Arts & Culture

Why You Should Check Out the First Manila Biennale This Weekend

Held in part to remember our tragic history, the Manila Biennale 2018-“an art event as well as a memorial”-aims to bring back the spirit of the city through arts and culture.
IMAGE COURTESY OF THE PARTICIPATING ARTISTS/ RINGO BUNOAN/ MANILA BIENNALE 2018
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“Manila has lost its soul,” laments artist and provocateur Carlos Celdran, perhaps also the city’s most famous—or notorious, depending where you stand on his political and social views—tour guide. This simple statement is the motivating factor behind the launch of the Manila Biennale 2018, which takes place from February 3 to March 5 inside the walled city of Intramuros. In Celdran’s view, the city of Manila, which has been around even before the Spanish colonizers arrived, lost its soul following the outbreak of World War II, when the seven churches of Manila were bombed and when more than 100,000 civilians lost their lives. Held in part to remember our tragic history, the Manila Biennale 2018—“an art event as well as a memorial”—aims to bring back the spirit of the city through arts and culture.


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Oca Villamiel’s "Children of War"


Tad Ermitano’s "Bell"

The theme for the inaugural exhibition is “Open City,” referring to Intramuros’ historical importance as a port in the Galleon Trade, as well as the events of December 26, 1941, when Manila was declared an open city as it fell to the Japanese. This theme will be interpreted through theater, performance art, visual arts, music, design, and architecture, presented by the festival’s two major components: the Curated program and the Collaborative program. Producing the former are the Intramuros Administration, Celdran’s Walk This Way Tours, and Viva Manila; while the Anthology Festival of Architecture and Design, Cultural Center of the Philippines, Design Center of the Philippines, Fringe Manila, Short + Sweet International, and VivaManila produce the Collaborative programs. The organizers expect around 60,000 guests over the course of the four-week festival, which they stress is fully artist-run and privately funded. While there will be a multitude of artworks on display curated by the Design Center of the Philippines (design); Ringo Bunoan, Con Cabrera, Cocoy Lumbao, Alice Sarmiento (visual arts); Matthew Lopez (public programming), and Ramon Nocon (film), absolutely nothing will be for sale.

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Agnes Arellano’s "Angel of Death (Bronze Bullets)"

To fully appreciate the programs, special events, and VIP gatherings (including the Intramuros Artist Ball on February 21) happening throughout the Biennale, the purchase of the non-transferable #MNLBNL2018 Art Passport is highly advised, though day passes will also be available. To navigate the maze of exhibits as well as learn about the various local and foreign artists and their artworks, the INFOMUROS smartphone app can be downloaded for the Android and Apple formats. February 3 to March 5, Intramuros, Manila; [email protected]; @manilabiennale on Facebook and Instagram.

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Zeus Bascon’s "Dead Mask"

This story was originally published in the February 2018 issue of Town&Country.

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Pierre A. Calasanz
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