In Conversation: Karl Hipol
Burrard Arts Foundation
A constellated exploration of the artist’s Filipino heritage, Karl Hipol’s “Tagpi-tagpi” installation combines handwritten Baybayin, pasted manila paper and a centralized painting of an abstracted bahay kubo, a type of pre-colonial Filipino architecture. Baybayin is a pre-colonial script, widely used in Luzon and other parts of the Philippines before being replaced by the Latin alphabet during Spanish colonization.
Read on to learn more about Hipol’s process and motivation for this work.
The exhibition text mentions that the title, Tagpi-tagpi, translates into English as patchy. This seems to apply to your approach both in material and concept. Was it important for you to convey a sense of uncertainty and/or ambiguity to viewers?KH
The sense of uncertainty and ambiguity was significant both in the painting and installation. The said methodology provokes the viewers’ curiosity, which was my goal. Some of the questions I want to raise were: What am I looking at? Are the symbols genuine? What does it mean? I believe curiosity opens the doors to engagement, conversation, and research.
On the other hand, the abstraction literally and figuratively visualizes my knowledge with the elements presented, particularly the Baybayin script. Coming to this exploration, I had never learned how to write the script or even compose an art installation. So, the entire experience of creating the installation at the Garage was a learning process for me.
The Garage installations require the exhibiting artists to grapple to some degree with the architectural features of the space. You had also been contemplating the architectural space of the bahay kubo in conceiving of Tagpi-tagpi. How did this research influence your approach to your installation at BAF?KH
I find that the ‘white cube’ characteristic of the Garage reflects the western and white institutions where Filipinos from the diaspora have historically experienced and are still experiencing erasure, marginalization, and discrimination. The said oppressive acts were also parallel and embedded in the history of colonization in the history of the Philippines.
Through the art installation, the Garage becomes a specific site—the Canadian landscape—where I am disturbing ‘Filipino invisibility’ by wrapping the entire space. Yet, simultaneously, the same gesture becomes an act of reclamation, reconstruction, and healing of the Filipino identity and heritage from the legacy of colonialism.
Your brother, Khim Hipol, is also an artist and has been involved with Tagpi-tagpi behind the scenes, assisting with installation and documentation. Can you tell us about working alongside your brother? Has working with family influenced how you navigate questions around identity in your practice?KH
Working with my brother, Khim, is fantastic, convenient, and efficient. Also, working with him allows me to personally comprehend and grapple with the realities we face as Filipino settler immigrants.
By utilizing our chosen mediums, Khim through the lens of photography and I using painting/ installation art, we are both developing our positionalities here in the unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples, including the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh, and Musqueam nations.
You have described Tagpi-tagpi and other recent projects as attempts to rebuild, reconstruct, and reclaim Filipino identity. Is this a new approach for you and do you see these efforts as having an end point?KH
It was Spring last year when my studio professors prompted me to look at my work/practice from a different perspective. At the same time, there was also an uprise of social movements from BIPOC communities, which directed me to address my colonized history/mentality or internalized oppression. So, this approach and the entire exploration are pretty new to me. I am still trying to put things together. To answer the last part of the question, I do not know if my efforts have an endpoint. But I hope that that day will come—when dominant nations will listen to our stories, acknowledge our differences, and support and value marginalized minority groups.
What is next for you? Any exciting upcoming projects you’d like to share about?KH
I recently graduated from Emily Carr University with a BFA with a major in Visual Arts and a minor in Curatorial Practices, which has been an intensive three years of my life. So, now I want to slow down and take my time to further my research in the new exploration I am investigating.
Currently, I have other public artworks exhibited around Vancouver: One is at the Herschel Supply Co., Gastown, called “Pasiking” (Hunter Backpack), where I was awarded as the 2022 Artist-In-Residence. The other is at the Burnaby Village Museum, Burnaby, titled “Tuloy po Kayo!” (Please come in!) which is part of their 50th Anniversary.
I am also participating in a writing fellowship at Centre A for their inaugural Arts Writing Workshop. The program is partaken by ten Asian Canadian writers and will conclude in August with an online and physical publication.
Karl Hipol’s installation, titled “Tagpi-tagpi,” was on view in the BAF Garage from April 1 until June 12, 2022.