is partly out of choice because I like travelling, meeting different people,
knowing different cultures but it's also out of necessity.
I still carry a Phillipines passport and that means, being a so-called
Third World citizen, you're not given very long periods of stay in most
...Home is the world
for me." David
David Medalla has
been an international artist for almost forty years. He was born in Manila
in the Phillipines and has lived in Britain, on and off, since the sixties.
His parents were from different ethnic Phillipino backgrounds (Tagalog
and Visayan) but he also has Spanish, Malaysian, Chinese and English origins.
Rather than feeling like an exile from his native land, in many ways he
sees himself as a citizen of the world, feeling at home everywhere. Unlike
artists who might exhibit around the world but make art from a singular
cultural perspective, Medalla's work is always informed by the place in
which he creates it and the people he meets there.
Medalla with Oriol
de Quadras, 'Conversation Bi-langue' (detail) from the 'Magellan' series.
Medalla, 'A Stitch
in Time' (detail) one of many versions made between 1968-1972 (3)
David Medalla makes
work which has frequently defied categorisation. It has ranged anywhere
from sculpture and kinetic art to painting, installation and performance
with all the spaces and overlaps between these forms, remaining fresh,
spontaneous, shifting and playful. A continual, unfolding story...
Medalla has described
his art as dialogic, that is, involving a dialogue between himself, his
media and his collaborators/audience. His nomadic lifestyle, processes
of collaboration and the spiritual and political beliefs which inform
the work, have added up to a way of life as much as an artistic profession.
The style and scope of work he has been involved with is much too broad
to be categorised in this small page. Instead we feature a number of pieces
which highlight this nomadic life and the spaces it has moved through.
A Stitch in Time
During the late 1960's and early 1970's Medalla made a series of 'participation
works' where the audience was encouraged to be involved in the production
of playful and experiential pieces which challenged the notions of creative
heirarchy. 'A Stitch in Time' is about travel, time and chance, but it's
also about production. Medalla
described the piece as "participation-production-propulsion".
It involves the audience sewing small objects of significance onto a large
cloth in a public space, which requires a creative concentration and an
engagement with the artwork. The pieces now exist as large, beautifully
textured cloths but they are also a testament to all those who contributed
to them, as well as the collaborative process through which they were
Throughout his working life Medalla has been involved in performances,
around the world, very often low key and spontaneous. These ephemeral
pieces, which occur without an invited audience, requiring no funding,
very often on the street or some other public place, he terms 'impromptus'
or 'instant installations.' He is particularly interested in the notion
of 'meeting' or the chance encounter, which is perhaps tied to to his
state of being endlessly on the move, but also to the fact that he makes
art in and with the public. Medalla has made hundreds of impromptu pieces.
In one piece he danced with kitsch objects from a variety of cultures
in a flea market in Rotterdam ('Celebrations of World Mythologies'). In
another he acted out a Western drama with ice cowboys, melting under the
heat of the Texas sun.
For Medalla, identity
is layered and shifting. In several of his impromptu pieces he has made
masks for himself, often from the torn pages of magazines. The mask both
covers the identity and, for a moment, transforms it into something new.
Medalla carries with him a notebook full of scribbles, project ideas,
notes and performance scripts. On occasion he has read from one of his
notebooks, as a perfomance, recounting stories. Many of these projects
are never actually made but exist only as an idea. Those who believe art
only consists of beautiful objects, have difficultly with this idea of
experience of being a travelling artist is
integral to David Medalla's work. He very often makes work with just the
materials at hand. He is also very interested in collaborative pieces
which involve his audience.
- What would you
do or make, inspired by this artist's work?
- If you could take
just three things with you on a journey, what would they be? Perhaps
you could design a bag or a coat which could contain all the things
you might want to take with you on your travels. You could even make
it if you like.
- Think of all the
little bits and bobs we collect and discard -
a chewing gum wrapper, a bus ticket, a free toy, a lottery ticket. Momentarily
important but ultimately of little value. What if you were to make a
quilt with all these little bits sewn on, You could sew on a story about
the thing too. If the whole class or even the whole school contributed
items to it, over a month or a term, you'd have a giant memory blanket
which captured a moment in time.
"A mask both
conceals and reveals. It raises all those questions about cultural, personal
and sexual identity." Gavin
(left) Medalla, 1
of 6 Impromptus with torn paper masks,
New York, 1991 (4)