Kidlat Tahimik’s mammoth exhibition originally made for Madrid’s famed Glass Palace, or the Palacio de Cristal del Retiro, has made its journey back to the Philippines. It is now installed at the National Museum of Anthropology in Rizal Park and will be open to the public in the next six months.
Previously entitled “Magellan, Marilyn, Mickey and Fray Damaso: 500 Years of Rock Star Conquerors,” the National Artist’s epic exploration on the history of colonialism in the Philippines is now called “INDIO-GENIUS: 500 Taon ng Labanang Kultural (1521-2021).” An epic multi-part visual narrative in the form of sculptural ensembles, it involves the use of bululs, local baskets, paintings, neon lights and many more. It also covers a lot of ground in the museum, from the Marble Hall to the Ground Floor stairways and part of the outdoor area that leads to the Marble Hall.
The large scale installation, which was on display in Madrid from October of 2021 to March this year, was designed in reaction to the history of its original venue. The Glass Palace was built in 1887 for the Exposición General de Las Islas Filipinas, a grand showcase of flora and fauna from the Philippines, back when we were still a colony of Spain.
But apart from putting our tropical plants on display, the exposición famously exoticized other facets of our way of life and culture—and not only in the form of artifacts but living, breathing people, specifically Igorots who were told to act as if they were in their native village. The human zoo was said to have angered Jose Rizal, who was then in Madrid.
In recreating the Madrid show for the National Museum, did anything change in its message and purpose? Kidlat’s son Kawayan de Guia offers an explanation:
“Kidlat’s works whether film or installation or performances are like recurring dreams,” he tells ANCX. “They start with a small idea and narrative which over time becomes more and more complex, but when dissected is still true to form and is clear like it’s original concept.
“The way he formulates his work is still structured like a filmmaker or director.
So if you’re asking how different his work at the National Museum is with the one staged at [the Glass Palace], you can look at it like he created a director’s cut for this show… adding all the edited footage he strongly is attached to.
“Also since the National Museum has many spaces, he had to lay out his work in sections. Which makes [the exhibition] also feel more like a narrative of a journey.”
Kawayan says there are a number of reasons his father took on the task of whipping up such a gargantuan show a second time in this new venue. He wanted to share this story to Philippine audiences. He wanted to get the artworks back home from Spain and smoothly past Philippine Customs.
Finally, recreating the show might provide a form of therapy or healing after the heartbreak that was losing his son. Kidlat de Guia passed away in Madrid last March just as the Glass Palace show was coming to an end, a show he also helped put together and contributed to. The National Museum show was also mounted in his honor.
Kawayan says mounting and remounting his father’s “growing body of work” has been a collective effort. Working with family, friends and his community of artists and artisans in Baguio have always been how Kidlat Tahimik preferred to accomplish his work.
Photographs by MM Yu