Maria Taniguchi

Maria Taniguchi / b. 1981, The Philippines / lives and works in Manila


The 5th Ural Biennial Main Project features the work:
Untitled (Celestial Motors) (video, 2012)
Courtesy of the artist and Sifang Art Museum Collection, Nanjing


Throughout her paintings, sculptures, and videos, Maria Taniguchi unpacks knowledge and experience—connecting material culture, technology, and natural evolution—and investigates space and time, along with social and historical contexts, ones that particularly pertain to her native Philippines. Her work reinterprets everyday objects while producing vivid sensorial and cognitive experiences.

Untitled (Celestial Motors) (2012) is a visual meditation on a ubiquitous form of public transportation in modern urban Philippine life: the jeepney. These vehicles are adaptations of U.S. military jeeps, which were abandoned after years of American colonization and fighting the Japanese occupation during WWII. Received by the Filipinos, the vehicles were then modified and personalized, for example, lengthened to hold more passengers, roofs added to provide shade from the hot tropical sun.

Ironically, the jeepney has now become a cultural icon and national representation of the Philippines. However, by focusing on an atypical jeepney (coming out of a local moto shop called Celestial Motors), devoid of the typical garish trappings on its aluminum body, the video redirects the viewer’s attention to its details. Static shots punctuated by the camera’s slow pan across the jeepney’s gleaming body: a Mercedes-Benz hood ornament, a cushioned metal studded ceiling, soft cushioned seats, fancy flashing pin lights. The work does not intend to celebrate the locals’ ingenious adaptation to the vestiges of war and colonialism; instead, by casting a sharp contrast to the often exuberantly painted jeepneys with kitsch decorations, the emotionless video silently reminds us of the indifferent passage of time and the oblivion of history that continue to provide excuses to the manipulation of power.