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Uploaded September 10, 2015
STARRED MESSAGES: Unhedged
The show's title graphics on the gallery's main glass window, featuring the main hedgehog characters' names mimicking a law-office door's letter graphics
Of Manicured Topiaries and Confident Hedge Funds
The Great Leap Forward of Alwin Reamillo
diskurso caught up with Reamillo a week and a half before his installation art show at Tin-aw Art Gallery closed, getting enough time to talk to the artist about his project before he ran back to his studio to work on a piece for an upcoming show in Taichung
principal photography by Simkin de Pio
interview by Jojo Soria de Veyra and de Pio
by V.I.S de Veyra
THE German film director Werner Herzog has at one time also been called a maker of films about people in conflict with nature. His documentary The White Diamond tackles an aeronautical engineer's obsession with the forest canopies of Guyana and talks about the accidental death of a cinematographer of nature documentaries.
Alwin Reamillo's "Unhedged" installation art exhibition, which ran from August 8 to 29 at Tin-aw Art Gallery, used the domesticated hedgehog (not the wild hedgehog) as a metaphor for the civilized urbanite of some wealth and intelligence in conflict with his roots (or peers). The father of the array of domesticated hedgehogs in Reamillo's installation was named Herzog by the artist, after the filmmaker, as if to intimate the hedgehog's possible dreaming of a wild past. But, in turn, Herzog the hedgehog representing a part of Herzog the filmmaker could have been the artist's alter ego, too, not there in the wild but yet empathetic towards the conditions of both those left outside and those domesticated here.
". . . security for both our persons and our accumulated loot, individual security that would in turn be enclosed in physical composites acting as convergent community facilities for our communing as 'a new breed'."
Herzog. Photo by Fatima Avila. Lifted from Alwin Reamillo's Facebook photo albums
The artificial hedgehog enclosure that Reamillo built in Tin-aw Art Gallery to portray and mimic or parody life inside the gated community of the well-off was supposed to represent "habitat fragmentation", an environmental conservation concept that refers to changes in the landscape that often---if not always---result in population fragmentation among animals removed from their changed or destroyed natural habitats. In our above interview with Reamillo, the artist used these environmentalist phrases to also reference the human condition in the current momentum of sprouting property developments and increasing niche upward mobility that have divided our nation into two cultural sub-nations, one composed of the wild majority (the precariat outside "among the wild hedges") and the other in civility (inside among their manicured topiaries and confident hedge funds), both alienated from the other.
In the installation's dramatization of a condition boasting of units of privacy (and approximations of gaudiness and luxury), the cause of the fragmentation trend Reamillo alluded to was hinted. In conversation, Reamillo described these fragments of comfortable existence as by an "appropriation of natural culture". I believe he meant to refer to the transformation of the natural resource commons into commodities of capital, the achievement of which transformation has in human history often been coursed through invasion and force, acts---says diskurso's Simkin de Pio---that could best be suggested by a different Herzog, that one in Herzog Zwei, a Sega Mega Drive war invasion video game. You can, after all, imagine hedgehogs attacking the trunks of hedgerows for prey.
Reamillo's setup over a lawn of shredded old currency.
But the domesticated hedgehog is now not in the wild, now not in the streets lined by hedgerows. So the enemy, for the present, is the concept of individual property, the transformative occurrence of which soon designed out of necessity a gridding of our lives into units or boxes of individual ownership and security, security for both our persons and our accumulated loot, individual security that would in turn be enclosed in physical composites acting as convergent community facilities for our communing as "a new breed". And in the secured gated communities for the well-heeled, this transformative occurrence from commons to individually-owned property would also assign onto unfixed properties, like money, decimal or measurable segments of valuation, segments of measure already an ocean away from the subjectivity of wild barter. (Only recently, the "wildness" of barter was emulated by artist-curator Angel Velasco Shaw in her "Markets of Resistance" art happening that scoffed at the contrasting wildness of the exploitation of the indigenous people of Baguio who practiced such barter -- watch Shaw's recent lecture here).
The hedgehogs used in Reamillo's installation are themselves transformed entities, culled from a human intervention called hybridization for the quotas of the animal pets industry. And so, being biologically and environmentally evolved from their wild past, they now in Reamillo's installation took imported (read: exotic) names, forenames Reamillo further dressed up on his exhibition's invite and poster and on Tin-aw's glass wall to appear like the surnames of partners displayed on a law firm's office door.
the show's poster
Installation detail featuring Antonio Gramsci's image and a curled hedgehog in the foreground | Alwin Reamillo | mixed media collage on constructed wooden box, shredded old currency, bamboo and wood construction, and pet hedgehog | 2015 (Photo by Reamillo)
The domesticated hedgehog may be smaller than the European hedgehog, thus almost like the gated community human dweller who has evolved from being a burly hunter and soldier to become merely a fat invader of 7-Elevens. But though friendly, intelligent and communicative through grunts, snuffles and squeals, the domesticated hedgehog still has a frightening defense of quills, powered and backed by air pockets on its skin ("full of air", you might say). And even though blind, they ironically prefer to be nocturnal souls.
This playing around with quiet living and live animals (Reamillo's first show at Tin-aw Art Gallery, a performance art, involved a duck walking around the gallery space) signaled quite a leap for the artist, who has been exploring the themes of exploitation and revolution and murder and death and decay in the past. But while "Unhedged" was presently obsessed with habitats and the living organisms within those habitats, he was nonetheless still at it, picking on the causes of conflict this time instead of the results, exploring not war but comfort zones that may birth war, not dictators or conquerors dictating murders but fragile creatures who nevertheless get to sleep on better pillows set on beds of money.
So Reamillo was now not focusing on the dirty history that built a gated community; he was intent on examining the result of that history that produced a safe haven for the joyful and triumphant. On closer listen, this haven turned out to be reverberating with the dualities of security and insecurity, safety and immobility, finally churning out a silent angst hidden behind the hypnotic art of geometric planes and color fields that form this social class' architecture and living culture. Or perhaps the hypnosis by these planes and fields derive from the culture itself that has imbibed the "dividing and fragmenting of property" spirit.
Installation detail | Alwin Reamillo | mixed media collage on wooden box | 2015 (Photo by Reamillo)
Could it be why Reamillo would hide sculptural object concreteness (reality, truth) in modes of flat Rothkoan abstraction (mind escape), co-opting these former details for the latter in order to parody co-optation or political recuperation itself?
Part of that action, though, is Reamillo's chosen position as a socially-aware artist. He considers the waters between Realism and Aestheticism not as a sea of conflict but as an invitation to the building of linkage. He would, therefore, belong to a roster of skillful artists operating a Marxist lens not for the purpose of subversions alone but finally for conversions. Now, where that unhedged belief will take his art will certainly be worth watching. [d]
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