With her installation Purple Salve, Salve Morada: The Hollywood Ending, at the Pro Arts’ Project Space, on view from September 7th through October 20th, 2018, O.M. France Viana invokes the magic of effigy and enacts Spanish-Filipino colonial conflict and healing. Purple Salve, Salve Morada: The Hollywood Ending is a site-specific installation of indigenous artifacts, flags, textiles, photographs, lights, and salves (salve also means “save” in Spanish.)
Inspired by a recent DNA test that revealed genes from both colonizer and colonized, France erects a proxy of the internal and external battle, employing both sides of the Project Space’s window in the metaphor. France sets up the protagonists in a way similar to Jungian Sandplay, where figurines play out roles in effigy, and for the same purpose of deep integration of the psyche.
The installation’s narrative is informed by recent archeological findings claiming that the Philippine Banaue Rice Terraces, “the eighth wonder of the world” and UNESCO cultural heritage site, was formed not 2,000 years ago as previously assumed, but surprisingly only in the last 300 years. UCLA archeologist Stephen Acabado hypothesizes that these monuments were actually built to resist colonization, the work of lowlanders fleeing to the mountains and inventing a unique cooperative agrarian economy to sustain their independence. While small backyard terraces existed in the area, archeobotanical tests prove they were planted with taro, (maybe ube purple yam), and only later with rice. This recasting decolonizes history, rightfully returning agency to the natives who dramatically reshaped their environment in a short time through industry and cooperation.
Outside the Project Space’s window, the conquistador’s assault is represented by Spanish Armada flag decals, therapeutically smeared with Vicks Vaporub. This popular salve is so heavily used in the Philippines as to be a staple of comedy skits; mothers and grandmothers rub it on their hapless offspring, certain it will cure everything from clubfoot to bad grades to heartache to Tourette’s syndrome. Inside the window, the natives’ defense is mounted with authentic indigenous ladders, symbolizing the flight of the Resistance up the mountains, and talismanic textiles imprinted with apotropaic “Binakol” patterns whose op-art dizzying effects are thought to ward off evil spirits. Purple neon, Mylar, and fuchsia grow-lights reference the agricultural enterprise and bathe both protagonists in a vivid violet spectrum radiating healing properties. The luminous lights spill out onto the Frank H. Ogawa public plaza, creating a chromatherapy oasis for the neighborhood.
Prior to this art installation, producers released the blockbuster Avengers: Infinity War and lo and behold, the final scene was serendipitously set in the very same Rice Terraces, sending hordes of fans trampling up them in search of the site. Film scene photos of the Terraces’ cameo appearance (shot off a TV) are hidden in the installation and offer a happy Hollywood ending to the story. (No spoiler alert— watch the film to see what Thanos does up there. Mythic!)
At the opening of O.M.France Viana’s window installation Purple Salve/Salve Morada: The Hollywood Ending, gallery visitors of Filipino heritage or those who can trace their ancestry to a former Spanish colony are invited to smear Vicks Vaporub on Spanish Armada flag decals in a ritual healing performance. This performance will be on September 7th at 7:00pm.
About the Artist:
O.M.France Viana is a conceptual artist, art historian and mythologist. Working in photography, sculpture, installation, and social practice, her artworks interrogate the semiotics of color, the genre of Sacred Art, and Hispanic/Filipino American identity, especially as expressed through food culture. France received an M.F.A. Studio Art and a B.A. in Art History from Mills College, Oakland. Born in Manila, Philippines, she studied in Spain and Switzerland before settling in California. She founded the Diviana Gallery, the first dedicated fine art photography gallery in Manila. France has exhibited and performed at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, SOMarts Gallery, Minnesota Street Project, San Francisco Art Institute, the Marin Museum of Contemporary Art, Mills Art Museum, and Embark Gallery and guest-curates exhibitions at the Dominican University Gallery. France smears herself with Vicks Vaporub every night, certain it will induce enlightenment.
This exhibition and performance are made possible by the Fleishhacker Foundation and the Zellerbach Family Foundation.