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MAY 6, 2017
KAKATALK

Honolulu Biennial Showcases Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan Work

by Carolyn WEYGAN-HILDEBRAND

“Aquilizanesque” is not a term in the dictionary yet. However, the Honolulu Biennial showcases one of the works that will inspire its inclusion and use in the future to describe an instantly recognizable diaspora-inspired artistic approach.

The Honolulu Biennial is a two-month long event that will end on May 8.  Biennial (or Biennale) is used within

the art world to describe large-scale international contemporary art exhibitions.  The inaugural Honolulu Biennial is spotlighting artistic visions from the dynamic Pacific Rim region. Most of the work and installation are temporarily occupying a space in Kakaako, amidst the many high-rise developments.  Specifically, most are in “The Hub,” located in the former Sports Authority store on Ward Avenue. A few are in Bishop Museum, Honolulu Museum of Arts, Foster Botanical Garden, and others. 

Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan are two of the thirty-three featured artists.  The husband and wife team are biennial event veterans and are described as Philippine-born and Australian-based artists. Specifically, Alfredo’s root is Cagayan while Isabel’s Manila.  They left the Philippines ten years ago and immigrated to Brisbane with their five children.

The Aquilizans’ contribution to the Honolulu Biennial is entitled “Crossings.” After entering the Hub and passing its information counter, “Crossings” is the first thing on the left side that catches one’s attention.  It is a large installation featuring several fishing boats of different sizes. Each boat has cargoes of materials that reach up to 2-3 times the former’s height.

There would be a familiar affinity with the Aquilizans’ art installation especially if you came here as a Filipino immigrant.  According to a docent at the Hub, the Aquilizans arrived in Honolulu a few months before the Biennial opening.  They went around the island collecting used things in a manner that is not too different from how many immigrants have come to have some of their possessions. Some items were from curbsides while others were donations, gifts, or lent to them.

“This place was literally like Goodwill (Industries thrift store staging area) before the opening,” explained a young Filipino artist who was taking photos of “Crossings.”  He said that the Aquilizans pored over the collected materials carefully and collaboratively toiled from dawn to late evenings to make the various materials work for them. Each boat and its cargo is a vignette of immigrants’ live.  The first boat, for example, is a vignette of an immigrant woman’s life. 

Each boat and its cargo can provoke many layers of thoughts and feelings among immigrants.  It is this particular installation that researched about Filipinos and Hawaii’s other immigrants. 

In a Honolulu Biennial video on youtube, the Aquilizans explained that “Crossings” is part of their decade-long project called “Another Country.”

“Another Country is about that space in between,” they said. “When you leave home, there is no place you call home anymore.  You are just in that middle ground.  For example, if go back to the Philippines, we become foreigners; If we are in Australia, we do not feel it is home.”

In “Crossings,” the Aquilizans looked back on Hawaii’s history.

 “As you all know, the last plantation just closed (Maui in 2016).  It is the end of the era of 180 years of sugarcane agriculture. It changes the demographics of the whole islands. In a way, it creates another culture. It is important to talk about it.” 

If you have not experienced a Biennial event yet, the Honolulu Biennial is accessible and one to go to.  The Honolulu Biennial has a website for more information.  http://www.honolulubiennial.org/

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