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  • Darkzones and Twilight Zones

    Art provides a potent haunting, both in its anachronic character and in the figuration of its own scandalous ephemerality.  Irene V. Small, Artforum, May 2017 [2]

    It’s blazing bright in the Great Basin. So, think  two caves in the Caribbean:  Cueva Vientos near the southern coast of Puerto Rico, and cave 18 on Mona, a small Island west of Puerto Rico.  Both caves embrace, protect, and project human expressions — art.  Light within the caves’ interiors is fundamental to display, to our way of seeing.

    First, to Mona. On this small island Alice Samson and Jago Cooper and colleagues have documented 70 cave systems of the 200 of the island. Many contain the thousands of indigenous figures they have documented as part of broader archaeological survey. “Extensive mark-making and extraction in the dark zones indicates engagement with the physical substances and psychosensorial properties of the caves. These practices created connections across generations, between people, ancestors, and nonhuman entities.” [Samson 2015]  In one, cave 18, they also discovered some 30 markings - Spanish names and Christian words and crosses —  from the early colonial period. [1]

    To Cueva Vientos.  In September 2015 the artist duo Allora & Calzadilla placed a 1965 Dan Flavin light sculpture in Cueva Vientos near the central south coast of Puerto Rico. This iconic Minimalist sculpture Puerto Rican Light (to Jeanie Blake) is comprised of three illuminated fluorescent tubes powered by solar energy.  It will be on view, with visits by reservation, until September 23, 2017. [2]
    - Jennifer Allora:  With Puerto Rican Light (Cueva Vientos) we want to rethink the dualistic split between inside and outside, here and elsewhere, and pursue instead unbounded interdependence and exchange.
    - Guillermo Calzadilla:  It is our intention that this project presents a dense interweaving of inter-generational art-historical exchange and postcolonial geographical dislocation. [Excerpts from the artists, who are based in Puerto Rico, from DIA 2015]


    Each visual event — a contemporary art installation and interpretative archaeology documentation — rewards contemplation; indeed, immersion.  Further, when both are considered simultaneously as forms of a geographical oscillation, an expansive montage shapes and pulsates. Each place makes sense; each cave embodies the sensual. In that state the human endeavor to image pervades visual logic. We join with others, feel our way in an enigmatic dark guided by faint glows.

    Coda.  Both of these intriguing, even astonishing, explorations of art and light inhere during a time when, as reported by Reuters on July 20, 2017, “Puerto Rico is in a historic economic crisis, with $72 billion in debt it cannot repay, a 45 percent poverty rate, and insolvent public pensions.”   This situation occurs, NBC News reports on May 10, 2017, as Puerto Rico's drinking water system is “on the brink of crisis” and where “elevated lead levels, bacteria, chemicals and lax adherence to regulations have created a toxic mix for the American territory's 3 million-plus citizens.”  Indeed, echoing Irene Small, a potent haunting.

    References and Links below.
    Below: Cave 18.  Photo courtesy Cavescapes, 2013.

    Above: Allora & Calzadilla, Puerto Rican Light (Cueva Vientos), 2015-2017. Installation view.  Photo Courtesy Artforum, May 2017, by Allora & Calzadilla
     
    References and Links
    [1] Mona
    - Samson, A.V.M. & J. Cooper.  2015.  History on Mona Island. Long-term Human and Landscape Dynamics of an ‘Uninhabited’ Island. New West Indian Guide 89: 30–60.  Recommended.
    - Samson, A.V.M., J. Cooper, et al.  2013.  Cavescapes in the pre-Columbian Caribbean Antiquity 87(338).
    - University of Leicester,  July 19 2016. Cave discoveries shed new light on Native and European religious encounters in the Americas.  (Noting, with gratitude, in this release, University of Leicester provides a link to an excellent collection of photographs and images.)   
    [2] Cueva Vientos
    - DIA. Sep 23 2015.  Dia Art Foundation Presents Puerto Rican Light (Cueva Vientos) 
    - Allora & Calzadilla.  Sep 22 2015. Artforum, 500 Words.  
    - Irene V. Small.  May 2017. Artforum.  On Allora & Calzadilla’s Puerto Rican light (Cueva Vientos)