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  • Feb 22, 2024

History and Ecology Meet in the Philippines Pavilion at the 60th Venice Biennale

Left to right: Artist MARK SALVATUS and curator CARLOS QUIJON JR. Courtesy National Commission for Culture and the Arts, Manila.

The Philippines Pavilion, titled “Sa kabila ng tabing lamang sa panahong ito / Waiting just behind the curtain of this age,” at the upcoming 60th Venice Biennale features the works of artist Mark Salvatus and is curated by Carlos Quijon Jr. The exhibition will feature a newly commissioned video within an installation, and through family records, everyday materials, and historical events will delve into the history and environment of Mt. Banahaw, a forested mountain that has inspired the arts as well as been involved in political and revolutionary contexts in the Philippines.

Mt. Banahaw harbors a great mystique and is located on the border of Laguna, Quezon, and the artist’s hometown of Lucban. Salvatus and Quijon’s title for the presentation is inspired by the words of revolutionary lay preacher Apolinario de la Cruz “Hermano Puli” (1815–1841). Puli was a Filipino religious leader that founded the Cofradía de San José (Confraternity of St Joseph) in response to the racially discriminatory practices of the Catholic Church in the Philippines. A martyr who stood against the Spanish colonial government of the time, Puli spoke about Mt. Banahaw as embodying a “mystical lifeworld” due to its role as the mountain refuge for revolutionaries such as himself. “Waiting just behind the curtain of this age” reflects Puli’s enduring message of a shared world that goes beyond our current age, bringing together humanity and the “more-than-human” to create a mystical atmosphere that overcomes the boundaries of cultural expectations.

The Philippines Pavilion will also present the traditions of Lucban-based musicians, including the Young Banahaw Orchestra, Banda De Banahaw, and the Babat Orchestra that has been active since the 1950s. The Babat musicians’ enduring legacy is preserved in hymns, music education, and commercial cruiseship performances. Salvatus creates a protohistory of migrant Filipino musicians and broadens the discourse how the role of migrant municipal bands from Manila shape the modern soundscapes of the Asia-Pacific region.

The Philippines Pavilion at the Venice Biennale is a collaboration between the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), in partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), and the office of tenate president pro tempore Loren B. Legarda. “Sa kabila ng tabing lamang sa panahong ito / Waiting just behind the curtain of this age” will be presented at the Arsenale from April 20 to November 24, 2024.

Camilla Alvarez-Chow is an editorial assistant at ArtAsiaPacific. 

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