Filipino Curator Patrick Flores Leads Singapore Biennale 2019 "in the Right Direction"

Plus, there are more than a handful of artists from the Philippines.

(SPOT.ph) Art Stage Singapore, considered as the Lion City's main art fair, was cancelled just a week before opening in January 2019 due to logistics issues. Singapore Biennale in 2017, on the other hand, was riddled with controversy, including a blood oath taken by Singaporean artist S. Chandrasekaran after his show was relegated to a static display rather than what was intended to be a performance piece. Suffice to say, people are on the edge of their seats as they await the opening of the next international art fair in the country: Singapore Biennale 2019, which runs until March 22, 2020 in 11 venues across the city. Filipino art historian and curator Dr. Patrick Flores lead this year's event, which is aptly titled Every Step in the Right Direction.

Dr. Patrick Flores, artistic director of Singapore Biennale 2019, gives a brief tour of the National Gallery of Singapore.
PHOTO BY AZ Camiling
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Every Step in the Right Direction, therefore, becomes an invitation as well as an inspiration for us to decide on which steps to take towards what we believe is the right direction,” Flores shares during the Biennale’s opening on November 22. He worked with six other curators including Sultan Kudarat-born Renan Laru-an.

Though this cements the big Filipino contingent at the international fair, Flores clarifies that the roster of Filipino artists "are here not to represent identity, but to create more performative conditions for the audience to think through and act on their subjectivity. Identity tends to capture; [he] wants works that release it from prefabricated ideologies."

"sitsit sa kuliglig (whatever circles from the center)" (2019) by Lani Maestro features capiz shells in strings, which makes a sound when the wind blows. It is located in front of the National Museum of Singapore.
PHOTO BY AZ Camiling
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"From Where Labor Blooms" (2019) by Mark Sanchez tells the story of Dr. Mamitua Saber, who led the development of cultural and civic life in Mindanao. This installation is located at the LASALLE College of the Arts.
PHOTO BY AZ Camiling
In one of the corners, Sanchez shows the plight of our country and its citizens.
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“Geomancies” (2007 to 2017) by Miljohn Ruperto, which is also on display at the LASALLE College of the Arts, features five massive pieces that show the cultural and environmental impacts of a fungus in California.
PHOTO BY AZ Camiling

Flores also echoes the sentiments of 1930s revolutionary and feminist Salud Algabre who once said, “No uprising fails, each one is a step in the right direction.” The right direction, for him, is beyond binaries like right and wrong or black and white. “I wanted this biennale to prepare the body of the agent and the mind to make certain decisions about what is ‘right’,” he says. The right direction is—and will always be—an ethical decision.

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Aspiring to “make a difference in the troubled world,” he engages the public through the Singapore Biennale through thought-provoking pieces that require the viewer to make a dialogue both with the work of art and with himself.

"Properties" (2019) by Gary-Ross Pastrana is not a static display at the LASALLE College of the Arts, but rather a collection of pieces activated and used in a performance by Singaporean artists. These objects were used as props for Sarah Kane's Cleansed for a Manila staging in 2019. The Kane original premiered in 1998 in London. 
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"Mask-Unmask" (1977) by Carlos Villa, which is on the third floor of the National Gallery Singapore, reflects the artist's journey as a cultural worker.
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Alfonso Ossorio, a Manila-born American artist with roots in Negros, is known for his assemblages of objects. "Mirror Point" (1960), which is on display at the National Gallery, is one of them.
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“Aleator” (1974 to 1981) by Raymunod Albano is included in Celine Condorelli’s “Spatial Compositions” (2019), which is an archive of posters and prints by artists. It also features works by Judy Freya Sibayan and Carlos Villa.
PHOTO BY AZ Camiling

He admits that he often gets asked what the biennale is about but says this is not the most productive question to ask him. “Instead, it offers a method and an argument about how to be present in the world and to index that presence with persistent and decisive action.”

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Flores finally emphasized their gesture of reworking the world through art; that the biennale aims to convey the sensibility of delicacy and urgency, but at the same time recognize one’s morality. Hopefully, this step in the right direction is enough to make this year's edition of the Singapore Biennale the game-changer that it wants to be.

Singapore Biennale 2019: Every Step in the Right Direction runs until March 22, 2020 in various venues in Singapore. For more information, visit Singapore Biennale's website.

Erratum (December 5): The original version of this article said that Gary-Ross Pastrana's "Properties" were created for a 1998 staging of the play Cleansed in Manila. The article has been corrected.

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