filipino artist leeroy new recycles colanders, cables and plastic tubes, to create sculptural armour and transform ordinary civilians into otherworldly beings. featuring various personalities who practice on the fringe as its models, ‘aliens of manila’ is a futuristic cyber-site series that plays upon the idea of offbeat characters who thrive on the edge of the urban landscape.

images courtesy of leeroy new

set on the streets of manila, leeroy dresses the capital’s civilians as alien creatures interjecting and inhabiting public space. the idea behind the series originated from a joke between the artist and his friends, who were discussing a well-known new york-based photoseries detailing the city’s inhabitants.anil

‘we came to the conclusion that we were somehow less if not other than human given our unique conditions in manila,’ explains leeroy.

poverty has remained a constant problem in manila and the philippines with average income falling rapidly below what is considered liveable. a survey conducted in the last quarter of 2018 found that half of the filipino population rated themselves as poor.

‘I draw from the ingenuity and resourcefulness of manila’s urban poor who basically don’t throw things away, instead they transform random objects into leeroy decorative pieces for their home, jeepneys, and the half-a-year long christmas celebrations.’

‘the ‘staged displacement’ becomes more apparent when we go out into the streets in costume to interact with the locals and the existing structures. I almost always work with local practitioners as well for the photography and performance component if I’m not available to wear them myself.’

leeroy also relates this general sense of displacement to the OFW (overseas filipino workers) phenomenon, which he and his own family are a part of. this in turn urged him to begin capturing aliens outside of his home country, which he calls ‘UFO OFWs.’

‘aliens of manila’ also has its own instagram account, which was specifically created to expand the narrative of his hybrid creatures, preserving them in the digital realm.

leeroy’s earliest formal arts training was at the philippine high school for the arts where he gained experience making sets and costumes for performance arts majors: ‘I eventually applied my sculpture training towards creating spaces and accommodating the human body.’

he shot to fame in 2011 when lady gaga wore a rubber suit that he co-designed. today, leeroy often collaborates with urban designers and community based organizations to create public works that call attention to social issues.

leeroy new’s pasig river floating island project, 2016

in 2016 leeroy presented ‘bakawan’, an interactive floating island designed to travel the pasig river in the philippines, which connects laguna de bay to manila bay. the project functioned as a mobile installation, used to stage various performances as it travelled and activate the waterfront through visual intervention. leeroy worked with local urban planner julia nebrija on the project, which was partly funded by the burning man global arts program.

‘historically the pasig river has been a main cultural and environmental subject for filipinos but for the past decades it has been forgotten as a polluted and ecologically dead urban feature of manila,’ leeroy explains.‘the floating island project aimed to draw attention and care back to the river by maximizing it as a creative platform.’

rhizome colony, a biomorphic alien structure on the occasion of wonderfruit festival in 2017

leeroy has created a variety of installations, lending his futuristic style to different occasions. in 2017, he created ‘rhizome colony’, a biomorphic alien structure situated on one of the lakes during thailand’s wonderfruit festival.

‘the cultural disconnect of museums and galleries in manila motivated me and my performance-based collaborators do more public works and sometimes employ guerrilla strategies.’

in 2015, the artist used assorted industrial materials like water hoses, flexible conduits, cable ties, and even toys, to create polyp, an installation that he wanted to resemble the complexities of marine life. the installation was used as performance space and was commissioned for the APEC (applied power electronics conference) in boracay.

polyp, an installation the artist created to resemble complex marine life

‘when I get invited to do work in a different country, I tend to end up in different industrial districts, recycling centers, 99 cent stores, and the different migrant communities, to respond to the available material culture and how I can transform them into ‘space suits’ which act as a sort material conduit for me and the leeroy landscape I’m in.’

chrysalis, a bamboo installation in the philippines designed to resemble a boat

leeroy also employs other materials such as latex and bamboo, the latter he used to create chrysalis – a bamboo installation in collaboration with the regional government of ilocos norte in the philippines. its boat shape was a reference to the local myth which told the story of the region’s patron saint being brought to them via spanish galleon that sank beyond the coasts.

aliens of manila: new york colony, an immersive sit-specific installation responding to the structure of pintô international’s headquarter in new york’s east village

leeroy’s aliens of manilla are slowly making their way across borders. earlier this year, the artist arrived in new york as part of an immersive exhibition titled ‘aliens of manila: new york colony‘. he will also be the subject of an exhibition at the palais de tokyo in june, which explores the concept of mega cities. the show, titled ‘city prince/sses‘, features four filipino artists from cities such as dhaka, lagos, manila, mexico city, and tehran.

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