Vancouver International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art

Film Screening: Stephanie Comilang and Club Ate

Club Ate (Justin Shoulder & Bhenji Ra), Ex Nilalang (episode 4) (still), 2017, 33:09 minutes. Courtesy of the artists.

Centre A is delighted to present a screening of films by Stephanie Comilang and Club Ate (Justin Shoulder & Bhenji Ra) on August 24, 2019, at 4:30 PM. United by placemaking and knowledge/story-sharing, the program explores collective identities and kinship in the diasporas, rendered through the lens of futuristic realities. This event is presented in partnership with Call Again, a multimedia art group based in Toronto, that produces, promotes and creates space for contemporary artistic practices on/in/from the Asian diasporas in Canada and beyond.

Curated by Henry Heng Lu

Doors: 4:30 PM

Screening: 5 PM

Admission: Free (members) | $5 (non-members)

Location: Centre A, 268 Keefer Street, 2nd Floor (Unit 205), Vancouver, BC V6A 1X5

Cash bar. Light refreshments will be provided. 


1. Club Ate (Justin Shoulder & Bhenji Ra), Ex Nilalang (episodes 1-4), 2015 – 2017, 33:09 minutes

Ex Nilalang is a body of work that uses myth as a form to explore the intersections of queer identities of the Filipino diaspora. The artists employ video as a means of telling collaborative stories – visualized as four moving portraits. Nilalang has a hybrid meaning ‘to create’ and also meaning ‘creature’. This emphasizes 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 artist’s queer ecology: the communities they work and play in and 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 alter plane. 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 demonize queer identities by colonial powers. In Balud the story of the Mananangaal (described as a hideous, scary woman capable of severing its upper torso and sprouting huge bat-like wings) is reimagined through the perspective of Jai Jai a performer from Tacloban. She embodies the maanangaal with a more complex identity rich with pathos with a skin sparkling with queer sensibility. She sings local waray song ‘Balud’ mourning for the loss of the other part of her body: a song of sadness but also of resistance. 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 racialized and gendered. Yet these same creatures teach us how to reformulate kinship in ethical, non-violent ways.

2. Stephanie Comilang, Lumapit Sa Akin, Paraiso (Come to Me Paradise), 2016, 25:46 minutes

On a gloomy Sunday in Hong Kong, Paradise calls them. Or rather, they call home, and she is Paradise. They gather once a week, coming together to transmit messages with smartphones, the strength of their signal intensifying as their numbers swell. Stephanie Comilang’s 2016 film Lumapit sa Akin, Paraiso [Come to me, Paradise] tells the story of a homeland bereft of its inhabitants, who have left in search of livelihoods elsewhere. Their guardian is Paradise, and she watches her kindred lovingly from above. Paradise is cast in her role by way of a drone who scans the horizon for these women, narrating her thoughts to us alternately in English and Filipino, (her voice provided by Comilang’s mother).

The film, a sci-fi short set in Hong Kong, is a portrayal of the affective and real labor of the contemporary Filipina migrant worker. Unlike many attempts to capture the plight of the global migrant in film, collectively cast in their role as a disenfranchised populace, Comilang’s take is at once personal and empowering. Women speak a language of their own, they connect with each other in weekly self-care activities, occupying the central business district with dancing and picnics and workshops. Taking the technology of the drone—one traditionally implicated in its function toward military surveillance—Comilang channels its panoptical qualities inward. Paradise’s gaze is one of love and concern as she muses in shy reproach, watching her kin amid a cold landscape. Communication with far-off loved ones is catalyzed by Paradise, who is both here and over there, in a spiritual meditation on migration that is brought to life not because of the crystal-capital that Hong Kong is often dramatized for, but in spite of it.

Stephanie Comilang is an artist living and working between Toronto and Berlin. She received her BFA from Ontario College of Art & Design. Her documentary based works create narratives that look at how our understandings of mobility, capital and labour on a global scale are shaped through various cultural and social factors. Her work has been shown at Ghost : 2561 Bangkok Video & Performance Triennale, S.A.L.T.S Basel, UCLA, International Film Festival Rotterdam, and Asia Art Archive in America, New York.

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 is invested in creating their own Future Folklore. Past Club Ate events have taken the form of Pageants, Variety Nights and Balls. The collective has performed and exhibited internationally, with recent highlights including The 8th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, QAGGOMA, Brisbane, 2015-16; Fault-lines: Disparate and Desperate Intimacies, ICA Singapore, 2016; AsiaTOPA, ACMI, Melbourne, 2017; and Balik Bayan, Blacktown Arts Centre, 2017. They were also a finalist in the Singapore Art Prize at the National Museum of Singapore and have recently completed an Asialink Residency hosted by Green Papaya Arts, Philippines, 2018. They are currently working on the next episode of their video project Ex Nilalang; Queen of Horror to premiere in 2020.

Accessibility: The gallery is wheelchair and walker accessible. If you have specific accessibility needs, please contact us at (604) 683-8326 or [email protected].

Centre A is situated on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. We honour, respect, and give thanks to our hosts.