This month’s Artist Profile, written by Sage Kema, Intern at the Arts Council Collection, focuses on artist David Medalla and his work seminal participatory artwork, A Stitch in Time, currently on display at the Southbank Centre, until 18 July 2021.
In a career spanning nearly seven decades, Philippines-born international artist Medalla is recognised as a pioneering world figure in kinetic, installation and participatory art. Medalla established himself in the avant-garde art scene when he arrived in Britain in 1960. That same year, Medalla exhibited the first of his Cloud Canyons sculptures; the coiling and wreathing sculptures were formed out of soap bubble machines, which British curator Guy Brett (1989) came to consider Medalla’s “Kinetic” phase. During the mid to late 60’s Medalla art practice began to incorporate relational aesthetics, in particular, pioneering participatory art; Brett calls this Medalla’s “Participation” phase.
A Stitch in Time is one of the best-known artworks of the genre Participatory Art. Participatory art is relational art, which involves audience participation, wherein the artwork is made as a collaboration with the public, usually through a process where the public interacts with materials given by the artist and/or each other. Medalla called his participatory art, ‘participation-production-propulsions’, and in the case of A Stitch in Time, the installation considers how a person’s individual experience can become subject to public dialogue and consideration.