When Mara Coson first set eyes on Cloud Canyon 31 at the S2 gallery space in London in mid-2018, she was so entranced by the bubble machine she knew she couldn’t leave the city without it. “Ang lakas ng power niya,” says Coson of the work. “I just took it upon myself to bring it to Manila.”
More than a year later, the work is now permanently installed at the lobby of the BDO Corporate Center in Ortigas. "If anyone gets obsessed with it," says Coson, "they can visit it everyday if they want to—forever."
Coson, who apart from being a fictionist is an advisor to the BDO art collection, and whose family owns the BDO banking company, gathered media and friends last Saturday for an initial viewing ceremony. But really the event was meant to celebrate the man behind the kinetic sculpture: internationally renowned artist David Medalla.
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According to the S2 website, Cloud Canyon 31 was conceived in 1964 and executed in 2016. It is made of plexiglass tubes, wood, fibreglass, water, soap and oxygenators. The tubes spew out foam continuously and then meets its soapy liquid origin when it reaches the bottom of the machine. “Did David Medalla invent the foam party?” asked a member of Saturday’s crowd. We wouldn’t be surprised if he did.
The work, which looks like a bouquet of white clouds in constant motion was first shown in public when Medalla was shortlisted for the inaugural Hepworth Wakefield Prize for Sculpture. Cloud Canyon 32 is part of the artist’s famous bubble machines series, the first of which saw light in 1961. The idea for these foam machines was invariably sparked by the exuberant artist’s memories of an Edinburgh brewery, the bubbling coconut milk of his mother’s cooking, the New York skyline, and of a dying Japanese soldier frothing at the mouth.
“My father was in the guerilla movement up in Mt. Makiling—one of my most horrible experiences was when one of the men who was sent to warn him was shot by the Kempetai. He ran into our camp and I saw him—I was a little boy then—and the poor guerilla, his mouth was blowing out blood and bubbles, and that was one of my experiences of bubbles. And it remained in my head—the bubble machine,” Medalla recalled to ANCX early this year.
He once said the bubble machines are “an attempt to give tangible form to invisible forces...find a model that would show the transformation of matter into energy.”
Coson is only too happy to share this important work of an important Filipino artist to the rest of the country, and hopes that it will delight people who get to see it everyday. “It’s never been owned by anyone else,” says Coson who refused to divulge how much BDO purchased the piece from S2, a non-auctioning subsidiary of Sotheby’s with an impressive art program. “Let’s just say it’s priceless.”