Filipino Artist David Medalla Performs at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice

August 27, 2015

It was eight in the evening on the 22nd of August and the garden at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, one of the world’s finest museums for modern art, was buzzing with people and a lively David Medalla explained to the young crowd the concept for the performance.


The program started with introduction from Philip Rylands, the Director of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection who said that having Medalla perform was exciting. The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) Chairman and Commissioner for the Philippine Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, Felipe de Leon Jr., also introduced Medalla.


The London-based artist then dedicated the performance to the Filipino people and to his friends, Peggy and Pegeen Guggenheim.


Medalla’s performance was inspired by an English filmmaker he met earlier who told a story about how he was in the mountains waiting for the sun to rise when a mosquito bit his face. When he was about to slap it and kill the nuisance, he realized that it was actually a caterpillar and just as the sun was about to rise, the caterpillar turned into a butterfly. Medalla has appointed his long-time collaborator, Adam Nankervis, as the king of caterpillars wearing a bright red mask. David then urged the audience to carry the train of textile and join Nankervis as the caterpillar. He also convinced the crowd to sing the Filipino folksong Paruparong Bukid, which was led by NCCA Chairman de Leon. Slivers of light and neon tubes by artist Marion Mertz illuminated the garden.


The mythical stories that give birth to David Medalla’s performance are impressive, sometimes incredulous, but always fascinating. As Philippine Pavilion curator Patrick Flores stated, “Anyone who is in a Medalla performance should keep an open mind and senses should always be sharp. The performance demands reciprocity and a sharing of subjectivity, and prompts a rethinking of the roles of spectator and artist. It looks like play, but it is actually a ‘serious game,’ very discursive but also very ludic and sensitive, to say nothing of its quicksilver nature.”


Rylands said the performance was fascinating, “It was gentle, lyrical, with dance—a poetical combination that reminds us of the wonderful things that happen to nature and its transformation.”


Medalla’s performance at the Guggenheim was the last in a series of performances in connection with the Philippine Pavilion at the 56th Venice Art Biennale. Senator Loren Legarda, a staunch supporter of arts and culture, spearheaded both the country’s return to the Venice Biennale after 51 years of absence and the Medalla collateral event.


“David shares my views on the environment and my love for nature. This time, his performance makes us think about how art can help raise awareness on the importance of bringing back the vibrancy of nature. The unpredictability of his art is what I really appreciate and that is also what I wanted to share with the people when we organized this collateral event of the Philippine Pavilion,” Legarda said.


Meanwhile, Rylands applauded the efforts of the country to be part of the Venice Biennale, “The Philippines thoroughly belongs to the Venice Biennale and I appreciate that initiative.”


Peggy Guggenheim Collection is located on Venice’s Grand Canal and showcases masterpieces ranging in style from Cubism and Surrealism to Abstract Expressionism. The collection has become one of the most respected and visited cultural attractions in Venice.