Text by Lisa Ito
Cian Dayrit’s show at Tin-aw Art Gallery creates playful conjectures on folk festivities, while also critiquing the present world order.
Cian Dayrit’s art practice has continually drawn from the complex interface between the colonial encounter, local ethnography, and strategies of display. Exploring pictorial tropes from fictive archaeology to folk millenarianism, Dayrit reveals a willingness to embrace these diverse encounters with local history and transform these into materials for the critique of empire.
This recent one-man exhibition, titled Spectacles of the Third World, revolves around the ubiquitous Philippine fiesta as an appropriated environment. Introduced and popularized during the period of Hispanic colonisation in the archipelago, these annual celebratory feast days are capped by bountiful and generous folk festivities, the wielding of visual and performative attraction-strategies aimed at the local populace, and the conduct of rituals addressed to patron saints: all collective gestures of patronage and power, obeisance and desire.
In this exhibition, Dayrit employs several modes of display and representation. He produces a roomful of installation and intermedia works revolving around several motifs within the Philippine fiesta: the grand gesture of thanksgiving and largesse signified by the feast table, overflowing with food; the decorative banderitas or flaglets that delineate the boundaries of town festivities; the atmosphere of gaiety conjured by the multi-sensory onslaught of confetti, music and folk games.
Yet fiestas also harbour a dual nature. They can be seen as a cultural instrument making stable and natural the colonial project but also, conversely, as a phenomenon capable of undermining its rule. Encountered as a suite of spectacles, Dayrit’s various installations stand as parodies of the current socio-political and cultural ills of the nation. Positioned as the locus of the exhibition is the feast table, laden with faux food. Titled “Flavors of our Culture and Heritage,” it parodies as a gustatory spectacle numerous linguistic and cultural references to the decay of contemporary society: the wheel of torture as a platter, crabs and crocodiles as main dishes of a grim repast.
Read the full article in Art+ issue 38
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