Welcoming 2019

2019 promises to be vibrant! I look forward to the rest of this eventful year!

We are in the thick of preparations for the 2019 Venice Arts Biennale. We will install Island Weather for the Philippine Pavilion beginning April.

I was at The Japan Foundation Asia Center Tokyo recently; joining curators of the Singapore and Indonesia Pavilions at the Venice Arts Biennale for a forum on representation and related concerns regarding the biennale exhibition platform.

ISLAND WEATHER Mark & Tessa 23 Jan
With Mark Justiniani (image credit AG de Mesa and Philippine Arts in Venice
After the forum, with colleagues and curators Aki Hoashi, Michelle Ho, Asmudjo Jono Irianto and Hiroyuki Hattori (image credit: The Japan Foundation Asia Center)

Taiwanese curator Fang-Tse Tzu and I recently opened the exhibition Gendered Bodies in Southeast Asia. This was a long time realising – from when we participated in an exchange program between museums in Manila and Taiwan, our individual exhibitions at the Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts Taipei and the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, and our recent collaboration at latter.

Conversation with artists
Concluding the conversation before the reception for the exhibition Gendered Bodies in Southeast Asia at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, with artists Mali Wu, Brenda Fajardo, Amanda Heng, Yin-Ju Chen and co-curator Fang-Tze Hsu (image credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Manila)

This weekend February 23rd will be artist Eisa Jocson’s preview of work-in-progress The Filipino Superwoman Band, followed by a dialogue between her, myself, and Vietnamese artist Tzuan Wu. We hope you can join us!



Month for Art

It was a busy two months of lectures and talks, conversations and dialogues, exhibition openings and site visits. Here are a few:

L1040551 (1)
Visiting what remained of art works for Field Notes at the Makiling Botanic Gardens, Los Banos Laguna
L1040582 (1)
After a talk at Nomina Nuda with colleagues from UP Los Banos and artists for the Field Notes project
At Alfredo Esquillo’s ‘Continuing Spirit’ retrospective at Arete: written on several works in the past including ‘Piety and Place’ for an exhibition at the National University of Singapore Museum. I wrote ‘Pilgrim’s Gift’ for forthcoming catalogue.
In conversation with artist Leo Abaya on his ‘Demograpi, atbp’ exhibition, curated by Patrick Flores at Tin-aw Art Gallery
L1040626 (1)
After our video shoot for LAWAS Public Art at the UP Diliman campus grounds, with co-curator Cecilia de la Paz, artists Lee Paje and Mark Justiniani. Our closing event will be first week December with a program conceptualised by Franchesca Casauay.


Contemporary Art and the Region

Curator and art historian Patrick Flores and I will be in conversation at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila on 22 September 2018, Saturday from 2 to 4PM. Referencing exhibitions currently on view at the museum, Patrick will reflect on and explore ideas of the contemporary and the region. In response, I will discuss modes and lenses through which to understand aspects of Philippine contemporary art.

Registration is required for this event. 


From Humanities to Art Studies: 60th year Lecture Series

I received my 15th year service pin ( it is a loyalty badge) from the University last July. I have always been proud to be part of a dynamic and quite diverse department. I look up to my senior colleagues for their steadfast commitment, and scholarship that spills over the confines of  classroom walls. For them, scholarship is committed practice and practice is articulation of scholarship.

Let us continue to learn from them in a lecture series colleagues and I organised for 18 September 2018, Tuesday at the UP Vargas Museum


The lectures were well attended, thank you to those who joined us!


This September 2018, the Department of Art Studies launches its 60th year with lectures from Professors Emeritae Brenda V. Fajardo, Elena R. Mirano, and Norma S. Respicio.

The lectures historically place the work of our mentors within the discipline of Art Studies, and identifies emerging directions in our scholarship and advocacies.

poster professors emeritae

Complementing the lectures “Spirit and Art” by Dr. Fajardo and “Why I Teach” by Dr. Mirano were responses from DAS faculty Dr. Cecilia S. De la Paz and Prof. Patricia Marion Lopez.

From Humanities to Art Studies consolidates institutional memory through discussions on research, trajectories of practice alongside reflections from mentors and colleagues.

Preregistration required through our social media page.

Event will be streamed live and recorded in podcast and video.





Island Weather for the Philippine Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2019

I am very happy to share that artist Mark Justiniani and I will work together on an exhibition project for the Philippine Pavilion at the Venice Art Biennale 2019. Island Weather expands my research and curatorial work on place making and place histories. Mark will construct an immersive environment at the Arsenale, articulating further his  interests in the nature of perception through optics and technology that are vernacular in origin and form. More news and updates from the Philippine Arts in Venice Biennale social media page. 


Curatorial brief

Islands are at the core of this exhibition project as it crafts and proposes new imaginaries of place-histories.

Islands connote origins and leave-takings. Islands are simultaneously finite and endless because bound by land and open to sea. They intimate grounding yet their very nature is movement: the shifting of earth, the crawl of clouds, the crash of waves, the very weather itself.

Islands are malleable and allow ‘grand designs’.These designs shape the investigations the exhibition will take, as it lays out a trail marked by imposing and beguiling structures and forms. Image, sound and movement will be explored in a site-specific and site responsive installation project, an immersive environment to simulate a voyage – an island hop. The trail will consist of tableaus: expansive sceneries that combine history, fantasy and myth; signposts to our histories, an archipelago strung along a fraught past and uncertain future, burdened by the legacies of colonial history and the weight of protracted modernity.

Island Weather also references a vernacular quip for the fleeting nature of power. It deepens artist Mark Justiniani’s investigation of vision and its role in the construction of truth. It is aimed at deepening our conversations on ways of seeing and means of perception, the nature of space and the constructs of time. In a piece where stillness and movement are combined and contrasted, where journeys are simulated, the history of a nation is refracted to conjure an image of radical hope.

The journey the art project will take will be on islands drifting on bodies of water, in a manner similar to the way art buoys the spirit, its capacity to keep us afloat. Imagination’s terrain cannot be fully charted as do the edges and limits of the human will.

Art after all, remains the last frontier of an agency rooted in imagination and mobilised through hope.

Courtesy visit to the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, with Chair Virgilio Almario, past Chair Felipe de Leon and artists Mark Justiniani and Joy Mallari

Fickle skies, keen energy, restive forms

The skies were fickle – clearing one moment and pouring the next but our enthusiasm was steadfast. Encounters happened as planned last 13 June! It was choreographed by Ea Torrado and performed by Daloy Dance Company.

The rain rendered the performance vigour. Ea Torrado likened it to ‘dwelling the womb’ specifically when the dancers entered the grove, alternating between movement and stillness, flitting in and about the goddesses, rendering air and space legible with movement and voices.


They emerged from the Vargas Museum’s west porch in two files, chanting and marching. Their animal heads were curious, if not amusing counterpoints to their martial like movements. All was pulsing energy pronounced through strength of limbs that sliced rain and air, the rhythm of dancers’ voices lent spark to a fast encroaching night.



It is this straining against odds and the very elements that was the most remarkable character of the performance. We were drenched but oddly entranced by bodies weaving in and out of the grove, around the goddesses’ inert and viewers’ unsettled yet expectant bodies.  This atmosphere of chance placed in relief the exactitude the piece demanded of dancers. The dimming skies and pouring rain echoed their feral cries and sober silence, their rolling and falling forms contrasted strongly with austere marches and lively gestures.



It was an evening of strong and memorable contrasts, the weather and the piece coming together fully, eliciting from us a similar straining – because how else can life be without constraints? It is only in the latter where we come together through the wholeness promised by the goddesses Pleiades, however fleetingly.

Encounters was a singular offering to this moment.


Photos Eric Guazon


Encounters with Pleiades

Viewer interaction makes public art projects.

The LAWAS curatorial team has organised a series of events around the works Pleiades, Pagpamulak and Pusod.

The first collateral event happens on June 13, Wednesday 6PM at the Vargas Museum Grounds and CAL LawnEncounters is a piece by contemporary choreographer Ea Torrado.

Daloy Dance Company, photo Sipat Productions

It developed around Agnes Arellano’s suite of goddess sculptures Dakini, Innana, Kali and Magdalene. The goddesses appear descended in a grove at the Diliman campus, strong verdigris forms amidst lush green growth.

Encounters explores dualities of human existence and is rooted in Ea Torrado’s exploration of dance as emancipatory ritual. In it, dancers descend into the depths of being with the body as channel for the divine. The encounter is coming together of corporal flesh and greater divinity.

LAWAS Torrado collateral poster 31 May

The dance performance is shaped by active energy and force, listening and rest, presence and song. The intervals are marked by dancers heeding the call of the goddesses and becoming like prophets conveying a holy secret. It reflects on human anxieties and the speed we careen towards greater progress or utter destruction.

Agnes Arellano’s goddesses remind us to be rooted – perhaps, that which we frantically seek is in all of us.

Choreographer Ea Torrado is the recipient of Alvin Erasga Tolentino Koryograpiya Award in 2014, Remedios De Oteyza Choreography Award in 2016 and Asian Cultural Council Grant in 2017. Her creations manifest in choreographies, film, installation, site-specific work, and improvisational performance. She is the Artistic Director of Daloy Dance Company.

Daloy Dance Company interweaves dance, theatre and improvisation to create daring and evocative contemporary dance. Since its establishment in 2014, Daloy has made waves in the Manila art scene with critically acclaimed and exceptionally varied body of work. With its strong collaborative thrust, the company has worked with notable visual artists in various museums and galleries in the Philippines, and has enjoyed diverse audiences and performed in a range of dance and art festivals locally and abroad in Japan, Thailand, Korea and USA.