Soil-beings (Lamánlupa): Philippine Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2025

Soil-beings (Lamánlupa), curated by Renan Laru-an and featuring the work of German-Filipino Christian Tenefrancia Illi, is the official Philippine representative for Venice Architecture Biennale 2025

Words and Images Philippine Arts in Venice Biennale
Editing Gabrielle de la Cruz

“Provocative, and has the potential for universal resonance,” is how the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) described Soil-beings (Lamánlupa), the curatorial proposal set to represent the Philippines for the 2025 Venice Architecture Biennale. “Rooted in the rich soils of the Philippines, Soil-beings (Lamánlupa) honors soil as the central element of architectural understanding,” NCCA continues. “It immerses architectural ambitions and technologies in the texture, acidity, fragrance, and inherent messiness of soil, promoting “soilness” as a lived, cyclical experience.”

Curated by Renan Laru-an featuring the work of the transdisciplinary studio KIM/ILLI led by Christian Tenefrancia Illi, it will be mounted at the Philippine Pavilion in Venice for the 19th Venice Architecture Biennale in May 2025. The announcement was made on May 31, 2024, with NCCA adding that the proposal “invites the public to sense soil not merely as a component of construction but as a kin and life force integral to existence.”

Kanto Creative Corners Philippine Pavilion at the 2025 Venice Architecture Biennale
2023 Philippine Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale, Tripa de Gallina: Guts of Estuary. Photo by Marco Zorzanello, courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia

The call for curatorial proposals happened last January 26, 2024, with the Philippine Arts in Venice Biennale searching for submissions “premised on current local and global concerns such as surging urbanization, environmental sustainability, and social equity.”

The deliberation was held on May 30, 2024, facilitated by Dr. Patrick Flores, educator, curator, and Deputy Director at National Gallery Singapore. Proposals were reviewed by jury members Peter Cachola Schmal, architect, architecture critic and Director of the German Architecture Museum (DAM) in Frankfurt; Dr. Edson G. Cabalfin, an architect, designer,  historian, Associate Dean for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in the School of Architecture at Tulane University and curator of the Philippine Pavilion at the  Venice Architecture 2019; Yael Buencamino Borromeo, co-curator of the Philippine Pavilion at the 59th Venice  Art Biennale 2022 and consultant of the Lopez Museum in Manila; Victorino Mapa Manalo, Chair, National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and Commissioner of the Philippine Pavilion; Senator Loren Legarda, project principal of the Philippine participation at the Venice Art and Architecture Biennale since 2015.

“This year’s submissions have shown an incredible depth of creativity and insight. The selected proposal for the 2025 Venice Architecture Biennale not only represents the ingenuity of Filipinos but provokes dialogues on global challenges and the future of architecture,” Legarda said.

Sa kabila ng tabing lamang sa panahong ito/Waiting just behind the curtain of this age,” Philippine Pavilion at the 2024 Venice Art Biennale

Victorino Manalo, Chair of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and Commissioner of the Philippine Pavilion emphasized that “being at the Venice Biennale once again gives the Philippines another remarkable opportunity to put forth its immense talent and creative vision. This significant platform is an opportunity to present our architects’ and creatives’ innovative and thought-provoking work in a wider discussion space.” The upcoming edition is the biennale’s 19th year and is the Philippines’ fifth time to participate.

The sustained participation of the Philippines in the Venice Biennale is a collaborative undertaking of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Office of Senator Loren Legarda. •

About the Curator

Kanto Creative Corners Philippine Pavilion 2025 Venice Architecture Biennale

Renan Laru-an has been the artistic director of SAVVY Contemporary in Berlin since 2023, Germany’s leading independent contemporary artistic institution. He was one of the curators of the 2022 Biennale Matter of Art, and the 2019 Singapore Biennale, and was a curatorial advisor to the 58th Carnegie International between 2021 and 2022. He coordinates public engagement and artistic formation of the Philippine Contemporary Art Network, a new platform for contemporary art. His recent residencies include the 2020 to 2021 Areté Ateneo’s Creative Hub at the Ateneo de Manila University, the Delfina Foundation curator residency program in London in 2019, and The Asia Center Japan Foundation Tokyo’s performing arts fellow from 2018 to 2019.

Renan has published extensively on contemporary art as a writer and editor. His recent essays were for “Meridians of Region: Writing Art History and Curating Contemporary Culture in the Philippines and Taiwan,” published by the Ministry of Culture in Taiwan in 2021. He is a member of the MARCH International: A Journal of Art and Strategy editorial research group. He was born in Sultan Kudarat and has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of the Philippines Diliman.

About the Exhibitor

Kanto Creative Corners Philippine Pavilion 2025 Venice Architecture Biennale

Christian Tenefrancia Illi is a German-Filipino multidisciplinary working artist and creative director who completed his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts Munich; and received scholarships from the University of Edinburgh: College of Art (2013) and the University of Arts and Design Karlsruhe (2015-2016). He exhibited, worked, and performed in the arts and culture and the architecture and design sectors in Europe, East and Southeast Asia. He is the co-founder and director of KIM/ILLI, an emerging and award-winning transdisciplinary studio and collaborative platform formed in 2020; working in the fields of art, architecture, and design—utilizing various methodologies ‘within and beyond’ the realms of (im)materiality: visuality, sound, and space—focusing on research, finding intersections, sharing and expanding knowledge, expertise, and networks in the global context, and discursive activities among local communities as well as public spaces.

Illi won the 1st jury prize along with the public vote in the Europe-wide EDGE East Side Competition (2021) and received the 2nd prize in the international Art in Architecture competition of the Federal Environment Agency & Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning (2022) in Berlin. He obtained the artist residency grant from the Arts Foundation Baden-Württemberg, Württembergischer Kunstverein (WKV) Stuttgart, Goethe Institut Barcelona; HANGAR.ORG in 2020.

With KIM/ILLI, he participated and solo exhibited at Galeria H2O in the 2022 iteration of the Art Nou festival in Barcelona and L’Hospitalet de Llobregat. His work has been exhibited at Japanisches Palais as a cultural possession on loan from the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (Dresden State Art Collections) in 2024. He is currently realizing several projects in Germany, South Korea, and the Philippines.

Kanto at the Venice Biennale

We’ve been working hard at covering the Philippines’ art and architectural participation at the La Biennale di Venezia since 2021! Revisit our pieces here.

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