Summer of '19

Summer of ’19
An Online Video Exhibition curated by Marina Reyes Franco. With works by Allora & Calzadilla, Halil Altindere, Julieta Aranda, Karla Claudio Betancourt, Guerreiro do Divino Amor, Lola Gonzàlez, Sofía Gallisá Muriente, and UuDam Tran Nguyen

Using artist Karla Claudio Betancourt’s videos of the protests in Puerto Rico that resulted in the resignation of Governor Ricardo Rosselló in July 2019 as a narrative thread, the selection of works in Summer of ’19 approaches issues of displacement, forced migration, politics, tourism as a means of oppression, gender roles, activism, and mourning. All of these concerns were central to the protest movement in Puerto Rico and emphasize shared struggles that go beyond borders and often force people to cross them, too. Research into the KADIST Collection was guided by meta words and tags that led to finding the works, emphasizing the digital nature of the curatorial project.

Sofia Gallisá Muriente’s B-roll (2016) provides an introduction to the tax incentives for the rich and tourism-tinged economic aspirations of the recent Puerto Rican governments, by reimagining the promotional material used to attract American investors. By focusing only on the b-roll, the artist emphasizes the visual tropes recurrent in this type of marketing of the Caribbean, as well as the absolute disconnect between social classes. It might look like paradise, but for whom? Guerreiro do Divino Amor takes a slightly fantastical approach by conjuring Rio de Janeiro’s fictional twin city, SuperRio, in his video SuperRio Superficções (2106). In it, a sort of TV weather woman presents SuperRio as “an ecosystem of superfictions that interfere with the development of the city and of the collective imagination”. Halil Altindere’s Wonderland (2013) follows a rap group through their rapidly gentrifying neighborhood as they denounce the displacement and encroachment on their community, a sadly common occurrence as former low income areas become attractive to developers.

In Lola Gonzàlez’s film Summer Camp (2015), we find a group of male friends in the process of transforming a country house into a training camp. They wake up, exercise, and write hundreds of people’s names unto the walls of the home. What are they preparing for? The threat of social unrest can be felt from beyond the placid appearance of the house. Whose names are they writing? The routine is only broken when the men start singing the names in chorus-like fashion, giving the low-key paramilitary feeling of the training camp the eery solemnity of honoring the dead.

Waltz of the Machine Equestrians (2012) by Uudam Tran Nguyen responds to the rapid shift from an agrarian economy to a landscape of skyscrapers and contamination in his native Vietnam. In the video, the “equestrians” are multi colored poncho-wearing motorcyclists riding through the city in perfect synch to Dmitri Shostakovich’s “Suite for Variety Orchestra, Waltz no. 2.” The action presents the beauty of form, oscillating between the power of collective action and the individual freedom and desires, as they rip apart the ties that bind them at the end. The ultimate space that holds us together is Earth, and in Julieta Aranda’s video Swimming in rivers of Glue (2016), we read a definite statement: “This planet shall sustain me until it has been drained of all elemental life!” Images of nature are juxtaposed with interview clips that exacerbate feelings of anxiety regarding our future, and posing questions about the exploration of space, its colonization, and the fragility of Earth.

Circling back to the original look into events in Puerto Rico, Allora & Calzadilla’s Returning a Sound (2004) harks back to a celebratory moment in the early 2000s when the people of the Puerto Rican island of Vieques successfully protested and kicked out the US Navy from their land. Marking the beginning of their foray into the relationship between sound, music and power, this video presents a man riding a modified motorcycle with a trumpet affixed to the muffler in an apparent attempt to reclaim the territory from militarization and contamination resulting from bombing and experiments. Many years later, the video can either be a nostalgic wish for a better future past, or a new call to action for unaddressed environmental and colonial injustices. Summer of ‘19 is an anachronistic collection of images that evoke situations that kept us busy and active in protests around the world.

– Marina Reyes Franco

About the Curator
Marina Reyes Franco (b. 1984) is a Curator at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico. She received a BA in Art History from the University of Puerto Rico and a MA in Argentine and Latin American Art History at IDAES-UNSAM in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In 2010, she co-founded La Ene, an itinerant museum and collection. Some recent projects include: Resisting Paradise, at Pública, San Juan and Fonderie Darling, Montreal; Watch your step / Mind your head, ifa-Galerie Berlin; The 2nd Grand Tropical Biennial in Loíza, Puerto Rico; Calibán, MAC in San Juan; C32: Sucursal, MALBA in Buenos Aires, and numerous exhibitions at La Ene. As curator and researcher, she has focused on the work of Esteban Valdés, artistic and literary manifestations on the frontier of political action, and the impact of tourism in cultural production in the Caribbean. She received the 2017 CPPC Travel Award for Central America and the Caribbean and was nominated for ICI’s 2014 Independent Vision Curatorial Award.