Returning to the Philippines: Medalla and I

Installation view, David Medalla, A Stitch in Time, 1968 – 2017. Viva Arte Viva, Arsenale, Venice Biennale, 13 May–26 November 2018. Photo: Beatrijs Sterk via

The Filipino diaspora’s problem of heritage arises in the west when Eurocentric interpretations of identity choose to marginalise the significance of national origin, particularly for those of us who have spent the majority of our lives away from said background. As a Filipina-American I feel a stronger connection to my Filipino heritage, having been born there to Filipino parents, spoken Filipino first, and holding citizenship my entire life. I consider myself a hybrid of the two cultures, a fact that has been ignored by peers who see me as an American first and foremost. This marginalisation of my Filipino heritage can also be observed in critiques of the work of David Medalla. The artist’s regular migration complicates any national interpretation of him, making it easier to consider him a ‘citizen of the world’1 . But Medalla is not a citizen of the world—he is technically a citizen of the Philippines and has never abandoned his nationality even though Eurocentric scholars have. Medalla’s particip