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Seeing sound: The Philippine Pavilion at the 59th Venice Art Biennale

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This year’s Philippine Pavilion at the 59<sup>th</sup> Venice Art Biennale features a collaborative project titled Andi taku e sana, Amung taku di sana (All of us present, This is our gathering) by visual artist Gerardo Tan, ethnomusicologist Felicidad A. Prudente, and Ifugao weaver Sammy N. Buhle.

In this B-Side episode, Philippine Pavilion curators Yael Buencamino Borromeo and Arvin Flores explain to BusinessWorld reporter Michelle Anne P. Soliman the process of translating sound into painting and textile design; and the value of participating in the Biennale, a cultural institution established in 1895.

“It’s really important for us to participate in exhibitions like this, because they provide artists and curators with a platform to engage with the international community. And it does provide people with a glimpse of what’s going on in contemporary art,” Ms. Borromeo said.  


The Venice Art Biennale is still the place to see and be seen.

“The trite description of the Venice Biennale is that it’s the Olympics of the art world,” said Ms. Borromeo. “Everybody who’s interested in art is probably there in the first three days. These are people that might not normally come to the Philippines to see the art that we have … so this is one way in which we can give them a glimpse of what artists in the Philippines are doing.”  

Traditional art can be made contemporary.

The Philippine Pavilion was “a very tricky project,” according to Mr. Flores because it deals with traditional forms of weaving, a craft that has a long history in the country. 

“People expect a certain type of pattern,” he said. Andi taku e sana, Amung taku di sana upends these expectations through the collaboration of the three artists. 

“Creation is also chaotic. It’s like opening an abyss and looking at the void,” he said.

Added Ms. Borromeo: “I think that it was very brave and open on Sammy’s part that he agreed to be a part of this project precisely because it’s not something that he’s normally used to. But he took on the challenge of working on something that he hadn’t encountered before.”

Art is an arena for asking questions.

“[Art] is not a beauty pageant. Art is always supposed to shape the world. Maybe that’s a very romantic and almost traditional thing to say, but in these uncertain times, perhaps we need to slow down, question things,” said Mr. Flores. “That’s where we’re also at as a nation — not to be in a rush but to think things out, be patient, and know ourselves.”

The Venice Biennale, added Ms. Borromeo, “takes countries that are in the so-called peripheries of the international art world and places them on the same stage as everybody else, giving everyone the opportunity to see what different countries have to offer.”

Recorded remotely in April 2022. Produced by Earl R. Lagundino and Sam L. Marcelo.

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