Tue, Oct 04, 2016 - Page 13 News List

There’s no place like home

An exhibition by Filipino artist Ronald Ventura at MOCA, Taipei explores the experience of Filipino migrant workers in Taiwan

By Dana Ter  /  Staff reporter

Ronald Ventura Homeland (detail, 2016).

Photo: Dana Ter, Taipei Times

Filipino artist Ronald Ventura turns trite motifs and themes into compelling narratives in his solo exhibition at Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei (MOCA, Taipei) where boats, suitcases and carousels fill the entire first floor.

The concept behind Project: Finding Home is original enough: exploring the complex and changing notions of “home,” using the shared experience of Filipino migrant workers in Taiwan. It’s a voice that’s easily lost in a cultural sphere where stories of the “foreign” experience are predominantly white, male and middle class.

But the image Ventura projects isn’t one that’s riddled with crushing tales of an oppressed minority, either. Rather, his message lies somewhere between horror and hope, loss and gain, fatalism and wresting back control. His paintings and installations exhibit how there’s neither brooding nor acceptance of displacement, but a mere appreciation of the journey, and by extension, learning to come to terms with the realization that a life lived abroad is one that escapes comprehension.


The exhibition starts outside the museum where Ventura’s Rainbow Bridges greets passersby and sets the tone for the rest of the show. Here, Ventura paints rainbow colors over bamboo from Nantou County which is twisted and looped to resemble a giant DNA double helix. Next to it is a bahay kubo, or a traditional Filipino stilt house.

A lot of inferences about the exhibition’s main themes can be drawn — journeys, destinations, familial bonds, the idea of interconnectedness. Rainbows almost always have positive connotations and the effect is dreamy, playful even, with parts of the installation looking more like slides and roller coasters.

Exhibition notes

What: Project: Finding Home (菲常態:尋找家園)

Where: Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei (台北當代藝術館, MOCA, Taipei), 39 Changan W Rd, Taipei City (台北市長安西路39號), tel: (02) 2552-3720

When: Until Nov. 20. Open Tuesdays to Sundays from 10am to 6pm

Admission: NT$50

On the net: www.mocataipei.org.tw

Ventura, whose work has been exhibited in Taiwan a couple of times, tells me in an e-mail that during his multiple trips from the Philippines to Taiwan, he’s always encountered overseas Filipino workers. The frequent encounters inspired him to dedicate the installation to them.

“It’s hard to miss them if you are a Filipino traveling outside the Philippines or coming back,” Ventura says. “You’ll meet them at the airport or sit beside them on the plane.”

He hopes that Filipino workers who pass by the museum on their days off on Sundays will notice the bahay kubo and that it’ll “bring to mind fond memories of home.”

This is the only free part of the exhibition that’s also in a public space, and arguably, for everyone’s consumption. One metro stop away is Taipei Railway Station where Filipino migrant workers gather on weekends. When I visit on a week day, it’s mostly Taiwanese teenagers — who do not appear to grasp fully the installation’s significance — sitting on the bamboo, taking pictures with their selfie sticks.


Upon entering the museum, the exhibition grows increasingly trance-like with themes and motifs in each room building onto each other and strung together by audio aids such as the sound of waves crashing or the lulling noise of a rotating carousel. I feel like I’m embarking on a journey with Ventura and meeting a slew of characters — both human and otherworldly — along the way.

The ebb and flow mirrors, in many ways, Ventura’s own perception of home.

“Home for me is one of most fundamental needs of a human being, but it can be anywhere and it can change through time — it is not something final or fixed to a certain location,” he says.

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