Former lovers live on in this David Medalla piece at the National Gallery
At the Venice Biennale last year, two quotes about art were scrawled on a piece of paper in the Pavilion of the Common, a section dedicated to artists exploring the notion of the common world. In capitals were the quotes "All art is quite useless" by Oscar Wilde, while another poked at sculptor Claes Oldenburg's words with, "I don't want to make art that sits on its ass in a museum". Hung onto drooping rolls of thread which were placed above a piece of long and wide cloth, it formed part of the participatory artwork that was David Medalla's 'A Stitch in Time'.
After more than 25 versions and 50 years down the road, the London and Berlin-based Filipino artist's 1968 artwork is finally making its way to Singapore thanks to a commission by the National Gallery as part of the Light to Night festival. With expertise in sculpture, kinetic art, painting, installation and performance art, the 75-year-old's work is informed by personal experience. 'A Stitch In Time' is the first in his series of participatory art works.
It all started in 1968 at London's Heathrow Airport, when Medalla planned to meet two of his former lovers — one on his way from California to India, and the other from Africa to New York. He gave each a handkerchief, one in black and one in white, each stitched with his name and a small message of love. Together with some needles and spools of cotton thread, Medalla told them that they could stitch anything on the pieces of cloth. Years later in Amsterdam's Schiphol airport, the artist came across a backpacker who came from Bali, carrying a totem-like pole of pieces of multi-coloured clothes stitched together. Upon further inspection, Medalla noticed one of his original handkerchiefs that he had given to one of his lovers, together in a mess of other random objects such as coins, keys, dried leaves and barks. 'A Stitch in Time' was born.
If 2018's the year you're finally letting go of a lost love's memorabilia, perhaps Medalla's work is the very instrument you need. You are invited to participate by sewing any sentimental items, messages or keepsakes to the ever-growing artwork, which ultimately showcases the interconnectedness and accidental discoveries that life springs onto us. Heck, they say if you love someone, let them go, right?
'A Stitch in Time' by David Medalla is held at the National Gallery Singapore from 19 January to 1 April.