Hollywood Kills: Pepón Osorio and his “Scene of the Crime”

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In “Hollywood mata: Pepón Osorio y su ‘Scene of the Crime’” [Hollywood Kills: Pepón Osorio and His “Scene of the Crime”] Lilliana Ramos Collado and Manuel Álvarez Lezama hold a spirited discussion of an installation by Puerto Rican artist Pepón Osorio (one of my favorites)—“Scene of the Crime”—which, I believe, is in the permanent collection of the Puerto Rico Museum of Contemporary Art [MAC] in San Juan. I have only translated a couple of brief passages from the blog entry, but I highly recommend the complete dialogue (in Spanish) found in the link below:

[The setting of this dialogue: a house in Toa Baja; The plot: a crime]

Manuel: A gold high-heeled shoe, a body that is all bodies, the mirror and hyperbole…. On the left side of the corpse covered by a bloody sheet is the golden shoe. To the right, on a table, stands the over two feet tall figure of San Lázaro gazing at the body with a look of astounding peace. To the left of the body, closer to us—the visitors, the witnesses, the co-authors of the crime—a camera, which seems right out of the last scene of Visconti’s Death in Venice, reminds us that we are dealing with two realities: art and the brutal snapshot of one of the realities of OUR PEOPLE [our diaspora] in the United States. A yellow plastic tape that says POLICE LINE, DO NOT CROSS separates us from the crime scene. In this scenario, Pepón Osorio presents us as separate entities, presents us from [the standpoint of] our beauty, our confusion, our dreams. And the detective game begins—a voyeuristic, literary, anthropological game. And eventually we realize that this is not just a stage scene/an installation/a grand poem, but rather a mirror that reflects us and serves as an excuse for OTHER and its/his power structures, as this scenario is the one that is magnified by the OTHER to define and discriminate against us.

Lilliana: One of the many Hollywood video cases that adorn the left and right margins of this installation declares: “Hollywood is committing a crime against Latinos.” Thus, from the margins, Osorio’s installation gives us the key to its proper reading: on the cases lined up on shelves that allude to the organization of a video club, the artist has pasted phrases pronounced by Latinos who have gone to see in theaters (or have rented videos of) Hollywood films that portray Latino characters as murderers, drug addicts, in short, as transgressors of the rules of coexistence that North American society upholds.

Osorio seems to be telling us that in the staging—through film products made for mass-consumption—of Latino space as a perpetual crime scene, Hollywood has assassinated the Latino character (the reputation, the “person” or the protagonist). What occupies the center of the installation is precisely the “crime scene,” which is none other than the variegated replica of a Latino habitat in a large U.S. city. On one side of this space there is a living room (or in this case, a ‘dying room’) full of trinkets or figurines of poor quality, as well as other objects made of plaster, plastic, glass, paper and fabric; on the other side, the dining room, overwhelming because of its excess of objects and decorative details. And in the center of the composition itself, on the ground and under a white sheet stained with blood is—one can guess—the body of a woman.

Around the body, abundant signs of violence: broken figures on the floor, shattered glasses, bloodstains on overturned armchairs. . .  This is sudden and recent violence: on the dining room table, a brown paper bag that probably contained a quick lunch or precarious dinner. Next to it, a soup tureen waiting for the soup and a newspaper open to the lottery-list page. Standing straight here and there among all the items in this scenario of suspended violence: television cameras, reflective screens, cases for video equipment, film studio lamps, VCRs . . . And to complete this scene, a yellow stripe that crosses from one end to the other in front of the installation and to keep the viewer out. On this stripe, a repeated message reads: Police line / do not cross … Police line / do not cross … Police line / do not cross. This “crime scene” is a cordoned off, closed space, intended solely for the delusional activity of the gaze.

For full conversation (in Spanish), see http://bodegonconteclado.wordpress.com/2013/11/27/hollywood-mata-pepon-osorio-y-su-scene-of-the-crime/#more-2691

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