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Ways of Solitude


Manila Biennale, Philippines
February 21–25, 2018


This place-specific project explores the role that solitude has played in the history of Manila.  Among the multiple layers that history is made of, solitude is one of the most overlooked but nonetheless significant. Usually, it is characterized as a personal election, but it can also be fostered by external circumstances, such as exile or war. It is a physical and psychological experience that extends from the individual to an entire nation.

Solitude played a key role in the history of one of the oldest neighborhoods of Manila: Ermita. The name of this area derives from the legend of a hermit from the New Spain who settled just outside Intramuros in the sixteenth century. This eremite, if it ever existed, was the living image of an early-globalized world, connected by maritime trade. The Manila galleon, which linked the ports of Acapulco and Manila, not only brought wealth and new ideas, but also scattered multiple solitudes along faraway shores.

The post-World War II was a period of strong isolation: Manila experienced acute solitude exacerbated by destruction. The month-long Battle of Manila devastated the entire city, causing the smells of death and desolation to permeate the streets of Intramuros, Ermita and beyond.

Today, solitude is part of the everyday of all Filipino overseas workers. Among all things they have left behind, the dearest is companionship of family and friends.

Just as the cyclical decay and bloom of the island-garden of Baluarte de San Diego, in which memory and loss, and oblivion and reflection are intertwined, this project meditates on the bricks of solitude in which personal and collective histories in Manila are built everyday.

This project commissioned by the Manila Biennale follows on Modelab's residency at Mabini Projects in 2017.

Participants: Brisa Amir, Arca Ceramics, Dulce Chacón, Jose Mari Cuartero, Tad Ermitaño, Indy Paredes.

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