Apocalypse Wow is a perfect storm of ideas gathered over many years. I remember as a child being transfixed by movie posters of Apocalypse Now. As a film student I was mesmerized by its powerful narrative and haunting imagery. More recently as a fine artist I became fascinated by the movie as a metaphor for failed U.S. military ambitions and the fact that it was filmed in my native Philippines – itself a former U.S. territory.
In 2009 I did a “Mosquito Coast” and together with my young family left Australia for a simpler life on a remote island in the Philippines. While living there I learned two things – how to surf, and a little known fact that surfing was first introduced to the Philippines over 30 years ago via the movie Apocalypse Now. Surfboards from the movie were given to local villagers after production wrapped, spawning the first generation of Philippine surfers. The surreal sequence in the film showing marines surfing in a war zone perfectly mirrored the madness of life in the Philippines.
Returning to Australia in 2011 to live on the Gold Coast was a shock. The excess, the consumer culture and the giant billboards selling everything from sex to surf-wear. While trying to reconcile moving back to Australia from the Philippines I remembered the work of Vietnamese artist Din Q. Le who weaves photographic strips together in the style of a traditional grass mat. Using popular imagery from Vietnam War films interlaced with images of his own family, he merges east and west, history and current reality.
This provided a nucleus for Apocalypse Wow, which would merge these seemingly disparate experiences - the developed and developing world, consumerism, colonialism, surf culture, and Hollywood. It’s a visual mash-up and positive proof that Charlie does indeed surf.