Alfredo & Isabel Aquilizan present “Of Fragments and Impressions” at STPI – Creative Workshop & Gallery until 11 November 2017.
STPI – Creative Workshop & Gallery features a collection of important works by the Filipino artist duo, shedding light on their practice of “creating an imagined community”.
Brisbane- and Manila-based artist couple, Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan, have travelled to many parts of the world. The installation artists often work closely with the communities they enter, creating site-specific artworks that explore themes of home, longing and loss. “It is always a collective effort,” says Isabel Aquilizan. As their artworks travel to exhibitions outside the context of their initial creation, they take on new meaning and reference other histories. Works by the Aquilizans are never stagnant; they respond to the new environments they inhabit.
Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan have an impressive oeuvre, and STPI – Creative Workshop & Gallery has set out to reimagine and resituate some of the couple’s most gripping installations within its gallery spaces. “Of Fragments and Impressions”, on view from 28 September – 11 November 2017, displays recent prints and installations by the duo. These works stem from some of the artists’ more extensive projects. The transposition of large-scale installations into prints and smaller works recalls the histories of marginalised communities as well as the couple’s personal experiences with migration. This exhibition is not just a documentation of the past, it is a collection of memories; but, as with all memories, we remember them only in fragments.
Fragments after In-habit
Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan first started Fragments after In-Habit in collaboration with members of the Badjao community in 2012. Otherwise known as the “Sea Nomads”, the Badjao people have a history of inhabiting the waters around Southeast Asia. Over the years, more people from their community have begun moving onto land, though the process of adapting to land-based life has been wrought with challenges. The Badjao people who worked with Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan moved into huts around Davao, Philippines. In Fragments after In-Habit (2012), the artist duo and the Badjao people built an installation out of makeshift cardboard houses to represent the displacement of this seafaring community. Over the next few years, the installation was shown in Australia and, subsequently, Japan. With each exhibition, it was reconstructed and deconstructed, and even added to by visitors who came to see the show.
The collagraph prints on view at STPI not only reference the 2012 installation, but are also derived from its remains. Isabel Aquilizan explains:
The cardboard plate we used for the collagraph are hydraulically pressed cardboard houses that we have collected and hand picked from this traveling show, each and every plate was created by [an] unnamed individual from an unidentified location.
Familial ties and longing underpin much of Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan’s practice. Parents of five children, the artist duo has had to balance the demands of a creative practice with their responsibilities as caregivers. Northwind X is part of a series that began in the 1990s when Alfredo was pursuing his Masters of Fine Arts in the United Kingdom. Alfredo longed for his wife and children – particularly their newborn daughter – during the three years that he was away. Every day for 30 days, Alfredo bought a used baby sweater, and installed them in his studio in the shape of female genitalia. Alfredo named the ritual Amihan after his daughter, and in reference to the northern wind in the Philippines.
Viewed as a screen print on acetate film, it is hard to imagine that the wispy, elegant rendition of “Left Wing” II references Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan’s hefty installation series, “The Left Wing Project”. Composed of hand-forged sickles, the duo worked with artists, blacksmiths and farmers in Yogyakarta, Indonesia to develop enormous, wing-like sculptures in 2015. The sickles speak to a particular period in Indonesia’s history – the mass killings of 1965-66 where communist sympathisers were persecuted. Site-specific in its conception, “The Left Wing Project” has since expanded to other parts of Southeast Asia, namely the Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia.
In another body of work, the artist couple built a giant pair of angel’s wings out of hundreds of rubber flip-flops. Collected from a Singapore correctional facility, the slippers were metaphors for the incarcerated community held within the complex. Transposed as a cyanotype print and collaged on paper, “Wings” I hits close to home at STPI – Creative Workshop & Gallery, and brings to the foreground one of many marginalised communities in the pristine cosmopolitan city.
Situating this work alongside the histories of other Southeast Asian communities, “Of Fragments and Impressions” makes Southeast Asia feel closer, in a way that transcends physical proximity. “It is all about creating an imagined community,” describes Isabel Aquilizan, for each work does not epitomise one place or one person, but is composed of every shade of human.
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