For DRAFTERS (WIP), Norma Vila-Rivero and Edra Soto collaborate by fusing their respective ongoing research based projects: A Metaphor Against Oblivion (Vila-Rivero) and GRAFT (Soto). Both of these projects engages with Puerto Rico’s landscape; it’s social and economical history; architectural elements and the urban landscape to interrogate narratives of place. Soto’s architectural intervention’s GRAFT represents an imaginary transplant or migratory gesture by means of quiebrasoles/rejas found in Puerto Rico. On A Metaphor Against Oblivion, Vila-Rivero proposes ‘the skin of memory’, referencing the notions of development by representing the absent landscape that remains in the collective consciousness. Symbolically or metaphorically, their gestures traces historic and intimate memories as a departing point for expanding on notions of visibility.
Norma’s approach reference and criticize the notions of economic development by metaphorically representing the absent landscape that remains in the collective consciousness. It conveys the impossibility of the landscape that surrounds her by presenting a critical look at the transformation of the landscape while contemplating the paradox of development in today’s world. A Metaphor Against Oblivion, themes such as the impossibility of the natural landscape on the island of Puerto Rico, the excessive urban development, the abandonment of cultural heritage, the negligence in the communities and public spaces are over layered to contrast the effects caused by failed leadership and bad management in today’s society.” The ignorance of our history and our past is the origin of several factors that have been combined over the years: disinterest, poor quality of education, poor understanding of who made history, and political and ideological interests to hide certain facts.
Citing structures known as quiebrasoles and rejas found prominently in Puerto Rico, GRAFT physically interconnects this existing architecture to a site specific place while conceptually representing an imaginary transplant or migratory gesture. GRAFT architectural elements permeated Soto’s home and urban surroundings in Puerto Rico and as a result the fractal geometry of these structures inevitably became a part of her visual lexicon. While researching the origins of these rejas and quiebrasoles patterns, Puerto Rican Professor Jorge Ortiz Colom extensive research became instrumental to Soto’s exploration. His monograph, The African Influence in the Design Build Edification of Puerto Rico, states that criollo architecture, which incorporates quiebrasoles and rejas, originated from sub-Saharan Africa through the population brought to Puerto Rico as slaves to work plantations during the rise of colonization.
Contrary to the inundated familiarity of colonial architecture, vernacular architecture has yet to be included as an exploratory subject in primary and secondary education in the Caribbean. A significant aspect of GRAFT uncovers and honors the history that has been accepted rather than explained.
For DRAFTERS Vila-Rivero and Soto will employ activation mechanisms explored in their previous projects. ‘Drafters’ will manifest as an interactive traveling exhibition structured by photo documentation, architectural interventions, workshop stations and take away publications. To elicit responses from visitors, Vila-Rivero and Soto will posed a series of prompts related to their research regarding contemporary culture, sustainability, history and geography inspired by their collaborative exploration of environmental sustainability in the face of economic growth. Visual and literary reflections will be compiled in photo documentations, contributed stories and interviews by familiar and new communities yet to explore.
Rooted in themes that affect us as humans, not just to Puerto Ricans, Vila-Rivero wide spectrum of subjects, including economics, political science, sociology, history, archaeology, anthropology. Vila-Rivero’ s A Metaphor Against Oblivion intertwined media, disciplines and materials thereby creating an intricate web of multi-layered ideas. Vila’s starting points originate with personal experiences within her collective environment. She then directs her interests into an in-depth critical analysis of selected topics. With a deep dive into the origins and meaning of her subjects, she prepares the groundwork for making critical, contemporary and pertinent visual commentary.
The multidisciplinary aspects of Soto’s GRAFT explores visibility by providing a format that can be disseminated beyond the gallery experience. Each iteration of GRAFT includes a literary component. Writers from disciplines of art history, art, architecture, sociology, politics and others are invited to reflect on rejas and quiebrasoles in the contexts of their individual fields of expertise. The content is published in both English and Spanish and is available to the public as hard copies, publications and pdf’s. The elements of GRAFT are specific to each space and sometimes include a shelter reminiscent of a bus stop acting as a functional representation that serve as benches for visitors to sit and read the accompanying publication.
As an evolving installation, the newest iteration of GRAFT includes small viewfinders embedded in the circular spaces of the structure. In peering through the viewfinders, the audience is met with an image documenting my everyday life during visits to Puerto Rico. Photos of her childhood home, scenes from various neighborhoods, and destruction from hurricane Maria are just some of the images viewers will see. The act itself is akin to peering through the quebrasoles and rejas surrounding a Puerto Rican home to glimpse a small portion of the home behind the walls challenging ideas of privacy.
Besides their affinity in subject and concepts, Drafters is a project that will broaden Soto and Vila-Rivero’s respective scopes. While addressing relevant connections between Puerto Rico and the US - Vila-Rivero living in Puerto Rico, and Soto living between Puerto Rico and the US - their collaboration becomes an asset, making accessible to each other their respective networks. Vila-Rivero and Soto are involved with academic communities as gallery directors and educators. They both seek connections outside of the academic realm to develop their research. They envision to work with new communities in Puerto Rico they have yet to explore.
Fuse as DRAFTERS, this grant will enable us to develop substantial research and photo documentation throughout Puerto Rico - it’s urban and rural sectors and adjacent islands gathering a spectrum of responses from less privileged and marginalized communities.
The validation of this grant will provide the necessary access and support to reach our aspiration with this project.