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Makati, NCR Metro Manila—Bellas Artes Projects (BAP) proudly presents Fairest of the Fair, a group exhibition with works by Pio Abad (Philippines/UK) and Frances Wadsworth Jones (UK), Analivia Cordeiro (Brazil), Köken Ergun (Turkey), and Jose Enrique Soriano (Philippines).

The exhibition looks back at widely circulated photographs of beauty pageants taking place at the annual Manila Carnival, held between 1908-1939, during the American colonial era. At times named Philippines Exposition, the carnival was a "world's" fair that promoted commerce and industry through pavilions--displays of major American companies aiming to make business with the colony--and a contest of beauty queens, each representing regions and provinces of the Philippines. This event left a deep mark on the modern Filipino society emerging at the time, developing consumerism influenced by American models of enterprise and capitalism. In retrospect, the Queens of Carnival are early manifestations of a certain enduring Filipino culture of pageants, symptomatic of the continuous reproduction of class, gender, and racial inequalities which are addressed differently across contexts and mediums in the works included in the show. 

Exhibiting for the very first time in the Philippines, after being broadly featured internationally, Köken Ergun’s Binibining Promised Land (2009) is an installation capturing the annual beauty pageant organised by Overseas Filipino Workers in Israel. Realised at a time before the widespread use of smartphones, and in the very first years of social media, the moving image in Ergun’s work manifests as a tool for visibility and empowerment for a minority whose struggles are almost invisible within Israel’s public sphere and the debates around rightful citizenship in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Pageants within the Filipino community are outlets for self-expression and escapism, as well as for patriotic pride, which is often felt more acutely in diasporic contexts. 

Pio Abad and Frances Wadsworth Jones' The Treatment of 12,052 Cases of Tuberculosis Until Their Full Recovery (2019) is a 3D virtual render of a Cartier tiara previously owned by Imelda Marcos. Currently languished in the vaults of the Philippine Central Bank, the tiara forms part of the infamous ‘Hawaii Collection’; a group of jewels confiscated in 1986 by Interpol when the Marcoses landed in Honolulu after finding exile with support from the Reagan administration. The collection was repatriated to the Philippines as it was turned over to the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), the agency tasked with the liquidation of the Marcos assets, becoming a symbol of ideological disputes in Filipino politics. In 2016, President Duterte halted the PCGG’s plans to auction Imelda’s jewels, adding to the current distortion and attempt of revisionism in the history of the Marcos era.

The poignant black-and-white film photographs taken by Jose Enrique Soriano between 1991-1994 at the premises of the National Center for Mental Health in Mandaluyong, emphasizes a crowning ceremony of a beauty contest held by the patients and medical staff. These strong images convey how pageantry culture and its inherent fantasy of monarchy, manifests in the most marginal contexts of society.

Originally aired on Brazilian TV, Analivia Cordeiro’s M3X3 (1977) is a pioneering work using computer-generated choreography for a dance video piece performed by an all-female dance group. Her intervention in mass media was a critical response to the power relations between producers, camera, dance and spectatorship, at a time when dancers (mostly female) were often seen as backdrop. In the context of the exhibition, the abstract architecture on screen appears as a metaphor of social control, where it is up to the dancers’ interpretation to the computer’s composition what would enable subjectivity to take place within what appears as a virtual grid of rigid/normative behavioral conduct.

The collection of vintage of photographs of Queens of Carnival featured in “Fairest of the Fair” are generously loaned by the Mario Feir Filipiniana Library.

About Pio Abad Pio Abad (b. 1983, Manila, lives and works in London) began his art studies at the University of the Philippines before receiving a BA from Glasgow School of Art and an MA from the Royal Academy Schools, London. He has recently exhibited at the 12th Gwangju Biennial: Imagined Borders (2018); Para Site, Hong Kong (2017); Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow (2016); EVA International Biennial, Limerick (2016); e- flux, New York City (2015); Asia Art Archive, Hong Kong (2015); Museum of Contemporary Art and Design Manila (2015); Gasworks, London (2014) and Jorge B. Vargas Museum, Manila (2014).

About Frances Wadsworth Jones Frances Wadsworth Jones (b. 1983; London, UK) is a jewellery designer and maker who lives and works in London. She received her MA in Goldsmithing, Silversmithing, Metalwork and Jewellery from the Royal College of Art. Recent projects include: Make Wrong/Right/Now, the second Honolulu Biennial (2019); Fabricate, Vitsoe, Munich Jewellery Week (2019); Rock Vault, London Fashion Week (2018); The Violet Crab, David Roberts Art Foundation (2015); Made in London: Jewellery Now, The Museum of London, (2014). In June 2019, she will be presenting a collaborative work with Pio Abad at Kadist, San Francisco.

About Analivia Cordeiro Dancer, choreographer and architect, Analívia studied dance under Laban’s Method in Brazil and modern dance at Alvin Nikolais, Merce Cunningham, Gus Solomons Jr., Viola Farber Dance Studios in New York. Later, she studied the corporal conscience method Eutony, in Brazil. Graduated in Architecture at University of São Paulo, Brazil; master degree in Multimedia at State University of Campinas, Brazil and PhD at Comunication and Semiothics at PUC-SP, pos-doctorate at Federal University of Rio de Janeiro UFRJ, Brazil. Her videos were exhibited in several events like: International Festival of Edinburgh, 1973; XII Bienal de São Paulo, Brazil, 1973; LatinAmerica 74 at Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, 1974; Arte de Sistemas in LatinAmerica at International Cultureel Centrum, Belgium, 1974; Latin America 74 at Espace Cardin, Paris; and at Galleria Civica D’Arte Moderna, Italy, 1975; International Conference Computer & Humanities/2 at University of Southern California, 1976; WGBH – TV Public Channel, 1976; 20th American Dance Guild Conference, 1976; Art of Space Era at Von Braun Civic Center of Huntsville Museum of Art, 1978; Brasil Séc.XX, Brazil, 1984; 27th Annual Dance on Camera Festival, New York, 1998; Festival Il Coreografo Elettronico, Italy, 1999; The 1999-2000 Sawyers Seminar at University of Chicago, 1999; L’Ombra dei Maestri – Rudolf Laban: gli spazi della danza, Università degli Studi di Bologna, Italy, 1999; Made in Brazil, 2003/5, Brazil, Dança em Pauta, 2005, Brazil, “Cinético-Digital”, 2005; 2005NokiaTrends, 2006 Dança em Foco, Mostravideo Subjetividades, 2007 Brazil, SIGGRAPH; Bienal Mercosul, 2009 2011 Zonas de Contato, Paço das Artes;  ̈Manuara ̈ no MuBE, São Paulo, Brasil, ARCO art fair, winner of the BEEP de Arte Electronica prize, Madrid 2015; Expanded Senses, B3, Frankfurt, 2015; Moving Images Contours, Tabakalera, San Sebastian, Spain, 2015.

About Köken Ergun Köken Ergun (born 1976, Istanbul) is a Turkish artist working in film and installation. Having studied acting at the İstanbul University, Ergun completed his postgraduate diploma degree in Ancient Greek Literature at King's College London, followed by an MA degree on Art History at the Bilgi University. After working with American theatre director Robert Wilson, Ergun became involved with video and film. His multi-channel video installations have been exhibited internationally at institutions including Garage Moscow, Documenta 14, Paris Triennale, SALT, Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam, Protocinema, KIASMA, Digital ArtLab Tel Aviv, Casino Luxembourg, Para-Site and Kunsthalle Winterthur. His films received several awards at film festivals including the “Tiger Award for Short Film” at the 2007 Rotterdam Film Festival and the “Special Mention Prize” at the 2013 Berlinale. Ergun’s works are included in public collections such as the Centre Pompidou, EMST, Stadtmuseum Berlin and Kadist Foundation.

About Jose Enrique Soriano Jose Enrique Soriano, a photojournalist with over 25 years of documentary work and coverage all over Asia, Europe and North America was represented by Contact Press Images, New York; Agence Vu, Paris; and Network Photographers, London; and contributed to various documentary projects for news and advocacy. Notable exhibitions include “Visage: Portraits of Filipinos Facing Climate Change” (2011) and “Tabaco,” (2007). Soriano was awarded the Prix Ville De Paris exhibition grant to photograph Paris during its Bicentennial. His photographs have appeared in Life magazine, Newsweek, Vanity Fair, Observer, Sunday Times (London), and various newspapers and magazines in the Philippines where he worked before leaving for Singapore in 1994 and held post at the Singapore Straits Times for 10 years. He went on to become the photo editor of Khaleej Times in 2008 in the UAE.