‘This is not a Filipino’: Diaspora and the Uncanny Museum Security Guards
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art mounted the first major exhibition on René Magritte’s influence on post-war American and European artists. The museum attempted to capture the spirit of the Belgian surrealist and recreate his uncanny world of images and texts, “invigorating clichés and stereotypes” through photographs of the LA freeway reproduced on the ceiling, a carpet of clouds, and the theatrical wearing of bowler hats by Filipino museum security guards. In this topsy-turvy world, costumed guards, functioning as Magritte’s multiple un-bohemian doubles, were spatially deployed to prohibit and perform for the public. The bowler-hatted Filipinos, however, transformed from being an abstract sign of middle-class identity into an aesthetic forgery – they were not Magritte but a colored facsimile of him. If in their class assimilation racial difference remained unresolved, in their seemingly authoritative bodies, they were at once objectified and guarded. But could a post-colonial reading of this staging of the Other reveal not oppression but liberation, making it possible to glimpse not the enigmatic René Magritte, but a familiar Jose Rizal? Through an examination of Philippine diaspora and the ideology of exhibition displays, this paper deconstructs the museum’s choreographed surrealist provocations as magical realist imaginings of nationalism.
Keywords: Filipino/a, Security Guards, Museum, Diaspora
Dr. Pearlie Rose Baluyut
Assistant Professor, Art, California State University