A History of the Body by the Pagbabalik Project

Who said beauty doesn’t matter? Similar to art, beauty’s ubiquitous and enigmatic nature is ever-present in our visual landscape. It is not just on billboards, in magazines, or the growing number of photographs we see of others (i.e., seeing our own ‘beautiful’ friends on social networking sites as we all re-define self-portraiture in this digital age) but even deep seeded in our histories, you will find how standards of beauty have been created. Our histories reside in our bodies. It is obvious in the way in which we care for ourselves.

The Pagbabalik Project created an excellent performance piece comprised with rich stories and experiences of women within the Filipino culture. They looked at the cross sections of American and Filipino history, post-colonialism, and standards of beauty and how each are inter-related. After viewing this ‘work in progress’, it definitely goes beyond the Filipino community and steps into more universal themes such as acceptance, equanimity, tolerance, and a desire to learn about the self as well as other.

My only criticism at this point: Looking at standards of beauty with the LGBTQ community (but during the talk back session of the opening weekend performance, this is an element of the entire project that has yet to be incorporated), which I was very excited to learn. I also heard the collective is interested in seeing how such issues are depicted in the Visual Arts (across genres). I foresee some amazing art coming out of The Pagbabalik Project!

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Author: Dorothy R. Santos

Dorothy R. Santos (b. 1978) is a Filipina-American writer, editor, curator, and educator whose research interests include new media and digital art, activism, artificial intelligence, and biotechnology. Born and raised in San Francisco, California, she holds Bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and Psychology from the University of San Francisco, and received her Master’s degree in Visual and Critical Studies at the California College of the Arts. She serves as one of the editors-in-chief for Hyphen magazine. Her work appears in art21, Art Practical, Daily Serving, Rhizome, Hyperallergic, and SF MOMA's Open Space. She has lectured at the De Young museum, Stanford University, School of Visual Arts, and more. Her essay “Materiality to Machines: Manufacturing the Organic and Hypotheses for Future Imaginings,” was published in The Routledge Companion to Biology in Art and Architecture (2016). She is currently a Yerba Buena Center for the Arts fellow researching the concept of citizenship. She also serves as executive staff for the Bay Area Society for Art & Activism and board member for the SOMArts Cultural Center.

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