“The idea of a “national identity” isn’t flat, as some people might have you think. It is a vast, complex landscape, with boundaries leaking from one to the other. Perceived differences form a major part of what one’s national identity is supposed to be, but it is an idea sifted through many filters, such as exclusion, inclusion, straightforward definition, or deconstruction. Borders are drawn to demarcate the various elements that make up what, for example, being a Filipino is. But what if one is thrown into the spotlight to represent the country on a stage where national identity is at its core? Does simply being a Filipino qualify? What does it take to consider one work as Filipino other than being from the country of origin? Even more so, in this age where the notion of identity expands further than before?
The phrase “el demonio de las comparacione” appears in Jose Rizal’s “Noli Me Tangere,” uttered by the protagonist, Crisostomo Ibarra, who experiences this double vision of seeing his beloved Philippines with the “spectre” of Europe (and vice versa), where he has been stripped off of his political innocence, seeing the possibilities — and limits — offered by Europe, and viewing Manila as a “sickly girl wrapped in the garments of her grandmother’s better days.”
It is this “spectre” that serves as the jump-off point of the Philippine Pavilion in this year’s Venice Art Biennale. Curated by Museum of Contemporary Art and Design’s Joselina Cruz, the exhibit features works of artists Lani Maestro and Manuel Ocampo, who have used their practice to confront their very own demonios, looking at the Philippines — and what it means to be a Filipino — when you’re no longer in a place you once called home. …”
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