Malakas at Maganda

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2018

Malakas at Maganda is a two-channel video portrait of the artist opposite his mother, Myrna De Guzman, that reflects on the intersection between personal and national identities. Filmed from the waist up, they are framed by various layers of text: at the outermost layer, the words ‘Filipino Strength’ and ‘Filipina Beauty’, which refer to Malakas at Maganda (Strength and Beauty), an ancient Philippine creation myth parallel to the Judeo-Christian mythology of Adam and Eve; ‘Republika ng Pilipinas’ (Republic of the Philippines), sampled from the 1 and 5 sentimo coins of the Philippine peso which, until 1995, featured Lapu-Lapu and Melchora Aquino, respectively the only Indigenous and female figures acknowledged on Philippine coin currency; and lastly, framed, literally, by a pair of sunglasses and a souvenir t-shirt branded with ‘It’s More Fun in the Philippines’, the international slogan of Philippine tourism, launched in 2012. In combining ancient and contemporary texts and histories through the lens of portraiture, the artist proposes that identity — as well as being historically highly gendered — is also fluid and multilayered, rather than strictly fixed or representational.