The New Word for World is Archipelago
Thirteen Artists Awards Exhibition
Cultural Center of the Philippines
The exhibition is an extension of the artist’s short introduction to archipelagic thinking, a visual essay published by the School of Commons through research lab Learning in Island Ecologies.
Three out of five Thrashing Palm Trees in the essay of the same title, drawn with water and a hydrophobic solution on sheets of plywood, are featured in the exhibition as durational installations. With the trees patterned after found footage of storms in countries that occupy the top ranks of the Climate Risk Index (among them, the Philippines), despite global-scale carbon emissions coming from the other hemisphere, geographic interconnectedness is asserted in the face of the climate crisis.
A 3D-printed speculative island, formed by the combination of the political borders of Cagayan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, regions that are longitudes apart but where massive, storm-induced landslides occurred in 2020, links the issue of climate to colonialism. In the space adjacent to the green-lit room where the Trees evaporate over time are two large paintings of a non-image comprised of magnified Xerox noise, seemingly benign. Upon close inspection, the print error motif, taken from the flyleaves of a digitised copy of The Philippine Islands and Their People (Worcester, 1898), appears like islands—a Gaian Assembly of interconnected pieces of land, recognised by the colonist insofar as it served their othering agenda.
Furthering the call to relationalism, two small paintings of Mateo, a typical Philippino according to American colonist-author Worcester, are mounted next to the works that represent the two sides of the same coin. Fashioned after Mateo’s portrait in the bad copy of The Philippine Islands and Their People, he is blackened, almost to the point of invisibility and erasure, surrounded by specks of an archipelago he couldn’t truly call his own.