Renowned conceptual artist Antoni Muntadas launches his first exhibition in Manila entitled “Muntadas: Exercises on Past and Present Memories” in collaboration with the Ateneo Art Gallery (AAG) and the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo de Sevilla (CAAC). Muntadas presents three projects that translate the memories and stories of the Philippines and Spain and their relevance to contemporary history.

Renowned Concept Artist Antoni Muntadas CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Antoni Muntadas (born 1942) is considered one of the pioneers of multimedia installations and urban interventions. With his artistic practice spanning more than four decades, he develops projects through collaborative research to create site-specific works that resonate with local issues and experiences.

He first visited Manila in 2019 and his brief encounter with the city led him to deepen his research into the past and present of the former Spanish colony. Fortuitously, the project coincides in time with the commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the circumnavigation of the globe, as well as with the period of the global pandemic caused by Covid-19.

The idea of ​​movement based on the themes of globality and transnationality is at the heart of Muntadas’ work. These concepts can be seen as early as the 16th century, at the height of Manila – Acapulco Galleon commerce, where and when mobility and travel were necessary for trade and economic development. Departing from Seville in 1565, the galleons stopped in Mexico City and Acapulco for land trade before sailing to reach the port of Manila. The route also connected Manila to China and by extension to other parts of Southeast Asia such as Japan and India. The Manila galleon trade resulted in economic and cultural exchanges between East and West, a system that was seen as the start of globalization.

Using the Manila galleon trade as the setting for the exhibition, Muntadas developed three projects based on products that were originally part of this trade channel – the Manila mantón or “Manila Shawl” that was at the origin made in China then traveled to Manila, and later adapted and appropriate to Spanish culture; coins and medallions, and ceramic objects from Seville.

The exhibit translates memories and stories from the Philippines and Spain and their relevance to contemporary history.

The exhibit translates memories and stories from the Philippines and Spain and their relevance to contemporary history.

Contemporary versions of these goods, which Muntadas calls presents, act as custodians of memories; they are intended as metaphors for historical, political, social and cultural narratives relevant to Filipino society.

Mantones, locally embroidered in Lumban, Laguna, are fifteen shawls that feature images that represent different points in Philippine history, current events and popular culture. Malas Hierbas are a set of ceramic plates made in Seville that bear botanical designs of invasive plant species imported from the Americas, alluding to the effect of colonization. Medallions made in Seville are called portable monuments to anonymous emigrant workers; they are intended as a tribute to unrecognized Filipinos living abroad.

These projects are contextualized by archival photographs as well as by artefacts on loan from the Rizal library of Ateneo de Manila University and the administration of Intramuros. Manuel Ocampo also contributes to his version of the Murillo Velarde – Nicolás de la Cruz Bagay map which describes critical points in the colonial history of the Philippines.

As with all his previous works, this exhibition is the result of a long research process carried out by Muntadas in collaboration with research and design teams in Manila and Barcelona. Concept development and design have all been made virtually easier.

The process of mounting the exhibit at the Ateneo Art Gallery has been particularly difficult due to restrictions imposed on the Philippines by the constant threat of the coronavirus. Thanks to the collective effort of the two teams to find memories, Muntadas was able to draw his interpretations from these stories to produce representative objects that would resonate with the public in the Philippines and Spain.

Muntadas: Exercises on Past and Present Memories launched on November 24 in the galleries on the third floor of the Ateneo Art Gallery. The exhibition will run until March 12, 2022. It will then travel to the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo in Sevilla, Spain, and will be presented from March to August 2022.

Site visits will be organized shortly. Until then, the exhibit is accessible online via a virtual tour and a walkthrough posted on AAG’s social media channels and website. For more information, visit www.ateneoartgallery.com.