Megan Wilson
About the Artist > Galleon Trade Blog Posts

Work Exhibited In Manila
all photographs by Jenifer K. Wofford

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Enrique Chagoya and Rick Godinez exhibited at Mag:net The Fort.

Michael Arcega, Reanne Estrada, Stephanie Syjuco, Megan Wilson, and Christine Wong Yap exhibited at Green Papaya Art Space.

Eliza Barrios, Jaime Cortez, Julio Cesar Morales, Rick Godinez, Gina Oserloh, and Johanna Poethig exhibited at Mag:net Katipunan.

Michael Arcega created two works while in Manila: 1) A small sculptural island out of the leaves from a local recreational plant; he titled the piece “Fantasy Island.” The reference and metaphor brought to mind Western stereotypes associated “island culture” and faraway places that have been heard of, yet never seen. 2) A set of counterfeit diplomas for a Ph.D. in Fine Art from the University of the Philippines, awarded to each of the artists exhibiting with Arcega at Green Papaya. The “honorable” degrees speak to the global “underground” black market community that creates and supplies the world with anything they/we want for affordable prices.

Eliza O. Barrios created an elegant, poignant, and dizzying site-specific installation in the bathroom, or comfort room (CR) as it's called in the Philippines at Mag:net Katipunan. Against stark white walls, graphite text scripted in reverse arced across the walls and ceilings in Tagalog, English, and Spanish with phrases “do you need what you want” “is power truly at your fingertips.” Several strategically placed mirrors reflected the words back at the viewer.

Been working with the 'reflection...' series for about 10+ years. I've always been curious about why people are the way they are - essentially how their 'internal belief system' is shaped and formed. The 'reflection...' series is a catalytic device for self-reflection (literally and metaphorically). The series asks questions that are open ended, that can or cannot be answered and take on a different meaning each time one encounters the piece.

Enrique Chagoya was unable to travel to Manila, however he contributed a long horizontal drawing that was exhibited at Mag:net The Fort. The work represented Chagoya's classic signature “chronicle of cultural change with imagery pulled from both art history and cartoons.”

Jaime Cortez drew from the traditional galleon treks and contemporary culture. In a video installation, a woman's body floats amidst a seascape overlaid on the screen with drawings of galleon ships and treasure chests.

The piece is a modified "Magical Seascape," those funny light boxes you'll see at the end of the aisles near the cash registers at Walgreens.  They're the ones with an undersea image and in front of it there is a modified scrolling plastic film with fishies that swim across the screen in perpetuity.

My photographic image is exploring the poor immigrant body as a kind of treasure ship.  What is it loaded with?  Who put all those things in that vessel?  Does it ever come back? 

The magical seascape is an object that is a wonderfully emblematic object of contemporary globalized consumer culture. It is completely frivolous.  It has to be on the end of the aisles in a high-visibility place because no one ever thinks: "gee, I could really use a magical seascape."  It is made, of course, in China, one of the engines of the original galleon trade, and one of the engines of trade today. 

Reanne Estrada installed a beautiful, yet creepy explosion of loops, spikes, and cones made out of meticulously layered packaging tape against a charcoal black wall. Estrada has been working with this medium for the past seven years. The work references the tracings of time and place through the marks left by her fingerprints on the tape. “Estrada aspires to create work that is meant to be unstable. Best described as process –intensive, the pieces harbor fluctuating identities and a conspicuous self-destructive streak.”

Richard Godinez, who also could not make the trip to Manila, contributed several drawings and a painting on unstretched canvas. The highly graphic works were intense and powerful, leaving viewers to question the impact of the U.S. on global social, political, and economic justice.

In my work generally, I've always gravitated intuitively to issues well beyond my own personal experiences. Perhaps because I did grow up in a suburb, as I matured as a person and a painter I became increasing interested in issues and concerns that went beyond not only my personal experience, but beyond the perspective of the United States and even the West. One thing that really bothers me about the contemporary art world is that it so often tends to universalize it's own interests, preoccupations, and world view--presenting them as representative of the much larger world which the "Third world" comprises. So I've done a good deal of work that addresses the great chasm between the affluence, power, and technological prowess of the “West” and the poverty, subordination, and backwardness of the “Third World.”  Also about issues of resistance and ongoing oppression such as in Palestine, or right here with the continued disenfranchisement of Native peoples.

I hope what they [viewers in Manila] came away with after seeing my work, was a sense that there are Pinoys here in the states who *ARE NOT* oblivious or complacent in their world views, but are mindful of the relative affluence and privilege we enjoy here as citizens of the “First World” and are trying to share their concerns with others.  I hope that's a message that inspires and builds connections between our communities.

Julio Cesar Morales also had a schedule conflict and could not travel to Manila; however, he collaborated with David Goldberg to produce a video and vinyl installation about how colonized cultures create their own informal economies in order to survive and by utilizing "left overs" from 1st world equipment and materials.

Tactics of Reassembly uses digital media and algorithms to represent the way in which the street vendor's cart actually functions as a mechanism for recycling materials (or trash) found in the streets of Tijuana. Based on the visual abstraction of various photographs and sounds of street vendors staged against a typical tijuana landscape, this work literally explodes the carts into their components and, based on an algorithm, allows them to “find their way” to completion. every sequence is different as the parts are randomly distributed, scaled, and rotated—reflecting the processes that reduced them to their components in the first place.

Gina Osterloh presented two large photographs: one of a woman dressed in a suit with her back to the viewer, kneeling on what appear to be Mexican blankets and bowing to a paper backdrop of tropical sunset; the other the same anonymous woman lying on top of someone wearing army fatigues against the same backdrop.

I selected the photographs exhibited in Galleon Trade at Magnet Gallery because it represented much of my relationship to the Philippines, as well as Los Angeles where I live. In both Manila and Los Angeles, I have experienced the most beautiful sunsets, the ones where it's almost an out of body experience, or at least for a fleeting moment, it seems as if the boundaries of self and the body are porous with this red orange glow that encompasses you. In both places, the beautiful sunset was created by pollution, in a way, a fake backdrop. Both Manila and Los Angeles are also both experienced via projections or genericized fictions, but also lived truths, through film, war, and love.  In my photograph "Collapse", a female body makes love to or crushes a soldier in camouflage. In "Rapture", the same body gives praise or surrenders to the backdrop of a tropical sunset.

Johanna Poethig's “Factura Jurada” installation provided a thoughtful contemporary vision of the historical Galleon Trade and its relationship to Globalization today:

Throughout most of the history of the Galleon Trade the shipper's own sworn statement--the factura jurada --was accepted without question as a declaration of the contents of the respective pack-age. The only alternative was of course the actual examination of the interior of the bale or chest. The most hated name in the history of the commerce was that of Pedro de Quiroga, who opened packages indiscriminately in 1636, thereby violating tradition and the gentlemen's understanding, that were the guiding principles of the commerce after the early traders had established the rule of illegality.

This installation rifts conceptually and visually on the Galleon Trade history and its relationship to today's Global Trade.  The collection of small wood circles and ovals that float like islands within a silk ocean are painted with my own list of contents. There are slot machine images of the galleon gamble, maggots in the food of Global Trade Risk, hemp, blood, pearls and the small indigenous dove, the Luzon Bleeding Heart. The "Waiting for my Ship to come in Pedicure" has the animal symbols of China, California, Spain and Mexico caught in between the toes of human vanity and desire. Hybrid Madonna and China Poblana are trapped in Coca Cola bottles floating on a sea of colonial cultures. Three paintings called OFW (Overseas Filipino Workers) are resigned, hopeful and drowning. "Conquistador" mixes painted newspaper clippings of the recent WTO demonstration in Hong Kong with old drawings of babies being fed to dogs by conquistadors. The paintings Traffick and JUNK, words originating in the first global trade, still have multiple meanings today. We are all caught in traffic and junkies for junk.

Stephanie Syjuco's exhibited her “ Counterfeit Crochet Handbag Project,” a collection of hand knit knockoffs of designer bags and accessories. The counterfeits were by far more appealing, creative, and better crafted than their “originals.”

I created a website soliciting crocheters to join me in hand-counterfeiting designer handbags: Fendi, Gucci, Chanel, Prada, etc. Participants troll the internet and choose a design that they particularly covet, working off of low-resolution jpgs which they download. The final results may or may not bear resemblance to the originals, which also interests me.

The resulting "translations" are both homages and lumpy mutations. Crochet is considered a lowly medium, and the limitations imposed by trying to create detail with yarn takes advantage of the individual maker's ingenuity and problem-solving skills.

I am also interested in how this project can be similar to contemporary manufacturing and distribution channels. As a collaboration it parallels the idea of "outsourcing" labor, but also adds a democratic and perhaps anarchic level of creativity--within the basic framework, participants have taken liberties with their translations, changing colors, adding materials (cardboard, hot glue, etc.) to suit their needs.

Makers are encouraged to keep and wear their bags, in an attempt to insert strange variants into the stream of commerce and consumption. I ask for people to send me snapshots of their items to share with others.

This is an ongoing global project, with makers in from all over the world. I am always seeking more collaborators, so please contact me to join up.

Megan Wilson: Of the eleven artists included in Galleon Trade I, I was the only white, non-Filipino American (or Mexican American) artist. However, while my connection to the Philippines has not been one of a direct nature, indirectly I have been working with San Francisco's Filipino community in the South of Market district for the past 8 years as a supporter through my work with the South of Market Community Action Network (SOMCAN) and Oasis for Girls. Closer to home, I could relate at a very universal core level with the Philippines, as a country of people who have had to struggle and with many who live in conditions of poverty. I was forced to move out on my own when I was 16 years old. I moved into an unfinished concrete basement that had little light and also acted as the laundry room for the owner of the house. My living space was an area of approximately 10' x 10'; I had an area rug, a bed, and a dresser. To support myself, I worked at Burger King 30 hours/week, while also attending high school. I went on to work a myriad of low-paying menial labor jobs (working in the laundry room in the basement of a hotel, as a janitor, in a wood finishing plant, as a landscaper, waitress, bartender, retail, and counter person at a bakery) to help put myself through college.

Drawing on these experiences and thinking about labor practices, I hired 4 painters to create signs that said "Produced by [their name] for Megan Wilson. The only stipulations were that they would paint this phrase of origin on each sign, create a flower design (Marina used a combination of my flower designs and hers), and use the color palette I had selected. I paid each of them a living wage for their work, rather than minimum wage or what I "could get."

During the opening, Ramie (Apeed), Jose (Boy), and I painted throughout the event. Through this project, I was interested in bringing visibility to the workers behind the labor/objects they produce and paying them a living wage for that work.

Christine Wong Yap's “Regalos” project arrived in the form of a literally sparkling balikbayan box filled with possibilities, or perhaps empty promises.

I knew I wanted to work with three ideas:

--The balikbayan box (which maybe stems back to my experience at the market, where we sold a lot of them). "Balikbayan" is Tagolog for "going home", which can refer to overseas workers returning to the motherland or the cardboard boxes in standardized sizes that they bring home loaded with gifts.

--The idea of overseas workers. As Jenifer Wofford says, the Philippines' biggest export is labor; 10% of its population lives overseas, in places such as the US or the Middle East.

--The idea of absent presents, an ongoing motif in my work in which I am trying to think through how a work of art mediates a relationship between artist and viewer, and if the relationship can be thought of as a social bond formed by a gift exchange.

Basically I bought two Balikbayan boxes in the SoMa, sealed them up with only a little cardboard armature (so they don't get totally flattened), and covered them with glitter in a bow-and-ribbon design. Then they were wrapped in thin plastic sheeting, so that in transit, the glitter would erode and fall out, leaving a trail, ostensibly, across the Pacific, like bread crumbs marking the way home. I thought a lot about the entropy of distance, or the idea that a giver's intention is not the same as the material that a receiver desires, analogously to the intention and material in artmaking. I really liked what scholar Eric Reyes said -- the work is not so much site-specific, as much as transit-specific, in that it attempts to record the marks of transit. 

In their re-entry to the US, they recorded a much more rigorous process of inspection, and I'm happy to see the Regalos project enter a second phase, which will be exhibited at the Euphrat Museum of Art in Cupertino, CA.

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