Lauren Schell Dickens’ project encompasses early-stage research on contemporary art practice in the Philippines and its diaspora, exploring the country as a web of connections and networks, simultaneously geographies of landscape, imagination, and interaction. In country, the Philippines has a history of colonization—by Spain, Japan and the US until 1946—followed by repressive political regimes of Marcos and now Duterte. Art has long played a central role in the service of nation building, yet identities and affinities shaped within contemporary borders have never been fixed. Migrations and movement are central to Filipino identity. The overseas worker, living abroad while supporting the GDP, is a heroic figure within nationalist ideology. Exchange with the U.S. also has a deep history—from early waves of agricultural workers in the 1920s to an influx of educated professionals since 1965. The laboring body is an ideal promoted by both nationalist narratives in the Philippines, as well as ‘model minority’ constructions in the diaspora. For generations of Filipinx living overseas, questions of history and identity run though ruminations on continuing legacies of American colonialism, home/belonging, immigration, economic and political distress, cosmopolitanism, to name a few. Taken together these factors coalesce to shape a conception of nationhood and nationality that is neither rooted in a static geographic locale nor in a diasporic imaginary, but rather is formed and reformed through relational exchanges and alliances that complicate both Filipino nationalist agendas and American imperialist imaginings.
“History books are being rewritten all the time.”