Sustaining himself off the Puerto Rican rainforest for 400 days, Papo Colo is enacting what is perhaps his most ambitious and personal performance to date. To bring attention to the latest mass migration off the island since the 60s, the 71-year-old artist will live at the base of the El Yunque National Forest, where he will focus on his studio practice for a year without talking.
The performance, Procesión-Migración, began on January 7th with a communal march of 500 people to act out René Marqués’ La Carreta (1953), a story of a rural Puerto Rican family that moves from the countryside to San Juan and then to New York City in search of a better life. The family returns to the island with broken dreams only to appreciate their relationship to nature and love their small island existence once again.
Colo’s own life mirrors the story of La Carreta: having left Puerto Rico in his youth to pursue what would become a successful career with exhibits at MoMA PS1 in NYC and as co-founder of Exit Art, the artist has since returned to live in El Yunque.
Procesión-Migración addresses Puerto Rico’s dire relationship with migration, as nearly 100,000 people left the island in 2015, according to the commonwealth's Institute of Statistics. Colo’s own choreographed procession comes alive with actors, dancers, oxen, donkeys, and goats to demonstrate a contemporary exodus deeply rooted in the past. The procession used a rural and winding road as a canvas to people the landscape with stories of heartbreak and regeneration. Is Colo’s art about his internal journey for 400 days, or is it about giving voice to the collective migration?
The Procesión-Migración storyline is most alive in the combination of sounds picked up along the road, the intermingling of singing, rushing water from the nearby river, cow bells, and people on foot. Ultimately, Procesión-Migración is a celebration of the human will and its desire to coexist with the natural elements.
See a collection of images taken of the play-performance by Puerto Rican photographer Cristobal Guerra below:
Click here to learn more about Papo Colo's previous exhibition at MoMA PS1.