Jonathon Keats (Forbes) writes “From Puerto Rican Coconauts to Illegal Alien Crossings, A New Exhibit Exposes the Politics of Sci-Fi.” He discusses “Mundos Alternos: Art and Science Fiction in the Americas,” which opened on April 7 and runs through August 18, 2019, at the Queens Museum. [See segment on Puerto Rican artist ADÁL, marked in bold below.] Keats reviews the exhibition:
The Campo del Cielo meteor shower struck Argentina several millennia before Spain colonized South America. In 1963, the US and Argentinean governments excavated the crater, unearthing a 2.2 ton meteorite dubbed El Taco. The meteorite was cut down the middle at a laboratory in Germany. One half went into storage at the Smithsonian Institution. The other half went on display at the Planetario Galileo Galilei in Buenos Aires.
Argentinean artists Guillermo Faivovich and Nicolás Goldberg have been researching this meteorite since 2006. Unlike astronomers, who have used specimens of Campo del Cielo to study the dynamics of our Solar System, they’ve focused on El Taco as a cultural artifact that can reveal geopolitical dynamics from the Space Race through the present. Their documentation is a core element of Mundos Alternos: Art and Science Fiction in the Americas, a stimulating new exhibition at the Queens Museum in New York.
Most of the work in Mundos Alternos is more conventionally sci-fi than Faivovich and Goldberg’s research, though geopolitics underlies even the most otherworldly aesthetics. For instance, the Salvadoran-American artist Guadalupe Maravilla (formerly known as Irvin Morazán) has created an ornate “border headdress”, a cross between a B-movie costume and a pre-Colombian artifact. Before exhibiting it in a museum, he wore while traversing the US-Mexico border in a performance piece dubbed Illegal Alien Crossing. (The work is not included in the Queens Museum exhibit, but features in the catalogue.)
Wordplay on alien underlies many works in this exhibition, as does the double meaning of colonization. The Puerto Rican artist ADÁL, for example, has digitally altered photographs from NASA’s 1969 moon landing, claiming to document a mission six years earlier by Puerto Rican “Coconauts”. The replacement of the American flag with the flag of Puerto Rico neatly evokes the arbitrariness – and suggests the fraudulence – of all colonial claims.
The fictive Coconauts are classic sci-fi, exemplifying the practice of creating other worlds (mundos alternos) to reveal aspects of our own. This technique has a long history, generating utopian and dystopian works in genres ranging from literature to film to visual art. The research of Faivovich and Goldberg doesn’t exactly fit into this tradition. Instead they take mundos alternos in another direction.