Joshua Serafin is a multidisciplinary artist from the Philippines who combines dance, performance, visual arts and choreography, and currently lives in Brussels. Serafin attended the Philippine High School for the Arts, where she graduated in Theater Arts. Hen further studied at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, majoring in Contemporary Dance. Hen recently graduated from P.A.R.T.S. and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Fine Arts in Visual Arts at KASK School of the Arts in Ghent.
Serafin has collaborated with various artists from Asia and Europe, navigating between performance and visual art. Some names: Arco Renz, Eisa Jocson, Manuel Pelmus, Bruno Isacovi?, Ming Wong, Adrian Wong, Choy Ka Fai, Leeroy New, Korakrit Arunanondchai and Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker. Serafin presented their work at Deltebre Dansa (Spain), at Queer Zagreb (Croatia), at the Center National de la Danse in Paris, at the Wing Platform Hong Kong and at the Bouge B Festival at deSingel in Antwerp.
Their work asks questions about identity, transmigration, queer politics and representation, different states of being and the ways in which you can inhabit a body. Joshua Serafin is also interested in the duality between the physical and its representation. Serafin expresses that representation through an alternative identity that they created called ‘Void’.
PEARLS is the third and final iteration of a larger work entitled “Cosmological Gangbang,” which seeks to create new forms of ritual for queer bodies and the ecologies they inhabit. With PEARLS the Brussels-based Filipino multimedia artist Joshua Serafin, together with their collaborators in the Philippines Lukresia Quismundo and Bunny Cadag, embody through live performance a contemporary ritual inspired by the non-normative genders celebrated in the Philippine archipelago before the empire. In dance, song and theater, Serafin, Quismundo and Cadag shed the gender binary they inherited from colonial culture. They gesture to their future selves to rediscover an ancestral body promised by gender diversity.
The performance takes as its starting point for its various movements a genealogy of indigenous gender identities in the Philippines that were lived and expressed as fluid and resistant to binary representation. This non-conformity is based in the divine and was embodied by high priestesses who fulfilled themselves in various incarnations of the feminine and was passed on through genres of oral wisdom. As narrators of these stories in the present, the performers hope to translate their knowledge of local queer spirituality into a global idiom that would inspire conversations between peers and co-conspirators beyond their home countries.
PEARLS dreams of rewriting history and speculating about a possible future, conjuring up reveries in which the body transforms into the divine. Mortals become gods and goddesses, merging with the cosmos and creating nature from a non-binary form. As a decolonial fantasy, the work attempts to imagine queer and trans bodies of color from the Global South through the specific predicaments and aspirations of the Philippine experience.
The title PEARLS refers to “Perla de Oriente” (Pearl of the Orient), the nickname given to the Philippines by the Spanish missionary Juan José Delgado in Historia de Filipinas (1751) and to “Perla del Mar de Oriente” (Pearl of the Orient). Oriental Sea), which begins the second line of the farewell poem Último Adiós (1896) by the Philippine national hero José Rizal. In this sense, a pearl represents the motherland alternately depicted as colony and nation, a tropical paradise that inspired priests and patriots to perform acts of both religion and revolution.
Ultimately, PEARLS is a ritual of healing. As performers, Joshua, Lukresia and Bunny acknowledge the pain they share as queer and trans people with brown bodies. They confess stories of traumas that they want to transform into scenes of beauty, just as the mother of pearl covers a strange particle that finds its way into an oyster, forming a pearl in the depths of the ocean that would defy all kinds of storms and perhaps would avoid even the eyes of greed.