The Filipino Superwoman Band, 2019

The Filipino Superwoman Band, 2019
Performance by Eisa Jocson. Performance view: Sharjah Biennial 14: ‘Leaving the Echo Chamber’


For SB14, Eisa Jocson focuses on the Overseas Filipino Musician (OFM), a term describing those who perform Western music for audiences at hotels, restaurants, clubs and theme parks throughout Asia and the Middle East. The artist investigates songs, aesthetic codes and affective performances of Filipino show bands in the UAE and other countries. In two interconnected works, Jocson conveys the potential of OFM performances for new forms of agency born of decolonial practice while examining the socio-cultural and economic conditions of their production.

On 9 March 2019, The Filipino Superwoman Band performs a repertoire built around the 1989 single Superwoman by American R&B singer Karyn White. The song, a wife’s lament against being taken for granted, enjoyed regular airplay in 1990s Manila. Together with co-singers Bunny Cadag and Cathrine Go, Jocson assumes her first singing role in this all-female ensemble. Mirroring the care work of Filipino migrant workers, including the adoption of particular vocal inflections, their performance, with sound design by Teresa Barrozo and production management by Franchesca Casauay, enacts a gendered occupation of feminine affective labour.

In her installation Passion of Darna (2019), Jocson borrows lyrics from Jenine Desiderio’s Tagalog adaptation of Superwoman. Hindi Ako Si Darna [I Am Not Superwoman] is a song brought into dialogue with other Filipino oral traditions. ‘Passion’ recalls the pasyon sung during Lenten Week to narrate Jesus’ suffering, and ‘Darna’ refers to the iconic Filipino comic book heroine. The audio plays several times daily in Hamdan Bin Moussa Courtyard, where three horn loudspeakers embellished with disco-ball-style mirrors echo the region’s sonic and visual infrastructure. Three versions of the Superwoman lyrics are installed on the window of Gallery 2, where visitors can use microphones to sing along. Jocson’s work also references the government slogan Ang mga Bagong Bayani, which calls Overseas Filipino Workers ‘Our Modern-Day Heroes’, recognising them for their economic contributions and sacrifice.

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A contemporary choreographer, dancer and visual artist, Eisa Jocson investigates the labour and representation of the dancing body in the service industry.