia: The BPI Art Collection and Tanaw: The Central Bank Art Collection. His collection of interviews, Conversations on Philippine Art, was published by the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
He has won the “Art Critic of the Year Award” and has also written various articles, art reviews and criticism on Philippine Art.
From 1994-2004, Reyes wrote numerous reviews and essays for his weekly art column for TODAY. He graduated from the De La Salle College (1966) and studied at the Accademia de Belle Arti (Academy of Fine Arts) in Rome as an Italian government scholar. He also took courses in Art History at the City Lit Institute in London.
Reyes wrote Conversations on Philippine Art, Inspired Creativity: A
Decade of Philippine Art Awards, as well as books on the art of National Artists Arturo Luz and Bencab. In 1978, he won the Art Criticism Award of the Art Association of the Philippines. For two consecutive years (2001-2002), he was voted Art Critic of the Year by Art Manila Quarterly. In 2003, he was elevated to Hall of Fame for Art Criticism.
THE SELECTION OF TIE A STRING AROUND THE WORLD
The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Office of Senator Loren Legarda agreed that the Philippine representative to the Venice Biennale 2015 will be chosen through a democratic open call for curatorial proposals.
JULY 25 at 11:11 a.m.
An email containing the Open Call for Curatorial Proposals was sent to a large community of Filipino curators and artists residing in the Philippines and abroad.
The Open Call was posted on the NCCA and DFA websites, as well as Senator Loren Legarda’s site. It was also blasted to major as well as independent media outlets. It indicated the requirements that interested parties needed to submit on or before August 28. The deadline was extended to September 3, 2014 to accommodate more artists and curators.
SEPTEMBER 3 as the clock struck midnight
The PAVB received a total of 16 curatorial proposals from curators and artists residing both in the country and abroad. The last submission was accepted at around 12:15 a.m. on September 4, 2014.
Highly-respected and credible people in the international contemporary art world were invited to form the panel of jurors. The Philippines had the privilege of having as jurors respected personalities in the art field including Mami Kataoka, Chief Curator, Mori Art Museum in Tokyo; Paul Pfeiffer, New York-based multimedia artist; and Renaud Proch, Executive Director of Independent Curators International, together with Cid Reyes, respected Filipino art critic, artist, and writer; NCCA Chairman Felipe de Leon, Jr.; and Senator Loren Legarda, principal advocate of the Philippine participation in the Venice Biennale International Art Exhibition.
The jurors decided on the on the
criteria of the selection process:
Multi-significance and ability to be appreciated from different perspectives
Contemporaneity- sense of present
The judge read the sixteen (16) proposals; they eliminated submissions that did not adhere to the five criteria. They then listed down top five proposals that they chose and presented them to the panel for discussion. From there the jurors went to another elimination round until they were able to select the proposal that will represent the country in the 56th Venice Biennale. It is important to note that some of the jurors opted to remove all the names of the proponents and used numbers to identify the proposals during the deliberation.
Among the sixteen proposals, Tie a String Around the World would have the majority of the votes.
The esteemed panel of jurors selected Patrick Flores’ curatorial proposal titled Tie a String Around the World as the official Philippine participation at the 56th Venice Art Biennale 2015. The announcement was made through a press release that was disseminated to media outlets.
History of the Venice Biennale
The Venice Biennale has for over a century been one of the most prestigious cultural institutions in the world. Established in 1895, the Biennale has an attendance today of over 370,000 visitors at the Art Exhibition.
It was borne from a resolution by the City Council on 19th April 1893, which proposed the founding of a “biennial national artistic exhibition” to take place in the following year, to celebrate the silver anniversary of King Umberto and Margherita of Savoy. The event in fact took place two years later, opening on 30th April 1895.
Since 1895, Venice has been hosting La Biennale, and by way of its name, the event is supposed to happen every two years. However, as the expo expanded over the years to include dance, music, theater, and more, the timing of La Biennale has become quite elastic.
The main part of the Biennale – the forum that showcases contemporary works from artists all over the world – takes place from June to November every other year in odd-numbered years. The site of the Biennale is the Giardini Pubblici (the Public Gardens), where permanent pavilions for more than 40 countries have been set up for the occasion. Other exhibitions, performances, and installations associated with the Biennale also take place around the city in various art spaces, museums, and galleries.
In addition to the arts expo, the Biennale umbrella includes a dance series, a kids’ carnival (February), the Venice International Film Festival (September), a contemporary music festival, and a theatre festival. Since 1980, the Biennale has added the design world of architecture to its repertoire. The Architecture Biennale is held every two years in even-numbered years.
If you are visiting Venice when La Biennale is not in session, you can still see a lot of the works that have been featured in past expositions. Visit the Palazzo Corner della Ca’ Grande, where you can see displays of past exhibits and Biennale catalogues. Additionally, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, located in a grand villa in Dorsoduro, contains a trove of contemporary works from many artists that have been featured in past Biennales.