tie a string around the world

curatorial concept

Curator: Patrick D. Flores

Artists: Manuel Conde, Carlos Francisco, Manny Montelibano, Jose Tence Ruiz

The Philippine Pavilion moves around Manuel Conde’s Genghis Khan, a seminal Philippine film made in 1950 in Manila and Angono; re-edited and annotated by the American writer-critic James Agee; and screened at the Museum of Modern Art and the Venice Film Festival in 1952. It was co-written and designed by Carlos Francisco. Conde and Francisco are National Artists of the Philippines. The theme of the Pavilion comes from the line uttered by Genghis Khan at the end of the film as he promised his concubine that he would lay the empire he will conquer at her feet.

As the Philippine representation returns to Venice in 2015 after fifty-one years,so is the film revisited as a trajectory into the very idea of Venice as the place that first recognized the country through the moving image. This travel offers an opportunity to reflect on the condition of the world today and the potential of a Philippine Pavilion to initiate a conversation on the changing configurations of this world-- on the volatile meanings of territory, country, nation, border, patrimony, nature, freedom, limit, and the “present passing.”

At a tangent to Genghis Khan, the work of Jose Tence Ruiz, Shoal, references the Sierra Madre. The New York Times describes it as the vessel of Vietnam War vintage that “the Philippine government ran aground on the reef in 1999 and has since maintained as a kind of post-apocalyptic military garrison, the small detachment of Filipino troops stationed there struggling to survive extreme mental and physical desolation.” Ruiz evokes the spectral ship as an ambivalent silhouette of a shoal through his assemblage of metal, velvet, and wood. The trace that is also a monument thus settles into and becomes a reef-outpost- detritus-ark floating on a contested vastness, at once forlorn and prevailing both as saga and shipwreck.

For his part, Manny Montelibano presents the multi-channel video piece, A Dashed State, on the West Philippine Sea, which is part of the disputed South China Sea. It dwells on the atmosphere of a lush locale, particularly the sound of epics and radio frequencies that crisscross the expanse, and the vignettes of seemingly uneventful life ways of islands. The film invites discussion on the history of world making and the history of the sea in the long duration, and in relation to the histories of empires, nation-states, and regions. From the vantage point of Palawan, threshold to Borneo and the South China Sea, Montelibano films the conditions of the impossible: what makes a common sea and where do frontier and edge, melancholy and migration lie.

Patrick D. Flores, Curator, Tie A String Around the World

Patrick D. Flores is Professor of Art Studies at the Department of Art Studies at the University of the Philippines, which he chaired from 1997 to 2003, and Curator of the Vargas Museum in Manila. He is Adjunct Curator at the National Art Gallery, Singapore. He was one of the curators of Under Construction: New Dimensions in Asian Art in 2000 and the Gwangju Biennale (Position Papers) in 2008. He was a Visiting Fellow at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. in 1999 and an Asian Public Intellectuals Fellow in 2004. Among his publications are Painting History:Revisions in Philippine Colonial Art (1999); Remarkable Collection: Art, History, and the National Museum (2006); and PastPeripheral: Curation in Southeast Asia (2008). He was a grantee of the Asian Cultural Council (2010) and a member of the Advisory Board of the exhibition TheGlobal Contemporary: Art Worlds After 1989 (2011) organized by the Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe and member of the Guggenheim Museum’s Asian Art Council (2011). He co-edited the Southeast Asian issue with Joan Kee for Third Text (2011). He convened in 2013 on behalf of the Clark Institute and the Department of Art Studies of the University of the Philippines the conference “Histories of Art History in Southeast Asia” in Manila. He was a Guest Scholar of the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles in 2014.


Manuel Conde (b. October 9, 1915; d. August 11, 1985)

Manuel Conde was a prolific writer, actor, producer, and film director. Conde’s early forays into film included a stint as a ventriloquist who performed in tandem with a doll named Kiko; and as assistant director to Carlos Vander Tolosa of LVN Films. Under this production company, he directed his first film, Sawing Gantimpala (Tragic Reward, 1940), a cinematic adaptation of a novel written by Susana de Guzman. From 1939 to 1973, he directed and acted for LVN in such films as Ibong Adarna (Adarna Bird, 1941), Orasang Ginto (Clock of Gold, 1945), Apat na Alas (Four Aces, 1950), and Señorito(1953).

Conde’s cinematic collaboration with Carlos Francisco started when he produced his own films under MC Productions, where Francisco did the production designs. This company made films like Si Juan Tamad (Lazy Juan, 1947) and Si Juan Daldal (Talkative Juan, 1948). Informed by a socio-political consciousness at once searing and subtle, the stories revolve around a lazy yet cunning character whose origins can be traced back to folk tales.

Conde received significant recognition from the Filipino Film Directors’ Chapter, the Philippine Motion Pictures Association, the Screen Writers Guild of the Philippines, and the Film Academy of the Philippines.

Conde was posthumously conferred the Order of National Artist for Film and Broadcast Arts in 2009 for enlivening the Philippine cinematic language with folk literature, political criticism, and grandeur

Carlos Francisco (b. November 4, 1912; d. March 31, 1969)

Carlos Francisco was a painter cherished in Philippine art history for his magisterial murals, lyrical in temper, cinematic in impulse.

Francisco was an early Philippine modernist, along with Diosdado Lorenzo, Juan Arellano, Victorio Edades, and Galo Ocampo. Francisco did illustration and production design through his long-term collaboration with the film director Manuel Conde. He rendered designs for Conde’s films, such asGenghis Khan, Siete Infantes de Lara (Seven Sons of Lara, 1950), and the Juan Tamad (Lazy Juan) series, among others. Francisco’s paintings are animated by the life ways of Angono, a lakeshore town in Rizal, east of the capital Manila where he lived most of his life. His works are explorations of Philippine imagery carved out from national history, native mythology, and local rituals and beliefs. His efforts in exploring a folk-popular aesthetic are gleaned from his works that convey lyricism in portrayals of feasts and festivals, and a keen sense of design reminiscent of Art Nouveau and Art Deco.

Francisco’s commitment to fleshing out local history and culture is best exemplified in his murals. He was commissioned to paint Five Hundred Years of Philippine History for the Philippines International Fair in 1953. Another commissioned work, Filipino Struggles through History (1964), one of the largest he produced, was for the Manila City Hall. The mural scans successive colonialisms in the Philippines and the struggle against them. Francisco was posthumously declared National Artist for the Visual Arts in 1973.

Manny Montelibano (b. 1971)

Manny Montelibano is a media artist based in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental in the Visayan region of the Philippines. He has directed full feature and short films, television commercials, and documentaries.

Montelibano’s video art projects investigate the qualities and potentials of the moving image and sound. Appropriating familiar images and found footage digitally manipulated and juxtaposed with text, noise, or other effects, he reflects on current and varied issues. These are timely references to environmental changes, socioeconomic disparities, structures of power, and notions of distance. His video installation, Sorry for the Inconvenience, exhibited at the Singapore Biennale 2013 presents footage of people in power delivering speeches. The video’s jarring sound and hectic visuals shape how the reception of the message is effectively altered by the medium.

As a cultural worker, Montelibano is affiliated with organizations that aim to pursue contemporary art production and exchange in the Visayas. He served as director of the Visayas Islands Visual Arts Exhibition Conference (2014), and co-founded ProduksyonTramontina in 1997. This collective seeks to encourage film and new media production, as well as to provide a support system to aspiring filmmakers and video artists in the region. For his efforts in contributing to the growth of the cinematic arts, he was given the Award of Recognition by the Bacolod Art Council in 2014; in 2000, he received the Brother Alexis Gonzales Award in recognition of his service to culture and the arts of Negros.

Jose Tence Ruiz (b. 1956)

Jose Tence Ruiz is an intermedia artist who has actively engaged in set design, publication design, book and editorial illustration, painting, sculpture, installation, and performance art. From 1977 to 2004, Ruiz did editorial illustrations for various Manila-based publications as well as the Singapore Straits Times, and for the InterPressService Asia-Pacific, which served Manila, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, and Singapore.

Ruiz was a significant figure in the 70s in the early articulations of what would be known later as social realism. His wide gamut of works continues to critique power and its consequences. He has embraced both traditional techniques in painting and digital manipulations. The themes and motifs of his works harness images from everyday life, such as the jeepney (public transport from the Willy’s Jeep) or kariton (wooden improvised cart). He draws from Philippine art, folk and religious devotion, native mythology, media and popular culture, politics and history, computer technologies, and biomorphic patterns. His inventive probe of the techniques of appropriation and pastiche has given rise to innovative forms. The mingling of humor and a sense of play in the appearance of the works and their titles creates a tension between the density of meaning and the latter’s affective, oftentimes lucid qualities.

He has participated in various international projects, among which were: the Rencontre International D’Art de Performance, Quebec, Canada (2014); the Havana Biennial in Cuba (2000); and the Second Asia Pacific Triennial for Contemporary Art in Brisbane, Australia (1996).



The successful return of the country to the Venice Biennale after a 51-year hiatus was through the close cooperation of various agencies and people. The Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) provided the newly-restored copy of Conde’s film Genghis Khan and gave permission to exhibit it in Venice. The Bank of the Philippine Islands Foundation (BPI Foundation) lent the drawings of Carlos Francisco.

Manny Montelibano traveled to Palawan to create his multi-channel video piece, where he filmed the life of people in the island, and recorded the radio frequencies that crossed the West Philippine Sea. Nicole Revel shared her recordings of the Palawan epic to the artist, and the U.P. Center for Ethnomusicology (UPCE) gave the artist access to their archives of epics.

Jose Tence Ruiz in collaboration with Danilo Ilag-Ilag and Jeremy Guiab created a mock-up exhibition of Shoal in the artist studio, which also served as a time study for the installation of the artwork.


Still photograph from the film Genghis Khan
Photographer: Emmanuel Rojas 1950

Still photograph from the film A Dashed State
Photographer: Manny Montelibano 2015

Drawing of production design for the film Genghis Khan Carlos Francisco 1950  
Photographer: BPI Camera Club

Jose Tence Ruiz in collaboration with Danilo Ilag-Ilag and Jeremy Guiab et al. Shoal 2015 Installation Photographer: Mm Yu

Still photograph from the film Genghis Khan
Photographer: Emmanuel Rojas 1950

Still photograph from the film A Dashed State
Photographer: Manny Montelibano 2015

Drawing of production design for the film Genghis Khan Carlos Francisco 1950  
Photographer: BPI Camera Club

Jose Tence Ruiz in collaboration with Danilo Ilag-Ilag and Jeremy Guiab et al. Shoal 2015 Installation Photographer: Mm Yu

Collateral Events

To further inflect the argument of the Philippine Exhibition in the 56 th Venice Biennale, the Philippine artist David Medalla performed “Pangarap sa Panglao” at the Philippine Pavilion, and other key places in Venice.

The first performance on August 18 was held at Microclima in Giardini where Medalla performed an imagined story about the origin of the Filipino.

On August 19, Medalla held a performance in Vicenza. It focused on Antonio Pigafetta, a Venetian Explorer that travelled with Magellan and came to the Philippines in the 16 th Century.

The third performance, held at the Pavilion on August 20 started with a discussion among Medalla, Adam Nankervis and Patrick Flores where they talked about the state of Philippine art right before Medalla left and the state of Philippine art now, and the geopolitical issues the country is currently facing. Afterwards, the guests wore masks, and helped Medalla sing the Filipino Folk Song “Sitsiritsit Alibangbang.” The performance ended with Medalla and Nankervis tying strings around a plastic globe.

The last performance on August 22 was at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. Medalla created a story about caterpillars transforming into butterflies, and how this is an allusion to the transforming nature of art.

Medalla is an influential contemporary artist in the Philippines, initiating a significant break from Western modernism and internationalism in Manila in the ’50s. In 1960, he sailed for London. There, he was involved in exhibitions that paved the path for much of what we know as contemporary art today.

The Pavilion

The Philippine Pavilion in Venice was housed at the European Cultural Centre - Palazzo Mora, Strada Nuova #3659 Venezia, Italy.

Palazzo Mora offers a grand space dedicated to become a platform for exhibitions. It is located along the Strada Nuova and is situated in Sestier Cannaregio, between the San Felice Church and Canal di Noal.

The history of the ancient building can be traced back to year 1716 when it was bought by the Mora family from Andrea Contarini, a member of one of the most ancient and important families of Venice. It was later used as a public library and is now a venue for international exhibitions.

All events inside the Palazzo Mora are under the supervision of GAA- Foundation, a non-profit organization that aims to heighten the awareness about the more philosophical themes in contemporary art, Time – Space – Existence, in particular and make these subjects more accessible to a wider international audience.

Link: https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/streetview/philippines/QQGIsBik3Mm-xw?sv_lng=12.333356656165847&sv_lat=45.44190189323734&sv_h=38&sv_p=-12&sv_z=1