Popular Extinctions

Artist: Kawayan De Guia
installation, video | 35 mm celluloid film, metal, wood; single-channel video: colour | 2019

Kawayan de Guia’s works offer ironic and sometimes comedic insight into sociopolitical issues in contemporary Philippine society. For his newly commissioned sculptures, de Guia draws on his background as a filmmaker and visual artist to explore his fascination with celluloid, not by producing a film that is projected but one that becomes a tangible object in itself. Popular Extinctions (2019) draws on the Filipino cultural phenomenon of making trumpets out of celluloid film for New Year celebrations. The film negatives used to create these objects are gathered from old Filipino cinema reels that are discarded in the densely populated Manila suburb of Tondo, home to the ‘Smokey Mountain’ landfill, which is infamous for the lethal toxic fumes produced by its burning waste. If film is the recorder of time and history, watching films from this landfill burn is equivalent to seeing the last 50 years of Filipino history go up in flames. For his work, de Guia uses reels of 35 mm film from forgotten B-grade Filipino movies from the 1980s and 1990s. The resulting sculptures explore a wealth of dreams in film, which becomes an aesthetic commodity seemingly with power over its own visibility and circulation, just as oil fuels the (privileged) interconnectivity of the planet. Dreams are given image, circulated, bootlegged and commodified, ultimately ending up as potentially flammable waste that the artist redeems as a repository of popular memory—an ironic memorial to the power of the moving image, melted here beyond recognition. Works by Lantian Xie and Mark Salvatus also refer to the circulation and repercussions of bootlegging, but this time as a curious extrapolation of (national) identity.


Journey Beyond the Arrow@Sharjah Biennial 14 - Leaving the Echo Chamber | 2019.03.07 - 2019.06.10 | Sharjah Art Foundation(Sharjah, United Arab Emirates)