The Philippine Pavilion at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale, featuring the exhibition “The City Who Had Two Navels” curated by Edson Cabalfin, will formally open to the public on May 26, 2018 at the Artiglierie of the Arsenale in Venice, Italy.

The Philippine Pavilion asks many questions including — ‘Can architecture represent the nation’s identity? Can we truly escape the colonial? How does neoliberalism shape our built environment?’ These are the points of discussion that the pavilion explores as it toggles between the past, present and the future by focusing on the built environment as expression of self- determination and as setting for global and transnational revolution.

Following the call for examining an idea of “Freespace” by the Biennale curators, Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, the Philippine Pavilion seeks to interrogate architecture and urbanism’s ability to empower and transformpeople’s lives. “Freespace” or “Pookginhawa” in the Philippine context underscores the strategies by which Filipinos usethe built environment as modes of resistance to and appropriation of an ever-changing world.

The Pavilion’s main feature is the impressive 14-meters long wedge-shape screen that slithers its way and fills out the vastspace, with its highest point at 4 meters tapering down to 1.8 meters. The  structure is meant to symbolize the navel, which is a significant symbol and concept in architecture. In his treatises, Vitruvius, the Roman architect from the First Century BCE, specifically attributed the centrality of the navel in the human body and its subsequent manifestation of divine perfection. For the Tausug of the Sulu archipelago in Mindanao, southern Philippines, their stilt-raised house, bay sinug (literally meaning “house of the sea”), is composed of nine posts, each corresponding to various parts of the human body. The center post is considered the navel of the house.

The central section features noted Philippine contemporary artist Yason Banal’s multi-channel video installation titled “Untitled Formation, Concrete Supernatural, Pixel Unbound” which investigates the tenuous overlap between colonialism and neoliberalism, particularly through their contemporary links and manifestations. With the installation placed in the middle part of the exhibition, acting as the intersection of the two “navels”, Banal reads architecture notonly as a built and visual environment but also as a conceptual design and coded translation of power, identity, market and affect. Shot using 4K, Full HD and drones, low-resolution through 360-degree, CCTV and phonecameras, as well as phantom docu-fictions, a cyborg-like voiceover and a dreamy soundtrack, the video installation exlorespower structures and subjectivities in critical and poetic ways, evoking history and transformative potentials of the social asarchitecture.

Aside from Banal, the exhibitors of the Pavilion are: University of the Philippines – Mindanao from Davao City; the University of San Carlos from Cebu City; the University of the Philippines –  Diliman, and De la Salle – College of Saint Benilde from Metro Manila; and, TAO-Pilipinas, Inc., a non-governmental organization (NGO) of architects and plannersbased in Quezon City.

The Philippine Pavilion will hold its vernissage on May 24, 2018. This is the fourth consecutive participation of the countryin the important contemporary art exposition beginning in 2015.

The Philippine Pavilion at the Venice Biennale is under the auspices of the National Commission for  Culture  and  the  Arts, the  Department  of  Foreign  Affairs  and  the  Office  of  Senator  Loren Legarda, with the support of the Department of Tourism.