the weight of the rest of us – S.E.A. Focus

the weight of the rest of us

Ella Mendoza

Medium: Stoneware, fibre, steel cable and pulley

Size of work: 152.4 x 91.44 cm, 50 kg (approx.)

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Artist Statement

The Philippines, as an agricultural country, has 47% of its 30-million-hectare land area allotted for agricultural use. The agricultural sector was reported to have employed 24.7% in 2021 while, perversely, they (farmers and fisherfolk) remain to have the highest poverty incidences among the basic sectors – farmers at 30% and fisherfolk at 30.6%. Agriculture is crucial for food sustainability and poverty reduction efforts but why can’t we feed those who feed us? What does a future with rapidly advancing technology look like for vulnerable populations?

While AI can easily be adapted to agricultural practices in the more developed nations – increasing crop and productivity – where does this leave us if we cannot feed our farmers and the rest of our people? Do we see ourselves conceding to this notion of a “useless class?” How, then, do we move forward as an entire unit and achieve this symbiotic relationship with AI? How do we make sure that we leave no one behind when even present circumstances and conflicts have made this inconceivable?

The proposed work titled, the weight of the rest of us, seeks to demonstrate in visual form the gargantuan and frangible undertaking of safeguarding survival, especially of the vulnerable, while aiming for equal opportunities. It demands the task of problem-solving before the inevitable takes place. The work shall be presented as a single network of clay vessels – containers traditionally used for storing, cooking, fermenting, or consuming rice – bound together by interwoven threads through the perforated walls of the wares, emerging as a net-like structure suspended from a pulley anchored from the ceiling. Clay pots and jars – (palayok, burnay, tapayan, as they are called in the Philippines) being historically significant technological advancements that led to the agricultural revolution and, ultimately, furthered man’s chances at survival – are to be mounted into this woven mass circling back to the notion of our dependence on the agricultural sector in meeting our most basic physiological needs. The choice of materials, clay and fiber, and its delicate qualities ought to suggest the precarity of the circumstances emerging from man’s perpetual discontentment throughout its existence.

About the Artist

Mendoza (b. 1993) completed her second degree in Art History from the University of the Philippines. A painting major by training, she started doing ceramics in 2015 and has since been an active presence in the field.

Mendoza’s practice often involves working with ceramic objects in multiples, deliberately composing them in series or as installations, traversing between the notion of function and sculpture as a nod to the vital role of ceramics throughout periods in history – with the objective of expanding the experience of the material. The use of clay as medium is central to the themes of Mendoza’s works, as it activates a sense of familiarity in the integration of material and form.

With ceramic forms suggestive of commonplace objects, Mendoza surveys themes of contemporary culture, Philippine history, and matters of sociopolitical and of economic concern through satirical and metaphorical configurations as she takes-off from situations that shape her immediate environment.