13 Questions for David Medalla

This Q&A was conducted over e-mail on March 2011.

David Medalla at Jean Nouvel's Serpentine Gallery Pavillion, 2010. Photographed by Alex Forsey


1. In what part of the globe are you right now and what is around you at the moment?

I am currently in England.


Mondrian Fan Club David Medalla/Adam Nankervis Baro Galerie Sao Paulo 2010


2. What has happened in the last 48 hours?

I have been working on the design for the cover of a book on my art, which will have a text by Purissima Benitez-Johannot.

3. What kind of nostalgia do you get from thoughts about Manila/Philippines?

I am not a nostalgic person. However I have many beautiful memories of my childhood and boyhood in the Philippines where I was born. I love my country deeply. For this reason I have kept my Philippine passport. I look forward to the day when I will settle in the Philippines.

4. When did you go to London? And what is the basis of your transition?

I went to London for the first time in 1960 : to continue my writing and my art, and to research the lives of Arthur Rimbaud and Dr. Jose Rizal who lived in London in the 19th century.


David Medalla, London 1964.

5. How did the transition influence your art practice?

During my early years in England I was able to participate in several avant-garde art movements, in particular, kinetic art and participatory art. I edited SIGNALS in 1964-1966. I was able to create many impromptus and performances, especially from 1967 when I founded ‘The Exploding Galaxy’ to the present day.


Mathias Goeritz and David Medalla 1965. Photographed by Clay Perry


6. Any specific places/ time periods that really marked you?

Apart from Manila, I was deeply moved by my various sojourns in New York City, the first time in the 1954, when I was admitted as a special student at Columbia University upon the recommendation of the American poet and teacher Mark Van Doren. I also love my sojourns in Paris, Rome, Venice, Turin, Berlin, Barcelona, Madrid, Rotterdam, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Mexico , Hawaii, and throughout Africa and Asia during my many travels with Adam Nankervis, Oriol de Quadras, Guy Brett, John Dugger, and various other friends.

7. What would you order in a restaurant if you were dining with: 1. Rimbaud 2. T. S. Elliott 3. Buddha

Lobster,with Arthur Rimbaud. Oysters with T. S. Eliot. ‘Pansit palabok’ followed by ‘guinataan’ with the Buddha.


Medalla in London, 2006


8. Can you tell us about the “Voyages and Somersaults of the Pilgrim Monkey”?

“Voyages and Somersaults of the Pilgrim Monkey” is a performance I gave at the Academy in Venice and at the Academy of the Brera in Milan in 1980, and subseuqnetly at South Hill Park Art Centre in Bracknell, England. It is based on a story I wrote about the imaginary meeting in the Persian desert of a young Greek artist and a wise old Chinese master painter (the legendary Wu Tao-tzu). I hope someday a publisher will publish the book of my text.

9. Can you share your affinity with ephemera?

Looking at clouds, looking at dewdrops, are good ways of experiencing the ephemral aspects of life.

10. What was/is your fondest obsession?



David Medalla, Adam Nankervis, Dorothea Fayne, Olga Park. Berlin 2006.

11. Can you talk a little about participation-production-propulsion?

Participation-production art is art that invites the spectator to explore in him/her self the creative energies hidden dormant in his/her being, to invite the spectator to give material manifestation to his/her creative energies.

12. When will your travels take you back to the Philippines?

I hope to go to the Philippines later this year (2011) or next year (2012) after the conclusion of the next LONDON BIENNALE which I founded and direct.

13. What space are you most comfortable in? most creative in?

I like any space I am in. I create anywhere I find my self.


Cloud Canyons by David Medalla 1964. Photographed by Clay Perry


About David Medalla

David Medalla is a pioneer of land art, kinetic art, participatory art and live art. He was born in 1942 in Manila, Philippines. At the age of 12 Medalla was admitted as a special student at Colombia University in New York upon the recommendation of american poet Mark van Doren. Medalla’s tutor at Colombia was Professor Moses Hadas under whom he studied ancient greek drama. Medalla also attended the lectures on modern drama by Eric Bentley, modern literature by Lionel Trilling, modern philosophy by John Randall and the poetry workshop by Leonie Adams. In New York City David met the american actor James Dean and the filipino poet José Garcia Villa who encouraged Medalla’s early interest in painting.  When he returned to Manila in the late fifties, he met Jaime Gil de Biedma (the catalan poet) and the painter Fernando Zobel de Ayala, who became the earliest patrons of Medalla’s art. In Paris in 1960, the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard introduced David’s first performance in France at the Academy of Raymond Duncan, the brother of the great american dancer Isadora Duncan. Years later in Paris, the French poet Louis Aragon (co-founder of surrealism with André Breton) introduced another performance by Medalla and hailed the filipino artist as a genius. Marcel Duchamp made a medallic object for David.

From 1964 -1966 Medalla edited SIGNALS newsbulletin in London. In 1967 he initiated the Exploding Galaxy, an international confluence of multi-media artists.  From 1974 – 1977 he was chairman of Artists for Democracy and director of the Fitzrovia Cultural Centre in London. In 1994 he founded the Mondrian Fan Club in New York with Adam Nankervis as vice-president, in 2000 the London Biennale, the idea for which occured to him while he was on a boat en route to Robben Island, off Cape Town, South Africa, during the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale in 1998. David Medalla has given numerous exhibitions in many parts of the world. He was included by Harald Szeemann in the exhibitions Weiss auf Weiss (1966) and Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form (1969) (both at the Kunsthalle in Bern) and in the DOCUMENTA 5 exhibition in 1972 in Kassel.  David Medalla has been a lecturer at the Slade School of Art, University College London, St.Martins School of Art, Chelsea School of Art, Goldsmiths College of Art, the University of Southhampton. In 1989 he gave a series of lectures on global cultures at MOMA, the Museum of Moderm Art of N.Y. He has also lectured at the University of Hawaii in Manva, Cooper Union in N.Y., the Universities of Amsterdam and Utrecht, the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Bruxelles, the Fundacion Tapies in Barcelona, the Sorbonne in Paris, the British School in Rome and many other schools, universities and colleges all over the world.


David Medalla in San Francisco, 1960's


Planting Rice