Exhibition Title: ISLAND WEATHER

Curator: Tessa Maria T. Guazon
Participating Artist:  Mark O.  Justiniani

Exhibition Concept

Island Voyage

Islands connote origins and leave-takings. They 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.

An island can be a nation, several make an archipelago, but they differ greatly from peninsulas or continents. Islands are places of mystery, bounty, and danger. They are charted on maps or located by way of modern devices, yet there remains a few that elude the naked eye or virtually-aided sight. Islands are often understood as “allegories for the whole world” (Grove cited in Baldacchino, 166) and in truth, are sites of innovation, whether of nature or human design.

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

Islands as places or locations suggest “insularity, peripherality, [and] of being on edge,” a characteristic that allows a “malleability for grand designs” (Baldacchino 2007, 166). These ‘grand designs’ shape the investigations the exhibition project will take, as it lays out a trail marked by imposing and beguiling structures and forms: from the light-houses of colonial times, the twin palaces of a dictatorship, and sugar plantations that gave rise to fortunes. The voyage ends on the shores of yet another island, whose image is fantastical as it is mythical.

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 tableaux – expansive sceneries that combine fact, fantasy and myth. The sites that mark the voyage include lighthouses that are head and tail of the archipelago (Cape Bojeador in Burgos, Ilocos Norte and Saluag in Tawi-Tawi), palaces that mirror each other (Malacañan in Manila and the other in the North), Victorias Milling Company in Negros Occidental, and Siquijor island in Central Visayas. Lighthouses are for looking out to the world, palaces are seats of power and symbols of daunting greed, sugar mills are fuelled by labor, plagued by poverty, and witnesses to the rise and fall of fortunes. The journey comes full circle in enchantment on an island widely perceived as cloaked in mystery. These are 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.

Local Forecast: Turbulent weather

In local politics is a vernacular quip for the fleeting nature of power or how one politician’s grand designs become ether when tenure ends. People say ‘weather-weather lang,’ meaning whoever in power can maneuver and plot according to whim.

Island will be referenced in re-imagination of the trail – a consequent refraction of place histories. Artist Mark Justiniani will take from the lighthouse, its location, structure, and function to construct an experience of viewing and being seen. Terrain studies carried out by the Allied Geographical Section of the Southwest Pacific Area in 1944 will also be referenced. These lenses reflect on current turns in national politics, charting anxieties whose frissons can be felt not only in the Philippines but across the world.

For how else can we find a way to live our times but by “grounding ourselves on moving earth” (Shields 1991) because our world has been radically remapped by calamity, wars and the unprecedented migration of peoples forced to seek shelter away from places of origin and birth.

Piers and Ports: Iterations across seas

Island Weather constructs a buoyancy as it proposes a compass whose directions include longing, revolution, and hope. Islands after all, offer refuge and respite, a way of understanding the human condition.

It expands 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. If time is manifold in rhythm, and space contracts and expands, how does reality manifest? These explorations will be expressed in depictions of flora and fauna, island geography, and routes of world navigation as filtered through the artist’s long standing interest in science and optics, the doubling of vision, and the nature of human perception. 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.

Research which I regard crucial to any curatorial undertaking will greatly inform the project. Visits to locations (Burgos, Ilocos Norte; Tawi-tawi, if possible; Malacanan Palace and Malacanan of the North; Victorias Negros Oc-cidental, and Siquijor Island) will be done as well as looking into local archives. Finally, after its presentation in Venice, the piece’s homecoming will be in Dumaguete City where Americans established Silliman University.

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.

Cited sources

Baldacchino, Godfrey. April 2007. “Islands as Novelty Sites” in Geographical Review 197:2, 165-174.

Shields, Rob. 1991. Places on the Margin. London and New York: Routledge.