What purpose do objects serve in the context of diaspora? Do diasporic interpretations differ from an object’s initial intended use? How do the same objects’ meanings change when housed in a museum collection?

Objects from the Philippines hold distinct meanings for different groups of people, depending on display contexts and the personal history and heritage of the viewer. A visitor entering a Filipino home anywhere in the world will likely see items that serve as reminders of homeland, ancestors, and histories. What does it mean for those same material items to be housed in a museum’s storage as part of its permanent collection? Kultura Ng Pilipinas: Nostalgia and Connection in Diaspora serves to activate USC PAM’s previously unseen Philippine objects: to contemplate their histories, explore perspectives on colonization and hegemony, and share in the empowerment of Filipinx-American communities and their stories.

Through a series of vignettes in the USC Pacific Asia Museum special exhibition galleries, we aim to create a space that welcomes Southern California’s Filipinx community with the purpose of celebrating histories and exploring the unique ways individuals maintain active connections to the Philippines. With displays inspired by actual domestic spaces of Southern California families, visitors to the exhibition are encouraged to contemplate the way that contexts hold meaning for material things. This exhibition highlights community members’ novel approaches to nostalgia and in so doing creates space for conversations about objects and their stories for visitors of all backgrounds. Kultura Ng Pilipinas will also incorporate contemporary artists’ perspectives, fashion and cultural attire, as well as personal photos of home interiors collected through a community call for submissions.

At its core, this exhibition is an exploration of the efficacy of objects and the way that they are activated in different contexts for different groups of people. Built on the foundational understanding that meaning is created locally, Kultura Ng Pilipinas challenges visitors to reflect on how objects travel through the diaspora. This exhibition encourages community members to collect their own stories of travel and change, sentiment and nostalgia, for future generations. It will also provide a rare opportunity to see selections from USC PAM’s Philippine collection. Kultura Ng Pilipinas will be divided into three sections: (1) At home, (2) At the museum, and (3) Perspectives from contemporary artists and community. 

Participating artists:

Diane Williams is an interdisciplinary artist who creates mixed-media, textile based, wall-hanging, suspended and free-standing sculptural weavings. In her work, she often asks how the Filipinx can contend with the impossibility of retrieving the stories of people who have been forgotten or omitted in history. Her research-based work addresses the archives and memory production as a source of legitimacy, relating to the legacies of colonialism and empire. Having been raised in the Philippines, Williams is not a mere observer, but an active participant in the artistic discourse around colonialism. Her practice is not a prescription for repair but a pathway to integrate Filipinx identity and culture into contemporary art and historical practice. 

Ginto Seeds is an artistic multimedia platform created by artists Diane Valencia and Nicanor Evangelista. With influences of ancestral traditions such as batok to baybayin, their multimedia art ranges from visual art to a collection of clothing & handmade solar-burned accessories designed with ancestral symbols, sacred geometry patterns, ancient scripts and invocations. Their creations are intended to empower, activate, inspire, heal and connect us to our indigenous roots, our ancestors & one another as kapwa. 

Jasmine Orpilla is a multiplicitous Ilokana/x-American vocal performance artist and operatic composer of experimental theatrical sound installations, in which she activates her lifelong practices of folk ritual dance, combat systems and music of the Philippine diaspora, against the contemporary American framing of the 1st-generation, imperialist military culture of her own childhood. With decades embodying center with her energetically intensive solo practice as a multi-instrumental and multilingual writer/performer, Jasmine Orpilla’s work serves to humanize and honor the intersectionality of the Filipina/x-American body in agency, despite ongoing minimization of colonial history’s revisionist narratives.

Curators:

Eleanor Lipat-Chesler is co-founder of Ube Arte performing arts research and education organization and a founding member of the Pakaraguian Kulintang Ensemble. She co-edited the digital book, Our Culture Resounds, Our Future Reveals: A Legacy of Filipino American Performing Arts in California (2020) with Mary Talusan and Lead Archivist Maureen Russell. She studied music and anthropology at Barnard College, Columbia University, and ethnomusicology at UCLA, where she wrote on gender issues in transnational kulintang performance. As a Fulbright Fellow, she conducted doctoral fieldwork in Thailand and Laos among itinerant folk theater troupes. Eleanor is the lead Research Strategist at Chesler Creative, Inc., part-time staff at the Culver City Education Foundation, and full-time mother to Nico and Junot.

Since 2018, Dr. Rebecca Hall has been curator at the USC Pacific Asia Museum, where she has curated exhibitions focusing on Balinese painting, Asian textiles, and contemporary art, paying specific attention to Los Angeles–based artists and communities of the Asian diaspora. She is a trained art historian, with a PhD from UCLA in the field of Southeast Asian art. In addition to her curatorial roles, she has also served as lecturer and visiting professor at several universities in the United States and in Thailand.