I saw the future, it's so wonderful, there are Puerto Ricans (Vi el futuro, es maravilloso, hay puertorriqueñxs)
Curated by Mariana Ramos Ortiz
"I saw the future, it's so wonderful, there are no Puerto Ricans" declared a close advisor to Ricardo Roselló, the governor overthrown by Puerto Ricans in 2019. The appalling statement was discovered in a group message leak known as Telegramgate, involving many high-ranking government officials. The suggestion that Puerto Ricans are the root of the archipelago's development problems and that their eradication would benefit the island's growth is not a recent concept. This narrative dates back to Spanish colonization and continues to be embedded in the United States' current colonial control of Puerto Rico. This premise is the backbone for ongoing austerity measures for residents and tax exemptions for wealthy foreigners that have launched a race for a slice of paradise, violently displacing Puerto Ricans, rapidly creating a Puerto Rico without Puerto Ricans. "I saw the future, it's so wonderful, there are Puerto Ricans'' is an exhibition in San Juan, Puerto Rico bringing together Puerto Rican artists whose work engages with speculative fictions, world building, Caribbean futurism, and reinterpretations of the past, present and future as forms of resistance.
This exhibition considers Afro-Indigenous futurisms and the radical imaginary as tools for colonial subjects to gain agency through the recontextualized past, the contested present, and the liberated future. Artist's works will suggest alternatives on how to traverse our present, produce future forms of knowledge, center collective healing, and forge new vocabularies to secure our permanence.
Through a photographic series, an artists restages images of NASA?s moon landing with Puerto Ricans. In this speculative piece of evidence, the Puerto Rican flag was planted on the moon in 1963, predating the U.S. landing by six years. One of the images captures the spaceship landing with the frase "Houston we have a problem!" The series addresses subjective realities while affirming the arbitrariness and fraudulence of all colonial claims.
Another artist's paintings create futuristic rural landscapes integrating supernatural and cultural myths endemic to Puerto Rico. Oftentimes referencing "el garadiablo", a mythical eerie swamp creature native to the Caribbean, the paintings hold a humorous approach where the line between history and fiction is blurred, giving space to alternative narratives where only the viewer's imaginations can play host.
A third artist embodies through video-performance the role of a golf player in the streets of Puerto Rico, attempting to hit a golf ball into the asphalt potholes of abandoned broken down roads. The artist's imaginary golf course displays a parallel urban reality that critiques the rapid development of resort-like spaces exclusively at the service of wealthy tourists that are erasing the Puerto Rican landscape and its people.
As Puerto Rico's capacity for self-determination is obstructed by those with access to hegemonic forms of power aiming to remove us, it is imperative that we prioritize speculative forms of aesthetic production. This practice acts as a framework for interrogating the history of colonialism in Puerto Rico, our contemporary context, and the planning of a decolonized future. After all, If we don't imagine our futures, who will?
*The text above was submitted to apexart's 2022-23 INTL Open Call, and rated by over 700 jurors. Any specific artists mentioned are unconfirmed and subject to change.
Mariana Ramos Ortiz is a visual artist from Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico. Their work outlines resistance tactics against colonialism in the context of the United States' occupation of Puerto Rico. They hold a BA from the University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras and an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design.
apexart’s program supporters past and present include the National Endowment for the Arts, Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation, the Kettering Family Foundation, the Buhl Foundation, The Martin and Rebecca Eisenberg Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Spencer Brownstone, the Kenneth A. Cowin Foundation, Epstein Teicher Philanthropies, The Greenwich Collection Ltd., William Talbott Hillman Foundation/Affirmation Arts Fund, the Fifth Floor Foundation, the Consulate General of Israel in New York, The Puffin Foundation, the Trust for Mutual Understanding, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, public funds from Creative Engagement, supported by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Governor and administered by LMCC, funds from NYSCA Electronic Media/Film in Partnership with Wave Farm: Media Arts Assistance Fund, with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature, as well as the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature.