Piña, Why is the Sky Blue?

Stephanie Comilang and Simon Speiser

 

Curated by Heather Canlas Rigg

 

September 9 - November 5, 2022

Opening reception: Thursday, September 8, 6-8pm, artist walkthrough at 6:30pm 

 

Stephanie Comilang and Simon Speiser’s Piña, Why is the Sky Blue? brings us into near and distant futures, where internet, gaming and camera technologies have been re-routed to create a spiritual guide steeped in matrilineal knowledge. The exhibition is one part speculative documentary, and one part Virtual Reality. Together they tell the story of Piña, a babaylan–Filipino shaman–of sorts, who lives in the future and whose consciousness is formed through modes of transmission akin to Artificial Intelligence systems. Messengers from various realms and places around the world use digitally altered pineapple fabric to upload their dreams, desires, and inherited knowledge to Piña, who exists to receive, care for, and disseminate the shared information for its continued preservation. 

 

The documentary is rooted in Ecuador and the Philippines, two places where the effects of Spanish colonization continue, and where the artists have familial ties. Throughout the video we meet three sets of messengers–Kankwana Canelos and Rupay Gualinga, Janet Dolera and Alba Pavon–who share insights into their lives. In doing so, they point to the ongoing challenges faced by the conquistador’s violent erasure and oppression of Indigenous communities and ways of life. The artists ask: how can familial, pre-colonial knowledge survive into the present and future? 

 

Viewers intimately enter Piña’s realm in the VR component of the exhibition, watching as the deity carries out everyday activities and as they locate and receive the digital weavings sent to them. They swipe through, download and process the material. The fabric acts as sustenance for Piña, and connects their realm with messengers in other futures and worlds, including our own through the inclusion of the textiles within the exhibition. Through the imagining of Piña, Comilang and Speiser consider how embodied, pre-colonial knowledge can survive through the use of an empathetic spiritual and digital vessel that can hold, back up, and share our mother’s, and our mother’s mother’s experiences, in this life and the next. 

Biographies 

Stephanie Comilang is an artist living and working between Toronto and Berlin. Her documentary based works create narratives that look at how our understandings of mobility, capital and labour on a global scale are shaped through various cultural and social factors. Her work has been shown at Transmediale Berlin, Ghost : 2561 Bangkok Video & Performance Triennale, Hamburger Bahnhof, Tai Kwun Hong Kong, International Film Festival Rotterdam, and Asia Art Archive in America, New York. She was awarded the 2019 Sobey Art Award, Canada’s most prestigious art prize for artists 40 years and younger.

Simon Speiser is an artist who conjures fictional concepts that merge nature with technology. Placing a variety of media and disciplines in dialogue with one another—ranging from writing, sculpture, and printing to video and VR installations—Speiser’s work expands the possibilities between art and science fiction. He has exhibited at the Frankfurter Kunstverein, MMK Frankfurt, CAC Quito, Oracle Berlin, Croy Nielsen, MMCA Seoul, and Robert Grunenberg Berlin, among others. 

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Stephanie Comilang and Simon Speiser, Piña, Why is the Sky Blue?, virtual reality still, 16mins, 2021. Courtesy of the artists.