Mark Boulos: No Permanent Address at Lisson Gallery, London

Showing as part of an impressive spring programme, spread across Lisson’s two London locations, Mark Boulos’ No Permanent Address is an exhibition that deserves special recognition.

For his latest project, Boulos travelled deep into the Filipino jungle, where he spent eight weeks filming and learning about the NPA (New People’s Army- the militant branch of the Communist Party of the Philippines), its members, and activities. The NPA follows a strict ideology based on the theories of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, and aims to bring about a proletarian revolution through guerilla warfare and the collection of revolutionary taxes from local businesses.

Arranged across three rooms, the exhibition features video footage, large-scale photographs, and slide projections. The material is arranged to convey an evolving understanding of the revolutionary group and, more importantly, the human dynamic at its core.

The main focus of the exhibition is a twenty-seven minute film shot during Boulos’ time with the NPA. The film interweaves footage of group training sessions with scenes of the lush vegetation surrounding the organisation’s camp, and fragments of one-on-one interviews with its members. While Boulos never explicitly asks members about their lives before joining the NPA, the conversation inevitably veers towards this topic as members recall the loss of loved ones left behind in the process of joining the NPA. One woman speaks of leaving her young family behind to join the NPA, while a young man recounts the gruesome murder of his entire family, an event that caused him to end his compliancy with the Philippine state and its army, and join the NPA’s revolution.

Outside the screening room, large-scale photographs of individual members of the NPA hang on the walls of a brightly lit room. Isolated from one another, and from the context of their activities within the NPA, the portraits in this room generate a shift away from thinking about the NPA’s revolution in terms of its political and social agenda, encouraging the viewer to direct their focus on the individuals whose personal beliefs and ideologies sustain the movement.

The exhibition continues in the basement, where it takes a unexpected turn. Presented as an addition to the original exhibition upstairs, the work in this room, entitled Red Green Blue, features further video footage, accompanied by a projection of sun-kissed palm trees and wall text. The wall text informs the viewer that, shortly after Boulos departed from the group, many of the individuals filmed were killed in a violent military attack. The footage in this room is of a grainy quality, and fades out of view as it is played out, reflecting the way in which the lives of the individuals on film have been absorbed into the history of the NPA’s continuous struggle to affect a Communist revolution.

Although the NPA have been recognised as a terrorist organisation by both Europe and the US (it has only recently been relieved of this status within the Philippines itself), the exhibition does not reflect on this, or the specific politics of the NPA, in any tangible way. Rather, what this exhibition highlights is the personal courage and strength of the NPA’s individual members, their unblinking loyalty to its cause, and their ability to compromise on the comforts of loved ones and a fixed abode in the hope of brining the revolution to a resolution.

Róisín Lacey-McCormac

Mark Boulos, No Permanent Address, 30 January until 9 March, Lisson Gallery, 52-54 Bell Street, London, NW1 5DA.


1. Mark Boulos, Comrade Suleiman, 2010. Courtesy the artist and Lisson Gallery
2. Mark Boulos, New People’s Army, 2010. Courtesy of artist and Lisson Gallery
3. Mark Boulos, Comrade Teteng, 2010. Courtesy of artist and Lisson Gallery
4. Mark Boulos, Commander, 2010. Courtesy of artist and Lisson Gallery