PH Pavilion's 'Arkipelago' draws crowds at 58th Venice Biennale

Mye Mulingtapang, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 21 2019 12:35 PM

The Philippines' entry to the Biennale Arte 2019 'Island Weather' will be on exhibit until November 24. Photo courtesy of Philippine Art Venice Biennale

VENICE -- The Philippine Pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale is a real-crowd drawer. 

Thousands of visitors flock to the Arsenale, the largest pre-industrial production center of the world and also one of the main exhibition spaces of the Biennale where the Philippine Pavilion’s "Island Weather" exhibition is housed.

The massive installation tackles weighty issues like cultural identity and political philosophy. 

Tessa Maria Guazon's curatorial concept for "Island Weather" explores the idea of the world as one island and contemporary life as a state of "shared vulnerability." It is about a way of experiencing the world through a visuality at once vertiginous and exhilarating but also introspective. 

Guests walk on three plexiglass panels representing the Philippine archipelago with mirrored interiors by artist Mark Justiniani. His conceptions of space and time meet depth and darkness that explores reality and perception. 

Each segment has optical orientations with interwoven meanings about the Philippines, its people and other sociopolitical issues dealing with troubled past and the illusive sense of identity. 

Justiani asserts the Filipinos’ distinct creative identity with his interactive installation which continue to get raves. "Island Weather" may yet be the most challenging project in Justiniani's Infinity series because it is the biggest and most complex. 

"It is about excavating memories and to create an archeological digging for archaeological exploration and at the same time to make foundations, structural foundations for the building of edifices. The shapes and the islands mimic an archipelago. One module focuses on the provinces, agriculture and industry, the other talks about the capital, power structures and a third one is a vortex similar to the eye of a storm," Justiniani said.

“I like the feeling that you have a sense of vertigo and it’s like strange landscape, you don’t know what it is but it has very strong impact somehow. I think it’s a really nice work,” noted Merete Pryds Elle, a journalist from Denmark. 

People take turns in experiencing Justiniani’s large-scale and immersive installation. 

“It’s very intriguing, I must say. I like the way that you can interact with the art I love that you’re allowed to walk in and explore properly, said design consultant Dagmara Surus from the UK.

The Philippine Pavilion is among the top 5 national pavilions in the Biennale, according to Financial Times.

“Showing this certain kind of sensibility in this particular venue is quite important. It is a sensibility it’s quite unique which can be seen in emphasizing labor and craftiness and on another level I want to show the physicality and the materiality of the work,” added Justiniani.

The Philippine participation at the Venice Biennale is a joint project of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts led by chairman Virgilio Almario, the Department of Foreign Affairs, and the Office of Senator Loren Legarda.