Fourteen-year-old Marco Llanes is mounting his first exhibit as a curator featuring artists from Manila, Sydney, and New York. Handout
MANILA — A 14-year-old aspiring curator is mounting his first exhibit entitled “I” on Saturday atFourteen-year-old Marco Llanes is mounting his first exhibit as a curator featuring artists from Manila, Sydney, and New York. Handout
MANILA — A 14-year-old aspiring curator is mounting his first exhibit entitled “I” on Saturday at HUB | Make Lab in Escolta Street, Manila.
Featuring artists from Manila, Sydney, and New York, Marco Llanes aims to humanize queer identity through this exhibit, and address the underrepresentation and dehumanization of the LGBTQ+ community in mass media.
“I feel a lot of the frustration and angst among LGBTQ+ youth stems from a lack of queer representation in mass media,” Llanes said.
“And even when queer identity is considered, we’re too often caricatured and politicized in the process. This treatment impedes us from seeing and valuing ourselves equally as people, beyond the constant comedies and tragedies mass media tends to typecast us in. I wanted to say something about it, and to weigh in on the issue.”
Llanes stressed that he is not approaching this issue as an authority—because he isn’t—but as a member of this young generation that is deluged with media, information, expectations, and sometimes contradicting input about what queer identity is.
“What we’re faced with leaves us with more issues, both internally and externally,” he noted. “And this inevitably affects how we relate to ourselves and to other people. I come from a personal perspective that may not be broad because of my age, but I feel this conversation has to start, and I decided to take it on using this project.”
Untitled, digital art by Josizl. Handout
He admits he would’ve never dreamed of putting together such a show, however, if it weren’t for his Projects/Projects Management class at Blended Learning Center-Manila, a center for homeschoolers, unschoolers, and other progressively educated children who thrive better in non-traditional environments.
“We were asked: what were we willing to spend time and energy on, even if we weren’t getting paid—something tangible; something that benefits other people? I feel strongly about how LGBTQ+ people are represented, and I love art, so I figured, why not put the two together?”
The journey of organizing “I” was not without hardships. Aside from the practical requirements, it was an intense interior journey for the young man. He was “paralyzed with perfectionism and constant self-doubt, wracked with anxiety before meetings, and afraid that my opinions and ideas were not worth being heard… Often I fell into a frantic mess, writing and re-writing paragraphs over paragraphs.”
Untitled, by Jose Tong/AI Hoseki. Handout
For guidance, he consulted with Marika Constantino, artist, curator, and executive director of 98B COLLABoratory (98B). Under her mentorship, Llanes learned how to trust in his vulnerability.
“She taught me to have faith and confidence in expressing ideas and opinions that have always felt so overwhelmingly personal and important to me. She also helped me teach myself new and different angles to approach my thoughts, and just put them out there as possibilities that I never would’ve thought of in the beginning,” he said.
With her help, the young teen assembled his final roster of artists—a diverse group with different interests, who represent and bridge his many questions about queer identity and the unique milieu in which today’s queer youth are formed: Ellie Fung, a 23-year-old photographer from Brookyln, and Josizl, a 19-year-old animation student from Sydney whom he met in an online hip hop forum; Jose Tong/AI Hoseki, an architect, visual artist, and drag queen; Miguel Lope Inumerable, who uses data science to create art; Gabriel Villegas, visual artist, café owner, and neighborhood instigator; retired photojournalist Jose Enrique Soriano; and his own twin brother, Mateo Llanes, who works with pen and ink.
Folsom Street, San Francisco 2015, by Jose Enrique Soriano. Handout
The title of his exhibit is a double play on the pronoun and its representation as the Roman numeral for “one.” “The pronoun I—it’s what we begin our stories and experiences with, what we use to realize and define our identities,” he explained.
“As a Roman numeral signifying ‘one’, I intended to typify unity, yet also individuality; the alienation of having a queer identity, and the wholeness that self-acceptance brings. Through ‘one’, I also wanted to emphasize this project as my debut curatorial exhibit, a first step, the naïveté and inexperience behind it, and all the learning yet ahead.”
“I” will be on exhibit for a month at the First United Building, 413 Escolta Street, Manila.