Joselina Cruz to Curate The Philippines Pavilion at 2017 Venice Biennale
By Henrietta Wilson
On September 15 the National Commission for Culture and the Arts in the Philippines announced “The Spectre of Comparison” by Joselina Cruz as the winning proposal for the Philippines Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale, which opens on May 13, 2017.
Inspired by José Rizal’s novel Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not) (1887), which is celebrated for encouraging both a critical dialogue and nationalist sentiment in the Philippines, Cruz’s proposal for the pavilion at Venice features artists Lani Maestro and Manuel Ocampo. Their works will depict an interpretation of their comparative feelings toward both their country and the West, in an investigation of the unique pressures of religion, corruption, politics and culture.
Based in Manila, Cruz is currently director of the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design, De La Salle College, and has previously held roles at Manila’s Lopez Art Museum and the Singapore Art Museum, ensuring she will bring a regional understanding to the pavilion. Cruz's proposal was the top selection from 12 submissions. Additionally, her work on the Singapore Biennale (2008), the Jakarta Biennale (2009), as well as “Creative Index: An Exhibition” (2010) for the Nippon Foundation in Manila, have proven her strong curatorial abilities.
"Manuel Ocampo and Lani Maestro are two artists who currently have some of the strongest practice in terms of political commentary and artistic engagement. It is the very diversity of their work that will ingrain the exhibition with a complex conversation on the structures of power, whether in politics or art," said Cruz in an email to ArtAsiaPacific.
Internationally celebrated for his paintings that interrogate socio-political and religious issues, Ocampo has held solo shows in New York, Copenhagen and Paris, with work held in museum collections including the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Whitney Museum in New York and the Fukuoka Museum in Japan. Philippines-born and Canada-based, Maestro has exhibited at the biennials in Sharjah, Havana, Istanbul and Sydney, and in 2012, won the prestigious Canadian art prize, the Hnatyshyn award, which recognized her outstanding achievements as an artist. Working between sculpture, music and installation, her work is described to hold poetic elements that address the complexities of human nature and our physical world.
When asked about what Ocampo and Maestro may create for the pavilion, Cruz replied: “Perhaps they will respond to the human rights issues in the Philippines; but the events in the Philippines are not isolated—there is a global wave of events that reflect what's going on here. Both artists work from a point where their gaze is confronted by the east and west, in what José Rizal called “el demonio de las comparaciones" ("the specter of comparisons"). The 57th Venice Biennale will run from mid-May until November 26, 2017.