David Medalla's Iconic Bubble Machine Is Officially on Display for Public Viewing
It's not every day you get to stumble upon legendary artwork in a corporate building, especially when that piece was created by a world-renowned Filipino artist. Last Saturday, August 31, the BDO Corporate Center gave a certain bubble machine a new home. This piece just happens to be one of David Medalla's famous artworks from his "Cloud Canyons" series, which was first created in 1963.
Based on the photos from the weekend happening, many people praised the artwork and of course, the artist himself. David Medalla seemed to have enjoyed every bit of the viewing ceremony that BDO had prepared for him and his glorious piece.
Before finding its way into the building, “Cloud Canyons no. 31” once belonged in S/2, a gallery space in London that operates under Sotheby's. According to the official website, the piece is made of Plexiglas tubes, wood, fiberglass, water, soap, and oxygenators. Prior to S/2 though, the item was exhibited at the 14th Biennale de Lyon from 2017-2018, and The Hepworth Wakefield from 2016-2017.
The artwork was inspired by Medalla's string of childhood memories that seemed to be unified by one motif: clouds and bubbles. One strong memory was when he was three years old. One Easter morning, the Medallas had heard gunshots and shouting. At dawn, they went outside and found a guerilla fighter struggling to stay alive until he finally took his last breath. The young Medalla saw blood bubbling out of the guerilla’s mouth. He thought he was just sleeping.
Other recurring memories: his mother’s ginataan with “bubbling” tapioca pearl and glutinous rice balls; peering at the bubbly, frothy waves from below a propeller plane; clouds delicately blanketing the tops of New York skyscrapers.
“Unlike most machine art which is repetitious, mine is organic, unpredictable…” Medalla shared with Esquire earlier this year. The Bubble Machine was the first of other kinetic artworks that the artist created. Others included the Mud Machine (which painted using mud), the Sand Machine (which raked circles in the sand), and the bio-thermal Mohole Flower (it opened and closed based on the temperature).
The artwork was seen as the first of its kind, and it earned Medalla a nomination for the inaugural Hepworth Prize for Contemporary British Sculpture in 2016. It’s no wonder the Filipino artist is seen as the pioneer in kinetic, performance, and participation art (his Art Fair 2019 piece invited people to stitch up something they love).
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Medalla's life could be described as nomadic, what with his various adventures not only in London but in Europe and the U.S. as well. As a child, he amazed others with his intellect, having translated Shakespeare to Tagalog at age eight, and attending Columbia University at age 12. As an artist, he strove to channel his creative energies for the love of his motherland and was even considered a rebel during the martial law era after expressing his opposition against the Cultural Center of the Philippines. After setting foot overseas, Medalla made an indelible mark on the art world and gained friends everywhere, leaving behind the impression that Filipino art is nothing short of groundbreaking.
Now, the stories behind “Cloud Canyons No. 31” and that of Medalla's life can be witnessed by anyone, if only at a glance, through the majestic white machine guzzling out frothy bubbles with a mind of its own.