Untitled (Valora tu mentira americana) (Untitled [Value Your American Lie]), 2018. Hurricane ravaged wooden electric post with statehood propaganda. 116” x 118” x 122”. In permanent collection at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
On June 11, 2017, three months before Hurricane Maria reached Puerto Rico, a nonbinding referendum was held to decide the island's political status. Voters could choose statehood, independence, or continuing as a U.S. territory. Leading up to this event, those who supported statehood encouraged voters to "value [their] American citizenship." According to official results, 97 percent of those who voted wanted statehood; but only 23 percent of Puerto Ricans voted at all. Many boycotted the vote—which would not have officially changed anything—to signify their collective fatigue in the face of Puerto Rico's persistently ambiguous geopolitical status.
The installation consists of a wooden lamppost found among the debris after the hurricane, suspended in the air and still holding a sign urging people to vote in favor of statehood. The work bears witness to the various infrastructures that collapsed in the wake of Maria—namely, the dated electrical grid, with its reliance on carbon fuels controlled by a bankrupt PREPA (Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority) and the misguided belief that American citizenship would protect Puerto Ricans against the catastrophic effects of such calamities.
Installation view, no existe un mundo poshuracán: Puerto Rican Art in the Wake of Hurricane Maria exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City, 2022. Image: D. Alvarado
Installation view, PM exhibition at Embajada, San Juan, 2018. Image: Raquel Pérez Puig
Advisor: Enityaset Rodríguez-Santos.
Gabriella Torres-Ferrer © 2023