let’s leave deceit, let’s talk about fiction
While I was walking around the neighborhood of Puerta de Tierra one month after Hurricane Maria in 2017, I saw that the panels boarding up the entrance to the Sylvia Rexach Theater had been taken down and were lying on the floor. I decided to take a look inside before it got dark, and I ended up spending around an hour there. Although my encounter with this structure was a somewhat chance occurrence, I was well aware that I was inside a mythical space, and its state of ruin was more than evident despite the recent natural disaster. In other words, it had suffered decades of abandonment and neglect. Two years later, I created a piece in this space for my first solo exhibition, which took place in Hidrante. I wanted to create something fresh and different, but that also included fortuitous recurring ideas from my work, the relationships between different species, and actively doing nothing.
The empty proscenium of the Sylvia Rexach Theater appears to ambiguously lack all the defining elements of a theater space. The main floor, which was also deserted, contains nothing but light and rubble. There is no audience or show. Venus and I move around the area, processing the information that we take in. Visually and intuitively, we operate in two registers—memory and fiction. Everything that happens is for the camera. The temporality of this place is phantasmagorical and builds a sense of the majestic, where unlikely events could indeed become a reality. After all, it is still a device for the radical contemplation of time: a theater. This is just one of many abandoned cultural spaces in Puerto Rico.
Conceptual and intuitive dialogue with the spatial structure plays an essential role in this piece. Therefore, let’s leave deceit, let’s talk about fiction needed specific criteria:
1) It would be a video piece in collaboration with the camera
2) It would be a short spatial gesture
3) My movements would be led by those of Venus (my dog, a deaf Great Dane)
4) Venus and I would mutually change our route around the space
5) Light, silence, and subtle changes in temperature would dictate my pauses
About the Sylvia Rexach Theater
The Sylvia Rexach Theater is located on the corner of Avenida Ponce de León with Calle Matías Ledesma in the Puerta de Tierra neighborhood. The building was designed and built in the 1930s by the famous Puerto Rican architect Pedro de Castro y Besosa for the Warner Martí company from Puerto Rico. At that time, it was known as the “Martí Theater” in honor of its owner, Rafael G. Martí. When it was inaugurated in 1937, it was fitted with some of the most sophisticated equipment available at the time, such as Super Simplex projectors with Morelle Extra-Superior lamps and a DeForest rectifier, which converted alternate current into direct current, to create uniform and visually pleasing lighting on the screen. The audio system used RCA Hi-Fi. Just like in other theaters owned by the Martí chain, natural ventilation was supplemented by two Typhoon turbines with sufficient capacity for a room of more than 2,000 people.
The best seats just in front of the stage had back and armrests and were the top model made by the American Seating Co. The same building also housed several stores whose window displays looked out onto Avenida Ponce de León, a spacious area for offices on the top floors. And as the structure was built on a hill, there was a 7,000 ft2 storage space in the lower part of the building with an entrance for trucks on Calle Matías Ledesma. The building was also known as the “Lara” at one point.
In 1972, the Teatro del Sesenta theater company set up in the Lara and renamed it after the famous Puerto Rican composer. During this period, an infinite number of memorable performances graced the stage of the Sylvia Rexach Theater, such as Gran Pinche, Puerto Rico Fuá and La verdadera historia de Pedro Navaja, until it closed its doors to the public in October 1986 with Bocaccio’s Il Decameron.
At present, the theater remains closed.
Based in San Juan (PR) and trained in dance and improvisation, nibia develops site-specific “choreographic events” to experiment with time, fiction and notions of territory.
Coming soon: Nkisi