"Alteritas" | Prof. Marc San Valentin's MFA Exhibition

The University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts is inviting you to drop by Marc San Valentin's MFA Exhibit entitled "Alteritas." The exhibit features appropriated colonial photography of the early 20th Century of Americans and their new "possessions." San Valentin, the current chairperson for UP CFA's Department of Visual Communication engages memory, postcolonialism, and the power attributes of photography. The exhibit is at the Philippines Hall, GT Toyota Hall of Wisdom, UP ASian Center, from November 11-21. The exhibit is open to the public for viewing from 1-4pm.

There is a certain equivalency that exists between human vision and camera vision. This is anchored on the role of the photograph as a certificate of presence as the act of photography not only illustrates but it also authenticates (Sontag 42). The preference of using the camera lies in its capacity to be invested in the truth. What is in the photograph was a reality in a past state, an evidence of what has been (Barthes 76-77). As Henri Cartier Bresson, a photojournalist, would state, once a scene has been photographed, it becomes a part of history.

During the American colonial period in the Philippines, photography became an integral tool in trying to define who the inhabitants of the new colonial possessions were. There was a demand coming from the United States government as well as the American public for [photographic] documents that could help them visualize, to borrow a phrase from Kipling, the new burden of the white man. This form of surveillance not only subjected the natives to the act of systematic cataloguing but, without their knowledge, also ensured a controlled creation of an identity that is contained within the colonial narrative.

This artwork aims to bring to light how the practice of photography and its products contributed to the representation of the exotic/ized other that emerged during the American Colonial Period. This focus and representation centered primarily not on who were the Filipinos but on how different they were to Americans. Using Roland Barthe’s concept of the creation of a “Myth” as the second order of signification, I used ethnographic photographs of Filipinos and archival footage attributed to Worcester as sources for an installation. The work critiques not just the United States’ Colonial photographic practices but the more contemporary practices that centers on the exotic photographic subject.

Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. New York: Noonday Press, 1981. Sontag, Susan. On Photography. New York: Picador, 1973.