Madrid's Glass Palace and the Philippines have a history, and Kidlat Tahimik is addressing it in a major way this month. The National Artist for Film just unveiled a major exhibition at the famous Palacio de Cristal del Retiro, or The Glass Palace, the almost all-glass structure inside the UNESCO World Heritage Site, El Retiro Park.
Tahimik’s large-scale installation work was created specifically for the location. The largely glass structure was built in 1887 to serve as a greenhouse/venue to showcase flora and fauna from the Philippines, back when we were still a colony of Spain. Apart from tropical plants from our islands, that show, called Exposición General de Las Islas Filipinas, famously exoticized other facets of our way of life and culture—in the form of artifacts and, yes, our people, specifically the Igorots who were told to act as if they were in their native village. This human zoo would reportedly enrage Rizal, who was then in Madrid.
Set against this historical background, Tahimik has woven an epic three-part visual narrative in the form of sculptural ensembles. Together, they tell the history of colonialism in the Philippines, from the time the Spanish first stepped foot on our shores to the 1887 “human zoo” exhibition up to present day cultural imperialism. The show, which runs up to March 2022, is called “Magellan, Marilyn, Mickey and Fray Damaso: 500 Years of Rock Star Conquerors.”
Apart from the sculptural installation, the Museo Reina Sofia is also presenting Tahimik’s latest film Balikbayan #1: Memories of Overdevelopment Redux IV, which is described in the museum website as “a new edit of a project spanning thirty years on the circumnavigation of the Earth and Western accounts of the ‘discovery’ of the New World.” There will also be a film-making workshop with Tahimik and Sally Gutierrez from November 2 to 6.
[Photos by Kidlat De Guia]