35th Bienal de São Paulo
6 Set to 10 Dec 2023
Free Admission
35th Bienal de
São Paulo
6 Set to 10 Dec
Track 2

Kidlat Tahimik

“Have you ever heard of Igpupiara, the mythological ‘monster’ of Brazil that Pedro Magellan wrote about in 1564?”

With this question, Filipino artist Kidlat Tahimik invites us to immerse ourselves in his installation, entitled Killing us Sotly… with their SPAMS… (Songs, Prayers, Alphabets, Myths, Superheroes…), inspired by the music of Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel.

Tahimik was born in 1942 in Baguio City, Philippines, where he lives to this day. As well as creating large-scale installations, Tahimik is also a renowned independent filmmaker.

In the work presented here, Tahimik summons ancestral mythological entities to confront colonial and imperialist narratives. Alongside Igpupiara, a Tupi term meaning sea monster, the artist also summons Syokoy, a mythical entity, a kind of merman, from the Filipino peoples. In this way, he draws a connection between the mythologies of the indigenous peoples of Brazil and the Philippines. The figures of Igpupiara and Syokoy personify the murder of tribal imaginaries, a deep and relentless cultural genocide that amplifies its tragedy with racial ecocidal capitalism, as Carles Guerra mentions for this Bienal’s catalog. “This is just one chapter in explorer Ferdinand Magellan’s voyage of circumnavigation, in which the invasion opens up space for necropolitics that extends far beyond human beings.”

Kidlat’s monumental installation is approximately 300 square meters and at some points reaches a height of seven meters. Most of the installation is made of wood, but there are also stone sculptures, and all the elements presented are similar in size to the real thing. In the center is a kind of circular village, with a space in the middle. This space is surrounded by indigenous dwellings. Thick tree trunks surround the village and a helicopter hovers above it. About this part of the installation, the artist says the following: “View of God-Ex-Machina Helicopters: primitives protected by a Green Fortress. It is written on the faces of the Indians – their Kultur harmony with their green canopies. As they watch the helicopters above, the isolated tribes of the Amazon intuitively sense that the loud chug-a-chug-chug of the helicopter’s propellers is foretelling the arrival of deafening chainsaws.”

Around this central scene, threats come from all sides. A Trojan horse; a huge caravel, which has a sculpture of a military boat on its tip with soldiers wearing metal helmets and armed with chainsaws; and even a submarine.