The ‘Bayan’ In The Biennale: Reconstructing the memory of Intramuros
“Filipinos, Filipinos, Filipinos,” says Carlos Celdran of the audience he intends to attract in what he calls his dream project: the first Manila Biennale. “We are doing this for ourselves. Maybe the world can come and watch, but really, we’re addressing our own history here, we’re addressing each other, we’re addressing the city. Our primary audience is ourselves.”
Unlike how Biennales usually are in other parts of the globe — inviting foreign artists and subsequently foreign guests and foreign media into their cities — here the artists are mostly Filipinos, and so are the audiences that Celdran hopes would come in the month-long festival. The Manila Biennale runs from Feb. 3 to March 5, with works that can be viewed at Baluarte de San Diego, the Jesuit Mission House, and Fort Santiago. Here, Intramuros itself takes the starring role.“We invited artists to propose works with the theme ‘Open City,’” says Ringo Bunoan, the head curator of the Biennale working alongside curators Cocoy Lumbao, Alice Sarmiento, and Con Cabrera. “Majority of the works referred to that moment in our history when Manila was destroyed at the end of World War II. Manila became a ground zero and this is the main point of departure for the exhibition.”The history of Intramuros is said to be a narrative of compression, exodus, and fragmentation — of compressing communities within the walled city, and of bombings prompting an exodus that gave rise to poverty and the loss of Manila’s center. But this is all just textbook data.