Ungkat•Shell Games

The Luggage Store Gallery
1007 Market Street, San Francisco,

Solo Show:
December 10, 2022 – January 28, 2023

Ungkat means to recall in Tagalog.   Most Shell Games are a confidence trick, a conjuring where legitimacy is always in question. Informed and inspired by Poethig’s formative years in the Philippines, identity, memory, perspective, views of empire, legitimacy and connection weave through this body of work. Poethig, is a visual, public and performance artist with a legacy and expanding body of work that bridges diverse communities through murals, public art projects, exhibitions and collaborations in the Bay Area, nationally and internationally. Featured work includes:

Sungkaan (Sungka) a popular Philippine shell game, is one of the oldest games in the world. Interpreted as a coffin it becomes an instrument activated by two players dropping shells made of glazed porcelain into wood bowls. The concept of the sungka coffin which combines play, the sound of counting and an object of death and mourning was inspired by the funerals held by the families of victims of Duterte’s drug war killing spree who unable to afford to bury their loved ones hold gambling nights to raise money. When it is played it becomes a “Lamay” (wake), counting the shells like prayer beads, a meditation or just a game. The Sungkaan resonances are amplified by composer Anne Perez with interactive electronics, compilation of recorded audio and live vocals in the composition “Tághoy, taghóy, tag: Hoy!!”, a whistling of the wind, a lamentation and a social commentary.

Acrylic on wood, 2022
This painting is inspired by Mount Pinatubo, the notorious volcanic eruption on June 15, 1991.  This was the second-largest terrestrial eruption of the 20th century. Complicating the eruption was the arrival of Typhoon Yunya which brought a lethal mix of ash and rain to towns and cities surrounding the volcano. The effects of the 1991 eruption were felt worldwide with Global temperatures dropping over the next 2 years. It ejected more particulate into the stratosphere than any eruption since Krakatoa in 1883. With US Clark Airforce base covered in ash it was the final step to closing American bases in the Philippines.

acrylic on canvas, 2022
Threat and beauty entangle in this painting. The Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia make up the Coral Triangle in Southeast Asia. Coral reefs have experienced mass bleaching which threatens to degrade the important ecosystems that support biodiversity, food security and livelihood. The use of tires meant to create new reefs end up breaking down and becoming toxic adding to the disaster facing the coral colonies of the Philippine seas.

Porcelain, variable sizes, 2022
This series of drawings on porcelain shaped as corrugated roofs blown off by typhoons is based on family photos from work, school, vacations and friends of life in the Philippines taken during 1957 – !972.  These are drawings of the moments that make up memory, reshaped and reconsidered by the artist’s hand and sealed in the heat of vitrification.

Printed fabric, 2022
Texts woven into patterns based on traditional weavings from the Philippines become cryptic messages about death, life and the politics of authoritarianism, colonization, imperial war, necropower and quest for a vision of different world.  These two Text-tiles integrate excerpts from The Sovereign Trickster by Vicente L. Rafael and Remaindered Life by Neferti X. M. Tadiar.

White Rabbit on the Road to Baquio
Acrylic on canvas, 2022
On a road stop along the steep mountain pass to Baguio City I ask for candy from an unwilling Ifugao girl. The classic White Rabbit candy, the preferred sugar addiction that crosses generations and cultures and the ancient bronze amulet of the Ifugao float in the visual stream of this childhood encounter.

Mixed media in coke bottles, 1994
Collected on a family trip back to the Philippines these bottles hold consciousness, prescriptions, pills, postcards, newspaper clippings, photos, sand, flies, fears, hopes, joys, magic and memories in a powerful mix that make it an Anting-anting, a charm, an amulet

Archival prints and poker cards, 2022
The Tasaday Hoax, Colonial Botany and Imelda Marcos’ thievery of a nation, come together in this print and pack of playing cards inspired by the article TOAD LILY: Tricyrtis imeldae by Kathleen Cruz Gutierrez. The Tasaday hoax unfolded during my teenage years with tales of what was happening in real time. Today as the Marcos political dynasty revises history this plant species takes new form in this post truth world.

Miss Sub-Colonial
Acrylic and oil on wood 2008
From the WASAK series this iconic painting was originally exhibited in 2008 at YBCA  Galleon Trade: Bay Area Now 5 Edition in a collaborative installation with Norberto Roldan. This work examines the post-colonial ironies of the Philippines, its relationship to the US layered in images, icons and the transmutations of language.