Stephanie Comilang, Simon Speiser
For the video and virtual-reality installation Pi_ñ_a, Why is the Sky Blue?, 2021, Stephanie Comilang and Simon Speiser lean on the history of the pineapple as an origin myth for a spiritual entity that comes to life through present-day technology. It’s an enduring yet nuanced concept, through which the artists invoke shared commonalities in their Filipino and Ecuadorian ancestry. First cultivated by Indigenous people in South America, the pineapple, starting in the sixteenth century, was transported by the Spanish to plantations across Southeast Asia for eventual export to Europe. Within the exhibition, the spiky fruit is reimagined as a symbolic carrier of precolonial knowledge, taking the form of Piña, a strikingly charismatic avatar that is part ancestral spirit, part Siri. Over the dizzying course of a twenty-minute VR experience, Piña’s disarming gaze draws you deep into their world— to float through lush landscapes, distant mountaintops, and eventually their private library archives—as they gradually develop self-awareness and question their own autonomy.
Piña represents a collective spirit that transcends time and space. They evoke other trans-generational, matrilineal figures: mothers, weavers, witches, and virtual assistants. Intricately printed pineapple-fiber weavings installed along the wall anchor some of the technofeminist intensity of the exhibition in traditional methodology. An adjacent film considers colonial infrastructure against the teachings of contemporary feminist leaders, healers, shamans, activists, and organizers working in Ecuador and the Philippines. The work examines how feminist modalities of knowledge transfer have become a pivotal element of our social infrastructure: a spiritual information technology.