Yesterday, In The Years 1886 and 2017
Artspeak, Vancouver
10 June – 29 July 2017

“Sunburned flesh
We enter a new space
I clip into the vestibule and right away
I am ash baked
These storybook villas still dream behind shutters
Their balconies fine as handmade lace
I am the colour of burnt pineapple, lemon, mango”

Yesterday, In The Years 1886 and 2017 is a two-channel video projection installation. The two protagonists José Rizal and Lourdes Lareza Müller occupy a channel each; projected adjacent to one another, they inhabit the same space while remaining distinctly separate. José Rizal (1861-1896) was a Filipino nationalist, considered a national hero for his advocacy and thinking that led to the Philippine revolution against Spanish rule. While he worked as an ophthalmologist he was well known for his literary works. While living in Berlin he completed his book Noli Me Tángere (Touch Me Not) in 1887, a book that many have credited for its proposition of nationalism and resistance to Spanish colonial rule through its formulation of the idea of an ‘imagined community’ (1) in the Philippines. Lourdes Lareza Müller is the other protagonist in Yesterday, In The Years 1886 and 2017. Having migrated to Germany in 1968, she worked as an archivist at one of Europe’s largest libraries, Berlin’s Staatsbibliotek, for 28 years.

The thread that ties these two figures is their life in Berlin, away from the Philippines. The disembodied feminine voice remains unidentified throughout but narrates from a distant future. She hovers and is distinctly non-human and speaks of inhabiting both Rizal and Lareza Müller in human form. Positioned as a third protagonist, she speaks of a connectedness through adaptation, bodies as archives, and entangled narratives of possible futurities. While this film speaks to a specific place and particular people, the role of the disembodied narrator, casts a wider net of questions around mobility, a rearrangement of geographic concepts of centre/periphery, and the disruption of historical linearity and continuity.

(1). The concept of ‘Imagined communities’ was coined by Benedict Anderson.

Music by NaEE RoBErts and Elysia Crampton.
Text by Danelle Ortiz.

Photos by Artspeak.