Imagine you’re waiting for the bus and a near-naked human body decked out in layers of plastic tubes, with a face covered in spikes, ambles past you. Freakily enough, it's something that happens in Manila.
Filipino artist Leeroy New’s sci-fi monsters, or what he calls ‘Aliens of Manila,’ have been prancing around the Philippine metropolis since 2014, adding an element of the grotesque and bizarre into mundane environments. Using found objects such as cones, cables, colanders and rattan baskets, the multi-disciplinary talent crafts wearable sculptures that are fitting for both BDSM horror flicks and Burning Man.
New likes to dress people, usually performance artists, in these thorny, textural outfits and make them interact with urban landscapes, turning public spaces into his own art gallery.
What’s especially striking about his extraterrestrials, many of which appear to have sinewy roots growing on them like reptilian skin, is their gender fluidity. Most of the regalia hides faces and body parts beneath protruding horns and boxy headgear, making it impossible to humanize the wearer. It was thanks to this non-binary approach that his supernatural avatars arrived in Singapore as part of a broader exhibition on queer dressing.
The 32 year-old, who initially shot to fame in 2011 when Lady Gaga wore a rubber suit that he co-designed, explained why he chose to call his creations “aliens.” Nearly all monsters, aliens and mythological deities are interchangeable, he said: “They represent a collective longing for the unknown and a projection of universal desires.”
The entire series is a kind of nod to urban loneliness and people’s alienation from society. It attempts to portray the displacement between humans and their environment as well as between government and citizens, New said.
‘Aliens of Manila,’ which has its own Instagram account inspired by Humans of New York, was specifically created to exist for social media. New wanted digital mediums to expand the narrative of his hybrid creatures, who have been spotted at supermarkets, the beach, and even Thailand’s Wonderfruit festival.
As for experiencing these for yourself, more of New's aliens are increasingly leaving the Philippines. Called “UFO OFWs,” they are a reference to the term Overseas Filipino Workers (about 10% of the Philippine population lives and works abroad) — so don’t get alarmed if you spot one in your city.