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Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan - See/Through

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Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan, See/Through, 2021, fifteen panels callado embroidered piña cloth, dimensions variable. Installation view, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane. Photo: Joe Ruckli.
 

See/Through, a new art installation by artist duo Isabel and Alfredo Aquilizan, debuts at the Institute of Modern Art this spring!



Made in the Philippines, where the couple is currently based, the project investigates the piña cloth; a textile deeply connected to the social and economic history of the Philippines.

 
Preparation for piña weaving, Philippines 2019. Images courtesy of Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan.

Piña cloth is produced by the indigenous Aklanon people, on the northern coast of Panay island. It is created using pineapple fibre from the leaves of the red-pina plant (ananas comosus) and is extremely fine and delicate, with its dexterous weave giving it a luminous quality and shimmering surface lustre.

For See/Through, the Aquilizans collaborated with Aklanon weavers to produce large bolts of this labour-intense material. The fabric was then embroidered in the calado-style, a technique local to Lamban, where the Aquilizan's studio is based.

This embellishment tells the story of pineapple fibre; tracing its journey from plant to garment alongside the cultural history embodied in the textile.

Preparation for piña weaving, Philippines 2019. Images courtesy of Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan.
 

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, this intricate and luxurious white-on-white textile became synonymous with the Philippines globally and was highly sought-after among the upper echelons of European society for handkerchiefs, petticoats, and christening gowns.

Locally in the Philippines, the piña has been used to make 'barong tagalog' and 'baro't saya', customary garments, now worn by men and women respectively on formal or important occasions.



Preparation for piña weaving, Philippines 2019. Images courtesy of Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan.
 

The process of creating the textile is painstaking, detailed, and extremely difficult to mechanise. The fibres are fragile and snap easily, so work needs to be gentle and often strands need to be painstakingly reknotted.

 The Philippines Folklife Museum details the labour involved in this process: "It usually takes 15 to 20 days to warp enough yarns to complete a 'sucod' of 18 to 20 'bucos' or 54 to 60 metres of cloth…"

See/Through is a celebration of piña as an object of beauty, a product of masterful indigenous knowledge and skill, and a vessel for conveying complex and contested histories of place.

Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan, See/Through, 2021, fifteen panels callado embroidered piña cloth, dimensions variable. Installation view, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane. Photo: Joe Ruckli.
 

Embroidered into the surface of the textiles in the exhibition are symbols and a narrative timeline that traces the history of piña and the pineapple in the Philippines and across the globe.

Isabel and Alfredo Aquilizan use See/Through to present their deep research of this remarkable fabric and honour their ongoing collaboration with the Aklanon weavers, all the while unravelling piña cloth and the potent histories it holds.

Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan, See/Through, 2021, fifteen panels callado embroidered piña cloth, dimensions variable. Installation view, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane. Photo: Joe Ruckli.
 

See/Through is now open at the Institute of Modern Art, Judith Wright Arts Centre. Visiting hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 10am-5pm. Entry is FREE.

In addition to the exhibition is a Panel Discussion - 'Emerging artists and diasporic spaces' - find out more here.

For more information on the exhibition and to plan your visit, please see:

  • https://ima.org.au/exhibitions/alfredo-and-isabel-aquilizan

  • www.facebook.com/InstituteOfModernArt

  • www.instagram.com/ima_brisbane

    #IMAbrisbane

    Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan, See/Through, 2021, fifteen panels callado embroidered piña cloth, dimensions variable. Installation view, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane. Photo: Joe Ruckli.
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    When: 9 October-18 December 2021
    Where: Institute of Modern Art, Judith Wright Arts Centre, 420 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley QLD
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