Set up in April 2020, it invited artists to create works in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, offering £1,000 for the winners to realise their proposals.
De Leon, who won in the ‘Lectures & Courses’ category, has created a work that takes the form of three digital conversations and live-stream performances, in which he invites a series of guest artists, research- ers and cultural activists to undertake a virtual tour of his personal collection of historical artefacts. These are staged from the attic of his home — recently converted into an exhibition space.
Curated by Eva Bentcheva and working in collaboration with Berlin-based artist Pepe Dayaw, culturalanthropologist/activist Tran Thu Trang, and London-based artist Erika Tan, De Leon has drawn together a selection of objects to which they respond. These range from original equipment from the First and Second World Wars collected in Britain and the Philippines, to found objects, tribal artefacts and remnants of artworks, and he’s chosen three core themes directed at each guest respectively.
With Pepe Dayaw, he explores notions of ‘sheltering’, delving into the deeply symbolic and aesthetic nature of interiority, housing and survival. The second is ‘wrapping’ with Trang Thu Trang, which will explore the dynamics of visibility and invisibility which migrants often face. The final is ‘temporalities’ with Erika Tan, which will probe into the importance of coincidental survival of historical objects in shaping the writing of fragmented and layered histories.
Through this project it will reveal how objects reflect histories of exchange, conflict and interdependence between Southeast Asia and Europe. Also, during these attic ‘visits’, De Leon and the collaborating artists will jointly conceive three live-streamed events around the aforementioned themes. This could be anything from the building of a temporary installation in the attic, to spoken commentary, debate, poetry, music or even cooking, and will be shown online over the course of July to September.
The dates are as follows:
• 17 July 2020, 1pm – ‘Sheltering’ with Pepe Dayaw will delve into the deeply symbolic and aesthetic nature of interiority, housing and survival.
• 14 August 2020, 1pm – ‘Wrapping’ with Trang Thu Trang will explore the dynamics of visibility and invisibility which migrants often face.
• 18 September 2020, 1pm – ‘Temporalities’ with Erika Tan will probe into the importance of coincidental survival of historical objects in shaping the writing of fragmented and layered histories.
Microcosmic Orbit will be streamed live via the following link:
Alka Bagri, Trustee, Bagri Foundation, says: ‘I am pleased that we could bring together such a range of experienced creatives for Microcosmic Orbit. I cannot wait for them to explore being at home in the world via a diversity of virtual responses to Noel’s collection in the loft. His artefacts are loaded with historical context and personal memories, and I’m excited to see how each guest responds.’
Chelsea Pettitt, Head of Arts, Bagri Foundation, says: ‘With travel being massively limited, I am particularly excited to see how global creatives can still come together to make new work digitally. Noel’s live performance practice had to be quickly rethought when he could no longer be there in person. We are thrilled to be able to help him execute a long-held ambition to explore histories of exchange, conflict, and interdependence between Southeast Asia and Europe - via his attic!’
About Noel Ed De Leon
De Leon is a visual and performance artist whose practice spans archiving, installation and performance art. His work explores the themes of history and memory, engaging with questions of how historical conflicts, migrations and exchanges may be traced through surviving historical objects. Born in Pangasinan in the Philippines, he moved to Manila and graduated with a degree in architecture. In 2007, he relocated to London with his wife, Leah, along with their three children. A year later, when the recession hit, he began to pursue work as an artist, finding ways to express not only his personal experiences in a global economy, but also his passion for investigating historical traces and resonances across Southeast Asia and Europe.
In 2012, he met Filipino veteran artist, David Medalla (b. 1938), and was subsequently able to participate in the London Biennale — an informal and experimental art network headed up by Medalla. De Leon designed his first site-specific performance, Life As I Know It (2012) on Trafalgar Square using original gas masks from the First and Second World Wars which he had begun to purchase from markets in London. He has since continued to experiment working with historical objects purchased from markets and private collectors in Britain and the Philippines. He most often uses these objects in live performance, combining them with his own body as a means to express lingering connections of war, violence, exploitation and global capitalism within which many Filipino migrant workers often find themselves.
Since 2015 he has been co-director of Batubalani Art Projects – alongside art historian and curator Eva Bentcheva – which is a London-based non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting Filipino modern and contemporary art in academia and curatorial practices. Since relocating to London, he has gathered a large personal collection of historical objects. These are currently housed in his family’s home and are ‘activated’ when he performs. Since 2016, he has been reflecting upon ways to invite others to engage with the col- lection and make new links between his practice. He is particularly interested in collaborations with artists, scholars and curators whose practice addresses the role of archiving in contemporary art and investigate how private and public historical collections produce new insights on the histories of exchange, conflict, destruction and inter-dependency connection Southeast Asia and Europe.