Reflecting on the theoretical work of Filipina/o scholars Lucy Mae San Pablo Burns (2013), Sarita See (2009), Martin Manalansan (2003), and Rolando Tolentino (2001), Aloha Tolentino adds drag performance to cultural responses toward the multiple colonization of communities from the Philippines. Aloha finds inspiration from transnational connections brought about by the movement of people and ideologies between the Philippines and its many diasporic ports. The artist stages queer Filipina/o bodies as instruments for Filipino American cultural critique while also conveying how pangagaya--a Tagalog word that can be loosely translated as mimicry--can build alliances between groups living in the margins.
Aloha Tolentino refuses the fixity of subjectivity. She also acknowledges the tensions internal to the unified Philippine national body narrative that conflates corporealities, labor, and care to serve as an ideological tool in sustaining a homogenous nation-building project. Her works-in-progress explore the artist's emerging points and primal moments that informed his concepts of gender and sexuality through lived experiences and learned stories of women with ties to the Philippines including women in his family, female figures in Catholicism, and Filipina transnationals as nurses, caregivers, entertainers, and sex workers. Aloha plays with circulating impressions and recurring (re)presentations in the media and in both US and Philippine national imaginaries.
The installation piece Shrouds of Alohas Kiki was developed during an intensive workshop with Ron Athey and other artists using a wide range of mediums in February of 2009. During the exhibition and art event You Belong to Me: Art and Ethics of Presences, which celebrated artists who turn their audiences into more than spectators, Aloha created the piece, which brings together interactions in beauty parlors, child molestation stories, and a parody of the Shroud of Turin.
Aloha is currently participating in workshop to develop Confession--a drag offering. Structured like the Catholic ritual sacrament of Penance, by which believers proclaim their sins, resulting in repentance and forgiveness, this piece allows the artist to share his sins in monologues about her immigration, her sexual experiences, and her failures toward filial expectations. Central to the piece is the role of women in the development and construction of the artists concept of femininity. Juxtaposed with personal narratives are reflections on shared labor and servitude located in the marked bodies of diasporic queer and female Filipina/o subjects--a connection that simultaneously demonstrates respect and allegiance but also redeploys the fetishization and commodification of Filipina corporeality within geopolitical capitalist liberalism and in both US and Philippine nation-building projects. The artist sings and lip-syncs fragments of various popular songs that have shaped his queer identity to demonstrate the lived hopes and anguish of Filipina overseas laborers. A multimedia presentation highlights images from television, film, and news media that construct the mutually constitutive yet antipodal dynamics of invisibility and hypervisibility of transnational Filipina/o women. The piece hopes to deconstruct and question the export of care from the Philippines and how mother/land connects with a queer person's discovery of self.
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|Title Annotation:||Aloha Tolentino|
|Publication:||Frontiers: A Journal of Women's Studies|
|Date:||May 1, 2014|
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