A mango is shaped like a heart, but its own heart is a stone

A mango is shaped like a heart, but its own heart is a stone is a newly-commissioned art & food performance lecture and video installation presented by Mariam Ella Arcilla for Mainit Illusion at Arts House, Naarm from 19 February – 23 March 2024.

Curated by Saluhan x Liquid Architecture, Mainit Illusion is a multidisciplinary exhibition informed by voyeurism and the post-paradise palate of the Philippines. The show featured eight artists who have responded to the word ‘Mainit’, a Filipino word meaning hot or humid and is a common expression used to describe the intensity of summer heat felt across the archipelago.  Alongside the exhibition, Mainit Fantasy is a one-night curated spectacle of sweet and salty art, sound and performance. 

Using the ingredients of recipe-documentation, dream logic, and storytelling, Mariam Ella Arcilla’s video essay A mango is shaped like a heart, but its own heart is a stone unpeels her Filipino family’s signature recipe ‘Cheesy Chicken with Dried Mango’. The dish came to her Tita (Aunty) Roxanne in a dream during a hot, sticky summer in 1987. Gunked with slivers of preserved mango and creamy beads of rice, this 14-ingredient meal won the Arcillas the Great Maya Cookfest in the Philippines, and catapulted the family into an appetising life of experimental cooking and teaching. This work documents the dish being prepared in Mariam’s family kitchen in Quezon City and is infused with stories about family folklore and mango factoids.

Bio: Raised by a family of artists and creative cooks in Quezon City, Philippines, Mariam Ella Arcilla spent her childhood mixing paint at her father’s studio and selling goods from her family bakery. Today, she works multimodally across community engagement, writing, editing, and producing. Now based on Gadigal land, Mariam collaborates with artists and organisations to turn radiant ideas into programs, publications, and resources. She has staged projects for the Institute of Modern Art, Runway Journal, Powerhouse Museum Sydney, Arts House Melbourne, fine print magazine, 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Entree.Pinays and Arts Queensland. She has managed ARIs, galleries, independent publications, and knowledge-trading projects since 2006. Her writing is published in Memo Review, Running Dog, Art Guide, and VAULT. Mariam is also the founder of the domestic program Magenta House, which hosts talks, test kitchens, soirées, and reading rooms.

Mainit Illusion Artists: Catherine Ortega-Sandow, Del Lumanta, Kenneth Suico, Mariam Ella Arcilla (Magenta House), MJ Flamiano, Neil Cabatingan (Kuya Neil), Ranima Montes, and Raquel Solier (Various Asses)
Project curated by: Saluhan Collective and Liquid Architecture

Visit Mainit Illiusion on the Arts House website.

A mango is shaped like a heart, but its own heart is a stone was produced by Mariam Ella Arcilla in collaboration with Tita Roxanne, Lola Rosario, Tita Dac Dac and Cousin Karla. Footage filmed in Quezon City, Philippines and Gadigal/Sydney, Australia.

A mango is shaped like a heart, but its own heart is a stone,
Mariam Ella Arcilla, 2024, digital video, sound, television set, carpet textiles. The work was accompanied by a performance lecture w/ signature cocktail ‘Mango Hothouse’ distributed to guests.

Visuals credits
Opening night images of Mainit Illusion: Gianna Rizzo (Phone pics: Mariam Ella Arcilla). Process video: Mariam Ella Arcilla, Karla Kangleon