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Muntadas: Exercises on past and present memories
This exhibition was conceived when the Ateneo Art Gallery in Manila invited Muntadas to present a new project in its halls. After a preliminary phase of research, Muntadas went on to produce contemporary versions of some of the commercial goods transported by the Manila Galleons along the new trans-Pacific route discovered by Magellan’s expedition.
Spices, silks, porcelain and tapestries, among other products, were loaded on the Manila Galleons and sent to Acapulco. In the opposite direction, missionaries, government officials, merchants and soldiers, silver and plant species made their way to Manila. Muntadas selected three of these commodities —Manila shawls, coins and porcelain—and reworked them to revisit historical events, question celebrated milestones or decipher cultural traits which, though often portrayed as quintessentially Spanish, are actually a product of interaction and hybridization, colonial policies, exiles and, in many cases, violence or exploitation.
The shawls were embroidered in the Philippines, specifically in Pampanga, with historical and contemporary images that draw a connection betweenmemory and the present. The ceramic wares manufactured at the factory of La Cartuja depict botanical drawings of invasive plant species brought to the archipelago from the Americas, reminding us of the colonial practice of taxonomy. The medallions made by precious metalworkers in Seville pay tribute to new contemporary heroes, such as the vast community of Filipino workers living abroad.
These new productions are accompanied by a selection of Muntadas’s previous works that illustrate his methodologies, his exploration of the idea of travel and displacement, and his particular focus on context, which the artist sees not only as the setting of his works but also as the space from which they emerge, for which they are created and with which they interact.