Mark Justiniani to present at the Philippine Pavilion of the Venice Art Biennale 2019

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"Noah" from Mark Justiniani's "Phantom Limb" show in 2011. The exhibit is part of Justiniani's longstanding fascination with magic and realism using mirrors and light to create illusions of depth and space. Photo courtesy of PHILIPPINE ARTS IN VENICE BIENNALE

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — It seems fitting that, in the time of fake news and what is called the ‘post-truth era’, an artist known for visual trickery will be exhibiting at the Philippine Pavilion in Venice Arte Biennale 2019.

Next year, at the “olympics of the art world,” Mark Justiniani will present “Island Weather,” a three-pronged installation curated by Tessa Maria Guazon.

Justiniani is known for his larger than life, site specific installations playing on perception using mirrors, lights, and space. For instance, his installations, “Mimefield,” attracted attention at the 2013 Art Fair Philippines, as it presented an illusion of a bottomless mine shaft in a one foot-high box. It is, at once, terrifying and mesmerizing, and an exemplar of Justiniani’s fascination with the spectral and corporeal effect of magic and mimicry.

This magic realist strain is often combined with his social realist background, which stems from his works with activist groups and artist initiatives in the ‘80s and ‘90s, such as Abay (Artist ng Bayan) and the collective Sanggawa (1994). The most recent of which is the three-paneled, 8 x 24 feet mural "Tagadagat," a collaboration with Emmanuel Garibay and Elmer Borlongan.

Mark Justiniani Mark Justiniani in 2017. Photographed by PATRICK DIOKNO

“We identify ourselves with islands,” says Justiniani about “Tagadagat” in a 2017 interview with CNN Philippines Life. “[We] belong to the sea, ‘yung identity [na] hindi nakaangkla sa island,“ he says. “Interestingly ‘pag baliktarin mo ‘yung word na ‘tagadagat’, ‘tagadagat’ pa rin so parang ambigram siya. So whether papunta ka rito o papunta ka rito ganun pa rin … parang ganun ‘yung tone ng work, parang in limbo.”

This archipelagic approach to his work will be seen at the Philippine Pavilion of the 2019 Venice Art Biennale. “Island Weather” is an inquiry on perception and place, how an island can be a point of reference for a nation. The exhibit is a study on the nature of physicality itself as manifested by a geographic space that is called home by millions of people, and how it is altered and affected by many factors surrounding it — be it environmental, political, or metaphysical.

“Island Weather” will have three parts: “Island Voyage” is about journeys, colonial-era lighthouses, and geographical origins of mythmaking; “Local Forecast: Turbulent Weather” is about parts of the lighthouse that become instruments in creating an “experience of seeing and being seen;” and “Piers and Ports” is part of Justiniani's larger exploration on the constant use of “seeing” as the basis of truth.

Justiniani has exhibited around the world and represented the Philippines in several events such as the 1999 ASEAN Art Awards and the 2017 Yokohama Triennale. He is also the recipient of the 13 Artists Awards, Most Outstanding Achievement of Young Artists in the Philippines, given by the Cultural Center of the Philippines in 1994.

Meanwhile, Guazon is an assistant professor at the Department of Art Studies in the University of the Philippines - Diliman. Her recent curatorial projects include: “Lawas,” site-specific art projects in UP Diliman, and “Consonant Forms, Resonant Practice: Women Winners of the Philippine Art Awards and the ASEAN Art Awards” at the Yuchengco Museum, both exhibited in 2018; and “Plying the Seas, Divining the Skies” at the Kuandu Museum of Art, Taipei in 2017.

In a period marred by turmoil and an assault on truth, Justiniani’s concept for the Philippine Pavilion plays well in the overall principle of the 2019 Venice Biennale, called “May You Live in Interesting Times,” curated by Ralph Rugoff, the artistic director of London’s Hayward Gallery.

“At a moment when the digital dissemination of fake news and ‘alternative facts’ is corroding political discourse and the trust on which it depends, it is worth pausing whenever possible to reassess our terms of reference,” Rugoff said in a statement.

This will be the third time that the Philippines will be participating at the Venice Art Biennale since its return in 2015 after 51 years of absence.

Previous artists who exhibited in the Philippine Pavilion are Manuel Conde, Carlos Francisco, Manny Montelibano, and Jose Tence Ruiz for “Tie a String Around the World,” curated by Patrick Flores in 2015; and Lani Maestro and Manuel Ocampo in “The Spectre of Comparison” curated by Joselina Cruz in 2017.

The Philippine has also participated twice in the Venice Architecture Biennale.

“Island Weather” was chosen from 12 proposals by a jury composed of National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) Chairman Virgilio S. Almario; Dr. Apinan Poshyananda, artistic director of the Bangkok Art Biennale; June Yap, curatorial director of the Singapore Art Museum; artist Imelda Cajipe-Endaya; and Senator Loren Legarda, principal advocate of the project.

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The Philippine Pavilion in Venice will open to the public on May 11, 2019 and will run until Nov. 24, 2019.