Artists Spotted at Art Dubai, Now Showing at Venice Biennale
Previously published in The National.
Tucked away in the Marker section of Art Dubai’s 2016 edition, a collaborative project by two young artists from the Philippines caught the eye of a prominent curator.
In Between the Lines, an installation by Issay Rodriguez and Katherine Nuñez from Manila was composed of books made from fabric and sheafs of papers carefully crocheted alongside study desk paraphernalia such as paper clips that had also been labouriously stitched.
The papers were blank, to highlight not their content but the labour taken to create them and the books, were characterized by their tactile nature and such importance in today’s digitally saturated world.
As part of the now defunct Marker section, the curator Ringo Bunoan, focused on alternative spaces in Manila. Both Rodriguez and Nuñez are members of 98B, an artist run space in the Philippine capital and were exhibiting with that space.
Although neither one was in attendance, when Christine MAcel, the curator for the 2017 Venice Biennale of art came along and spotted their work, deciding it was suitable for the plans she was envisioning for the prestigious art event, which opened in May.
This is the first time either artist has been given access to such an important world stage and they are both thrilled.
"We feel very lucky," says Nuñez. "It is all very exciting. Who would’ve have thought that two young artists from Manila would be participating in the Venice Biennale? I did not think this would happen in my life time."
For Venice, the two artists made an up-scaled version of their work in Art Dubai adding several additional objects such as embroidered pictorial graphs, posters, window cards, and banners made by Rodriguez and crocheted pencil sharpeners, pens, pencils and staplers by Nunez.
Their work was in one of the nine Trans-pavilions that Macel designed to gather artists of all generations and origins and to lead the viewer on a continuous journey like chapters of a book. In Between the Lines 2.0 was in the Pavilion of Artists and Books, which celebrates the material and spiritual worlds of artists, in particular through their relationship with books, texts and knowledge in its broadest sense.
Nuñez says that participating in Venice has been a challenge on many levels but also has made a long term impact on her life. "More than the opportunity to exhibit our work, it was seeing other artists’ works that I enjoyed the most. I teach fine arts in Manila, so it was also very important for me to learn so I could have something to share when I come back to Manila."