Magic Realist Imaginings of (Trans)Nationalism: René Magritte’s Diasporic Doubles in Los Angeles

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In 2006-2007, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art showcased René Magritte and his influence on post-war American and European artists. To capture the spirit of the Belgian surrealist and recreate his uncanny world of images and texts, the museum “invigorat[ed] 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 guards. In this topsy-turvy world, costumed Filipino guards, functioning as Magritte’s multiple un-bohemian doubles, were spatially deployed to prohibit and perform for the public. The bowler-hatted guards, however, were transformed from being an abstract sign of middle-class identity into an aesthetic forgery – a colored facsimile of Magritte. If in their class assimilation racial difference remained unresolved, in their seemingly authoritative bodies, these Filipinos were at once objectified and guarded. Through an examination of Philippine diaspora and the ideology of exhibition displays, this paper deconstructs the museum’s choreographed surrealist provocations and frames them as magical realist imaginings of (trans)nationalism: one glimpses not the enigmatic René Magritte, but an uncanny Jose Rizal – the 19th-century hero of The Philippines.


Keywords: René Magritte, Museum Guards, Filipino/a, (Trans)National(ism)
Stream: Arts Theory and Criticism
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Dr. Pearlie Rose Baluyut

Assistant Professor, Art, California State University
San Bernardino, CA, USA

A Fulbright Scholar and Ford Foundation Fellow, Pearlie Rose S. Baluyut received her Ph.D. in Art History (Modern and Contemporary) at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) under the tutelage of Albert Boime and Donald Preziosi. Baluyut’s master’s thesis, “Juan Luna in Paris, 1884-1893: A Representation and Narrative of Becoming” is a critical (art)historiography and hagiography of the Filipino artist in fin-de-siècle Paris; her dissertation, “Institutions and Icons of Patronage: Arts and Culture in the Philippines during the Marcos Years, 1965-1986,” is an investigation of the politics and aesthetics of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos. Baluyut’s interests include visual culture within the contexts of colonialism, nationalism, and diaspora/exile, art patronage, and propaganda in popular media. She has presented her research in national and international conferences, as well as published articles and co-edited "Confrontations, Crossings, and Convergence: Photographs of the Philippines and the United States, 1898-1998." In the past, she has served as Guest Curator at the UCLA Fowler Museum, National Juror of the Philippine Art Awards in Manila, and Director of The Sam Francis Gallery in Santa Monica. Baluyut is currently Assistant Professor in the Department of Art at the California State University, San Bernardino.

Ref: A09P0694