Puerto Rico has endured 523 years of continuous and ongoing colonial rule: first under Spain, and, since 1898, as a possession of the United States. The island, an “unincorporated territory of the United States” has been plunged into a catastrophic debt crisis and a punitive program of austerity. It is widely regarded as the world’s oldest colony.
An opening reception for a new exhibit entitled The Museum of the Old Colony, a work of conceptual art conceived by Pablo Delano, will be presented at New York University’s King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center (KJCC) on Thursday, Feb. 2, at 6:30 p.m. KJCC is located at 53 Washington Square Park South, New York, N.Y. For further details, call 212.998.3650.
The exhibit gathers still photographs and moving images of Puerto Rico that reveal the visual logics of colonialism. This repertoire of images and subjects form a visual history of the political and cultural hegemony imposed by the United States on virtually all aspects of Puerto Rican life.
The installation’s title and style ironically invoke traditional historical or anthropological museums, their use of ethnographic imagery, and their didactic text panels. The title also derives its name from a U.S. brand of soft drink named “Old Colony,” popular in Puerto Rico since the 1950s and still sold at island groceries and restaurants. The Museum of the Old Colony therefore references the subtle, the naturalized, and the pernicious forces of colonialism in Puerto Rico, its political economy, and its everyday life.
The Museum of the Old Colony is an intervention into Puerto Rican cultural history and political memory. It is also an intensely personal exercise by Delano to understand and come to terms with his own relationship with the island, where he was born in 1954.
The opening reception is free and open to the public.
To complement the exhibit, on Monday, February 16 at 6.30p.m. KJCC will host a rountable discussion with Mr. Delano on the politics of representation in photography, the cultural impact of colonialism, and the image repertoires, and national imaginaries of Puerto Rico. The free public panel will include: Arlene Davila, Cultural Anthropologist, NYU; David Gonzalez, reporter, The New York Times; Nelson Rivera, artist and academic at the University of Puerto Rico; and Erika Gonzalez, photographer. The discussion will be moderated by Ana Dopico, Director of KJCC.