Fabulous Exploits of the Far East presents four series of works that reflect and respond to the legacies of colonialism and the current semi-feudal and semi-colonial state of the Philippines.
Archetypes of the Semi-Colony (2017), a collaboration with Bellas Artes Projects, is a series of sculptures in the form of outsized wooden masks. Conceived both as a form of storytelling and an emblem of protection, each mask reflects upon an issue facing the indigenous Aeta in Bataan, who have been subjected to violent landgrabs that have stripped them of their homes, livelihoods, and ancestral ties. Each sculpture personifies episodes and chapters of the colonial history of this region.
A series of assemblages entitled Terra Rationarium (2018) examines systemic oppression on a more personal and intimate scale. Shaped like houses, these objects reconfigure microscopic life-worlds into theatrical depictions of cruelty (ranging from highly local to supranational) bound together by exploitative practices of hegemonic neo-imperial powers like mineral extraction, monocrop agriculture, cheap labor, militarization, and the market of surplus. Each assemblage encapsulates different forms of slavery, which according to geographer Jason Moore are “internal and external frontiers that snake their ways into our web of life.”
In the series Insidious Imperial Insignia (2020), Dayrit adopts a practice of counter cartography to revise historical and political narratives. A collage of colonial maps forms the background of these works, which bear painted seals that reference military bodies such as the Philippine Military Academy, Armed Forces, and Navy.
Natural Histories of Struggle (2021), made in collaboration with RJ Fernandez and Henry Caceres, comprises seven new textile works that draw upon the archive of American zoologist and colonial administrator Dean Conant Worcester. Worcester’s photographs are printed upon textiles and embroidered with texts, emblems, and adornments, thereby opening up the original archival photographs as an arena to reframe power-relationships and inscribe counter narratives within the colonial history of the Philippines.
Opening: June 6, 2021 2:00 am