Cover Manuel Ocampo. Torta Imperiales, 2019

The Philippine Pavilion’s exhibition for the 57th Venice Biennale finds its way to Philippine shores to be on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design for a limited time

In 2017, the Philippines was represented in the esteemed Venice Biennale by an exhibition curated by Joselina “Yeyey” Cruz, Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design (MCAD). Her vision for the exhibition was a take on what nationalism means for a country whose people have been heavily influenced by many others. It takes inspiration from the experience of Jose Rizal’s protagonist in Noli Mi Tangere, Crisostomo Ibarra, who, as a well-travelled individual, could not help but remember the gardens of Europe as he looked out into the Botanical Garden of Manila.

Such a theme is fitting for the exhibition’s chosen artists, Lani Maestro and Manuel Ocampo. While their works are vastly different (Maestro works with different media whereas Ocampo primarily paints on canvas), both have spent time overseas. Maestro moved to Canada at the height of Martial Law while Ocampo left for the States after it. Another likeness was the strength of their pieces’ message, and how most of their work had circulated outside of the Philippines before slowly finding its way to its home country.

Mounting the exhibition in its venue proved to be a challenge. It was only upon arrival to the site that the Philippine contingent found out that no fixtures could be mounted on the Artiglierie Arsenale’s walls, a problem since the chosen pieces were wall works. The solution was to a collaborative one. The team created walls of their own out of wooden panels to stay true to the exhibition’s original blueprint. With the addition of Maestro’s wooden benches, “meronmeron,” the exhibition became even more immersive, inviting viewers to sit and ponder on the works before them.

After two years, The Spectre of Comparison has found its way home. As Cruz says so herself, it’s difficult to bring an entire exhibition to a different space and expect it to be the same when the venue and even the context has changed. Still, the team did its best to recreate an experience close to the original. The exhibit in MCAD also features additional works from both artists.

The Spectre of Comparison runs from 23 May through 20 July at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design in De La Salle College of Saint Benilde. For more information, visit mcadmanila.org.ph.