Alwin Reamillo creates his version of a ‘gated community’ in the space of Tin-aw Art Gallery in Makati this August. Yet the only thing common to Reamillo’s fenced-in habitat and the typical suburban retreat are ominous fences. The artist astutely calls the piece ‘Unhedged’, a play between the acts of confinement and obstruction and the notion of freedom attached to security and safety. Hedge also means evasion, the construction of a boundary, the provision of safeguards, or avoidance of commitment. Of late, hedge has been used to describe assets or pooled funds invested at great risks for even greater gains. Reamillo’s installation is a cross between a habitat, an urban development complex and at its purest, a corral, a coop or a cage.
The artist builds a prototype of an apartment complex, with ‘housing units’ on stilts and built from timber frame and bamboo slats. The units will be strategically located (as so-called prime developments are) with bamboo picket fences surrounding the gallery’s central area. They are linked by a walkway of bamboo and PVC tubes connected to an upright piano. While we describe the firmaments of a built structure, we are likewise cued to an underlying precariousness. The complex is linked by a network of walkways. Thus, if a portion breaks the entire complex wavers and eventually collapses. The units are also raised on stilts, away from land or property that is typically prized.
The most curious thing perhaps is that Reamillo will house 11 African Pygmy hedgehogs in the complex. The family of hedgehogs was bred and raised since March, with parents Juanita and Herzog breeding a litter of five, the largest among them named Jambalambibe. Now domesticated as exotic pets, hedgehogs burrow into the earth and feed on insects but the artist will place them in a habitat above ground.
Reamillo reconstructs a precarious cityscape that embodies the entwined spheres of property development, finance management and capital accumulation. All three can be characterized by speculation and are by nature, fluctuating and fluid. Housing is sold through models and plans, and large capital gains are fueled by speculations over market shares. The hedgehogs become playful representations of players in this game of risk and chance. The complex itself is rendered terrain wherein debris and mulch, found objects, wall mounted art are transformed into currency that begets profit and social mobility.
Alwin Reamillo composes this scene in a location pervaded by the very forces of capital, alerting us to the tune of profit and cueing us to the nature of value, especially the kind we assign art. In this recent piece, the artist mobilizes once more two prominent elements of his body of works: the upright piano and shredded bank notes.