Filipino artist Issay Rodriguez received her BFA in Painting at the University of the Philippines, Diliman, and was awarded the Outstanding Thesis Award and Gawad Tanglaw upon graduation in 2013. She also was an exchange scholar at the Ècole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Issay was a finalist at the Ateneo Art Awards – Fernando Zóbel Prizes in Visual Arts (2018). Her works were presented at the Central Pavillion of the 57th Venice Biennale and in exhibitions in Vietnam, Indonesia, Taiwan, New Delhi, Dubai, and Paris. She was recently invited to an artist residency at Gasworks, London in 2022.
Issay’s long term residency occurred throughout 2017–2018.
During her residency, Issay would often hike mountain trails in Saysain, a barangay or neighborhood district, in the municipality of Bagac. It was during one of these excursions that she encountered wild honeybee harvesters who are members of the Ayta community. Already having an interest in botany and flora, Issay wanted to learn more about their process and was invited to accompany them on a day’s harvest.
This experience sparked Issay’s interest around honeybees—a species that continues to decline toward extinction—and its social, ethological, and spiritual implications. She continued to meet with harvesters including Mama Juliet and Kuya Tony. On the occasion of Flores de Mayo, a month-long festival celebrating devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary in May, Issay created embroidered skirts for the women and children of Sitio Duhat to wear during the town’s parade. She collaborated with them to design floral embroideries derived from their artistic interpretations of the local flowers in which the wild bees pollinate.
Issay continued her research by visiting the Bataan Center for Innovative Science and Technology in Morong. She participated in a course about bee culture to learn more about Colony Collapse Disorder, the phenomenon that occurs when the majority of adult worker bees in a colony disappear and leave behind a queen.
Considering the precarity and perspectives of both the livelihoods of bees and harvesters, Issay began to ruminate on the notion of making a Virtual Reality (VR) documentary as an attempt to create an emphatic representation. This inspired Doon (which translates to “over there” in Tagalog) (2019), where she explores the possibility of augmented and virtual reality in art production to promote a new medium for an aesthetic experience. Referencing Rudolf Steiner’s Hegaxonal Force (Dornach lectures, 1923), where beehives are described as having a life process that mirrors the human brain, viewers are thus immersed in a beehive. She collaborated with art/n23 to produce this work, which was presented for the first time during Art Fair Philippines in 2019.
Issay continues to further develop her research with bees and Augmented Reality (AR) form while in residency at Gasworks, London, where she will be working with makers of London Hackspace and the local beekeepers of Kennington Park.
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