Curating Nation | Filipiniana: Collecting Culture in the Philippines by Patrick D. Flores

 The collector Jorge Vargas and family in their living room in Manila, surrounded by paintings of Juan Luna

Date: Friday, 2 December 2011
Time: 6.30pm
Venue: NUS Museum

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This presentation traces how a collection of things considered “cultural” is formed in the various phases in the project of the nation and its consolidation in the Philippines.  It focuses on three collecting agents (Jorge Vargas, Fernando Zobel, and Arturo Luz) and their practice to reflect on different historical periods from the mid-twentieth century through the Pacific War and on to the seventies, surveying the political tendencies attending imperialism, war, and post-independence nation-building.  The government of Ferdinand Marcos, largely through the efforts of First Lady Imelda Marcos, oversaw the most extensive cultural development program in this history, an analysis of which brings this paper to complete the loop of its reflection: the aspiration to render a post-colonial exhibitionary aesthetic for a living culture that has survived successive colonialisms. This takes us to the Cultural Center of the Philippines, main edifice of the Marcos cultural policy, after the uprising in 1986, when a Museum of Philippine Culture was opened under the curatorial direction of Marian Pastor Roces. It is perhaps only Roces among her peers in the Philippines who has had the opportunity to revisit the vexed modernity of collecting culture in the Center, organize an alternative to it, and live to tell the tale of its failure. Her candid and cogent thoughts on this process finally lead us to reconsider earlier models of the universal exposition, the local museum, and the transnational art center.

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 Past Peripheral: 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 The Global 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).

About Curating Nation Talk Series
In recent years, the idea of the nation has been studied not merely as a site of economic, political or geographic persuasions but also as a cultural object of analysis. Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Camping and Tramping Through the Colonial Archive | The Museum in Malaya, this talk series brings together leading art practitioners from Southeast Asia in an attempt at discerning the complexities involved in curating aspects of the nation within museological or gallery settings. Ranging from the deployment of exhibitions as a mode of cultural production, to the play of cosmopolitan identities at international biennales, curating the nation is conceived as a platform for the interdisciplinary discussion of memory, object and practice.

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