The Biyuti and Drama of Civility: A Review of Julius Manapul’s Decolonizing Antiquities
SHORT ESSAY by DR. ROBERT DIAZ
As he reflects on what the terms “biyuti” and “drama” may mean for queer diasporic Filipinos, the critic Martin Manalansan suggests that both can “encapsulate a self-conscious notion of performance that is embedded not only in gendered phenomena but in the exigencies of everyday life, including those of kinship and family, religion, sexual desire, and economic survival. These idioms serve as a means of understanding the world, and, more importantly, assessing proper conduct and action” (15). Enlivening Manalansan’s assessments, Julius Manapul’s newest exhibit, Decolonizing Antiquities, channels the complexities of “biyuti” and “drama” as he critiques the normalizing impulses of cultural civility and inclusionary respectability. The works featured in this exhibit collectively deploy craft, creativity, and play to reflect on colonialism and globalization’s ongoing contradictions. They dramatize the confluences of sexuality, migrancy, and race through Manapul’s meticulous embellishment of everyday objects with vernacular expressions and aesthetic tropes that saturate Filipino diasporic cultures. The objects Manapul refashions are often tied to rituals of conviviality and contact. They range from ornate saucers and plates used during dinners, to dainty tea-sets, to intricate wall sconces, to balikbayan boxes exchanged across time and space (to name a few). By retrofitting these objects with popular Filipino terms and phrases, the artist not only disturbs the organizational and hierarchical logics they represent, he also centers non-normative sexualities and desires through this act of wayward refashioning. He employs queer diasporic vantage points as a means to destabilize the formalistic, and in the context of Canada racist and marginalizing tropes with which the settler-colonial and multi-cultural state flattens complex identities and intimacies.
The installation is set to serve as what otherwise is understood as an afternoon tea service—but rather than traditional china, the artist placed a traditional Filipino water jug and tea set collection which informs the cart settings through decolonial aesthetics. On loan by Rick & Tess Malonzo from the Malonzo Family.
Hybrid Rice Queen, 2019-2020
Digital animated GIF projected on TV Screen 4 seconds looped. This digital collage work is crafted from an animated Queerious Butterflies from homonormative male gay bodies, templates of indigenous Filipino butterflies, and a performance by the artist in the Hybrid Rice Queen paper gay porn costume.
KEY ARTISTS & OTHER CONTRIBUTORS BIOS:
JULIUS PONCELET MANAPUL
Immigrated to Canada in 1990, attained a BFA at OCAD U in 2009, Professional Art Studio certificate from TSA in 2011, Masters of Visual Studies at UofT in 2013, Sexual Diversity Studies certificate at UofT in 2013. Presented at The Paradise Now Collective (2011), Nuit Blanche-Toronto (2010, 2012 and 2014), Toronto World Pride Affiliated Art Event (2014), performed at the AGO (2017), shown works at Koffler Gallery, A Space Gallery, UTAC Gallery, UWAG Gallery, John B. Aird Gallery, Proppeller Gallery, PM Gallery, Daniel Spectrum as well as UK, France, Germany and US.
Born in Manila, Philippines in 1980, Julius is a migrant Filipinx artist from the Ilocano tribe; a descendant of Maria Josefa Gabriela Carino de Silang from the artists father’s mother side (the Carino family tree). Maria is known as an anti-colonial fighter during the 18th century Spanish rule over the Philippines—the first female leader of a Filipino movement for independence from Spain. This background informs Julius’ research and artistic practice, as they excavate the experience of immigration and assimilation through cultural erasure. The artist explore more of these Filipinx histories in his 2020-2021 solo show “Decolonizing Antiquities” at the John B. Aird Gallery.
Addressing eternal displacement through themes of colonialism, sexual identity, diasporic bodies, global identity construction, and the Eurocentric Western hegemony, Julius’ artwork focuses on the hybrid nature of Filipinx culture after colonialism and the gaze of queer identities as taxonomy. Their recent research project looks at the narratives for many diasporic queer bodies that create an unattainable imagined space of lost countries and domestic belongings through colonial pedagogy of knowledge and globalized imperial power. Hybrid images question the problematic side of queer communities that uphold homonormativity through whitewashing and internalized racism, and act to challenge forms of oppression.
DR. ROBERT DIAZ
Ph.D., M.Phil (English, The Graduate Center - City University of New York); B.A. (English, University of California - Riverside)
Dr. Robert Diaz is Assistant Professor of transnational feminisms, globalization, and sexuality studies at the Women and Gender Studies Institute. His research, teaching, and community work focus on the intersections of Asian diasporic, postcolonial, and queer studies. Diaz pays particular attention to Filipino/a cultural practices as these are affected by, and affect, histories of empire. In Canada, Diaz has taught at OCAD University and Wilfrid Laurier University. In the United States, he has taught at Wayne State University, USC, UCLA, and Scripps College. In the Philippines, he has taught at De La Salle University. His research has appeared in numerous academic journals, including Journal of Asian American Studies, Signs, GLQ, Women and Performance, and Plaridel, as well as foundational collections such as Philippine Palimpsests: Essays for the 21st Century (NYU Press) and Global Asian Popular Culture (NYU Press).
Together with Marissa Largo and Fritz Pino, Diaz is also the co-editor of Diasporic Intimacies: Queer Filipinos and Canadian Imaginaries. This ground-breaking book brings together artists, scholars, and community members to discusses the contributions of LGBTQ Filipinos/as to Canadian culture and society. It is the inaugural work for the Critical Insurgencies Series at Northwestern University Press, edited by Jodi A Byrd and Michelle M. Wright.
Diaz is also completing his single authored book, Reparative Acts: Redressive Nationalisms in Queer Filipino Lives. This work examines Filipino popular culture from the 1970’s onwards in order to chart the links between nationalisms, redress, and queer acts of resistance. This book is forthcoming with Temple University Press.
At the heart of all his academic pursuits are Diaz’s commitment to equity and social justice. He has thus worked with many community organizations in the greater Toronto area that seek to better the lives of people of color, queer, Indigenous, and differently abled communities. He has collaborated with Asian Community AIDS Services (ACAS), UKPC/FCYA, Magkaisa Centre and Kapisanan Centre, encouraging multiple forms of capacity building, pedagogy and learning beyond higher education.
Diaz is open to mentoring and supervising students working the following fields: Postcolonial Studies, Transnational and Globalization Studies, Queer Studies, Asian Diasporic Studies, and Filipino Studies.
Amina Farah is a queer Somali writer who calls Toronto home and has roots in Nairobi, Kenya. Her work is inspired by the folklore and storytelling she heard as a child and her experiences with migration are central to the themes of identity, belonging, and displacement that are often explored in her stories.
She completed an MFA in creative writing at the University of Guelph and continues to be inspired to write by her brilliant adopted queer family of impassioned storytellers and artists.
JOWENNE CARPO HERRERA
Jowenne Carpo Herrera is a queer migrant Filipinx visual artist and designer who works with various media integrating painting, drawing, illustration, photography and typography. Many of his works depict subjects drawn from nature and daily urban landscapes – experimenting with the dualities and tensions between identities, societies and idealisms. He thrives in the diversity of thought – inspired by the many things he sees, feels and experiences every day. Herrera holds a degree in Communications & Design, Marketing & Advertising from the Ontario College of Art and Design University. He is a Registered Graphic Designer of Ontario (RGD) and Certification Portfolio Evaluator for the association. He owns ABAKADA design + communication, and for over 20 years has been delivering creative design solutions across public, private and not for profit sectors – specializing in brand development, editorial design and graphic illustration. He is a senior consultant on the Ontario Place Revitalization Branch, He served as John B. Aird Gallery Chair/President and Director in Toronto for over 10 years; stepping down from the Aird board in July 2019.
Carla Garnet is the Director and Curator of the John B. Aird Gallery and the JOUEZ curator for the annual BIG on Bloor Festival of Arts and Culture in Toronto. She has worked as the curator at the Art Gallery of Peterborough (2010-2013), as a guest curator at Gallery Stratford (2009-2010), as an independent curator (1997-2010), and was the founder and director of Garnet Press Gallery (1984-97). Garnet holds an Associate Diploma from the Ontario College of Art and Design and a Masters Degree in Art History from York University. Garnet is interested in the politics of the art exhibition and its potential to function as a common—a public space for dialogue. Her curatorial area of interest engages with an exploration of work that presents the possibility of existing simultaneously in many tenses or occupying more than one subject position at once, or both as a way to open up space for greater empathy. For Garnet, an artwork’s significance is tied up with an ability to say what otherwise might be unsayable.