Bhenji Ra as part of Club Ate
with Justin Shoulder
Gulu-God, God is Change, 2020, builds on Club Ate’s existing practice of reimaging Filipino mythology within a queer framework and allowing it to exist as ‘future folklore’. Bhenji worked closely with digital artist Tristan Jalleh to create an image based on queer Filipino mother hood in the landscape of the Filipino diaspora. Taking cues from a variety of 20th century Filipino painters and their use of the feminine Filipino body, specifically the ‘Mother’, the work looks to re-establish the bakla-trans experience within Filipino history while also visioning a decolonised future of bodies and experiences.
Ex Nilalang is an accumulative video series that uses myth as a form to explore the intersections of queer identities in the Filipino diaspora. The artists employ video as a means of telling collaborative stories – visualised as four moving portraits. Nilalang has a hybrid meaning, ‘to create’ and ‘creature’. This emphasises the nature of the work being both a transformation of existing mythologies and also the imagining of future folklore.
The work is seeded from the artists' queer ecology: the communities they work and play in as well as their families biological and chosen. These spaces, platforms and collaborations are where their stories are shared. This video cosmology is a way to represent these worlds in an alternate plane called the Skyworld. The stories are articulated in a collaboration of diverse practices: performance and craft narratives. Part of the motivation of the work is to transform mythologies that were once used to demonise queer identities by colonial powers. In encounters with eerie Inhumans, we witness yearnings, complexities and utopias that resist forces of surveillance and demolition. It is no coincidence that the creatures we have been taught to hate are racialised and gendered. Yet these same creatures teach us how to reformulate kinship in ethical, non-violent ways. – Artist Statement.
Club Ate is a collective formed in 2014 by multi-form artists Justin Shoulder and Bhenji Ra. Their practice traverses video, performance and club events with an emphasis on community activation. Collaborating with members of the queer Asia Pacific diaspora in Australia and the Philippines, the collective are invested in creating their own Future Folklore. Past Club Ate events have taken the form of Pageants, Variety Nights and Balls.