AHIW: Microcosmic Orbit by Noel Ed De Leon with Tran Thu Trang
Photo: Noel Ed De Leon, Tran Thu Trang, Eva Bentcheva, Microcosmic Orbit: Wrapping, August 2020
Bagri Foundation presents the second of three live-streamed conversations as part of Microscosmic Orbit by Noel Ed De Leon, winner of the Lectures & Courses category for our At Home in the World Open Call. It features guest anthropologist/activist Tran Thu Trang who explores ‘wrapping’ and its relationship to visibility and invisibility in migration.
In the second performance of the series ‘Microcosmic Orbit’, Noel Ed De Leon and Berlin-based cultural activist and anthropologist, Tran Thu Trang, respond to the theme of ‘wrapping’. Their collaboration explores how this mundane of act – a basic measure for safeguarding and transporting objects – also serves as a fascinating metaphor for generational differences and struggles for visibility. They transport viewers between de Leon’s attic in London and Tran’s parents’ home in northeast Berlin where a curious parallel emerges; Tran’s father too shares a passion for collecting antique objects purchased in Berlin. Similar to de Leon’s collection spanning the UK and the Philippines, he sends these back to Vietnam as objects of curiosity and value. Speaking amidst her father’s possessions, Tran ‘wraps’ personal reflections and her family’s narratives into a visual conversation with de Leon’s collection.
De Leon says: Wrapping can be an act or a representation of protest, rebellion or tortured physical condition, it suggest a nature of tragic trauma or a historical triumph of victory, signalling for defeat or heroic death.
Curated by Eva Bentcheva, this project activates De Leon’s attic into a ‘microcosmic orbit’ of exchange. He invites guests into his attic virtually to connect its contents and respond via their own work around “being at home in world” and being “multi-positioned” across Southeast Asia, the UK and Germany. Since 2012, De Leon has sought to build conversations and collaborations with artists, art historians and curators across Britain, Germany, Holland, France and the Philippines who share an interest in invisible histories connecting Europe and Asia. As there is a wide range of objects in his collection – from original equipment from the First and Second World Wars collected in Britain and the Philippines, to found objects, tribal artefacts and remnants of artworks – De Leon made a selection of objects around three core themes.
He invites ‘inside’ a series of guests who are also culturally active in the Southeast Asian communities across Europe and whose work engages with diaspora, migration, and archiving. The second guest in the series is anthropologist/activist Tran Thu Trang, who discusses ‘wrapping’ and explore the dynamics of visibility and invisibility which migrants often face. Our final guest will be London-based artist Erika Tan who will be discussing ‘temporalities’ on 18 September.
To find out more, read Bentcheva’s interview with De Leon on our Stories page.
Noel Ed De Leon is a visual and performance artist whose practice spans archiving, installation and live art. His work explores the themes of history and memory, engaging with questions of how historical conflicts, migrations and exchanges may be traced through surviving historical objects. His installations and performances have been featured in the group exhibitions Corpografias (2016) at the A-Side B-Side Gallery in London, Should the World Break In (2017) at the Fundación Joan Miró in Barcelona, M.A.P. Archiving Asia (2017) at the Live Art Development Agency in London, UnAuthorised Medium! (2018) at Framer Framed in Amsterdam, Archives in Residence: Southeast Asia Performance Collection (2019) at the Haus der Kunst in Munich Germany. His practice was also the subject of two major solo exhibitions Tokens of a Time Gone By: Reanimating History as Art (2014) curated by Eva Bentcheva at the Philippine Embassy of London and 1,976 Objects (2019) curated by Patrick Flores at the Jorge B. Vargas Museum in Manila. Since 2015, Noel has co-directed Batubalani Art Projects with Eva Bentcheva, a non-profit organisation working to promote Philippine art across museums and universities in Europe.
Tran Thu Trang studied social and cultural anthropology at Freie Universität Berlin. Her practice oscillates between cultural work and grass root political activism. Since 2013 she has been part of the Berlin Asian Film Network, a platform for Asian diasporic (and beyond) filmmakers and artists. Since 2017, Tran has been an pro bono board member of the Migrationsrat Berlin e.V. Between 2016 and 2017 she was a member of the free theatre network cobratheater.cobra, part of the project Haus der Digitalen Jugend (House of Digital Youth), funded by Doppelpassfonds. She is currently in the co-founding process of the intersectional feminist NGO Connected Differences.
Eva Bentcheva is an art historian and curator. She holds a PhD in Art History from SOAS, University of London. Her research focuses on transnational performance and conceptual art practices, particularly connecting Asia and Europe. Together with Noel Ed De Leon, she is co-director of Batubalani Art Projects, working to promote Philippine art in curatorial practices and academia in Britain and Germany. She has held research and curatorial fellowships at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art in London, and was the Goethe-Institut Postdoctoral Fellow at Haus der Kunst in Munich. In 2019, she co-curated the exhibition ‘Archives in Residence: Southeast Asia Performance Collection’ with Annie Jael Kwan andDamian Lentini at Haus der Kunst. She was previously a Visiting Research Fellow (2016) and Adjunct Researcher (2017-18) for the Tate Research Centre: Asia, with a focus on conceptual and performative practices in Philippine art during the 1960s-80s.