PRINT May 2017


DEEP IN A CAVE in Puerto Rico, a light burns: The evanescent glow is that of Dan Flavin’s fluorescent sculpture Puerto Rican light (to Jeanie Blake) 2, 1965, placed there by the artists Allora & Calzadilla in a startling transposition of time, material, and energy. Art historian Irene V. Small makes the descent to explore this numinous geopolitical network.

Allora & Calzadilla, Puerto Rican Light (Cueva Vientos), 2015, solar-powered batteries and charger, plywood crate, Dan Flavin’s Puerto Rican light (to Jeanie Blake) 2, 1965. Installation view, El Convento Natural Protected Area, Puerto Rico, 2015–17. Photo: Allora & Calzadilla.

A TAÍNO MYTH associates the origins of earthly existence with the crepuscular return of distant ancestors to the fabled Cave of the Jagua. The sun seized on those who did not come back before dawn, transforming them into stones, birds, trees. Those remaining in the cave eventually left, relinquishing their nocturnal affinities to bats and opías, spirits of the dead. The condition of life as we know it, in other words, is one of belatedness, and as a consequence, we live in a diaspora formed in blinding light. In geologic time, of course, humans are also belated—staggeringly so—inhabiting Earth for only a few hundred thousand of its approximately 4.6 billion years. The limestone caves of El Convento in the southern region of Puerto Rico are some thirty-four million years old, remnants of coral reefs of the Mesozoic era. Contemporary existence attempts to eradicate the

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