The Museum of the Old Colony is a work of conceptual art that derives its title from a soft drink named Old Colony, popular in Puerto Rico since the 1950s. Old Colony, the beverage, remains available today at island groceries and restaurants. Meanwhile, Puerto Rico endures 527 years of ongoing colonial rule; first under Spain, now the U.S., since the 1898 occupation. The island, an unincorporated territory of the United States, is widely regarded as the world’s oldest colony.
The Museum of the Old Colony appropriates imagery of Puerto Rico–along with original captions and descriptive language–created mostly by U.S. photographers, primarily to inform the U.S. general public about America’s new island possession. Ironically, the images bear witness to the colonial oppression, and numbing legacy of exploitation imposed by the U.S. on virtually all aspects of Puerto Rican life.
The Museum of the Old Colony aims to suggest that a careful examination of the colonizer’s gaze might shed light on the island’s present predicaments: an economy in default, criminally negligent hurricane and earthquake relief efforts, exorbitant rates of poverty, hunger, unemployment, a mass exodus of population, and the stripping away of any pretense of democracy under the Federal PROMESA act.
The project also references traditional museums of history, anthropology, or art, and their implicit agenda of justifying, celebrating, or condoning colonial might, and empires.
The Museum of the Old Colony is as much an exploration of history as it is an intensely personal exercise by its creator, the artist Pablo Delano, to come to terms with present-day realities, on the island where he was born and raised.
Featuring: Pablo Delano
ABOUT THE ARTIST
For the last twenty years, Pablo Delano has collected artifacts related to the colonization of Puerto Rico. After amassing a substantial archive, he began to think about the ways he could, as a visual artist, employ these materials to examine the history of his homeland. The result was a series of site-specific installations that examine the fraught history of U.S. colonialism, paternalism, and exploitation in Puerto Rico. Known as The Museum of the Old Colony, the project also challenges the ways traditional museums of art, history, and anthropology tell this story.
The Museum of the Old Colony has been exhibited at Alice Yard, Trinidad and Tobago, The National Gallery of Jamaica, in Kingston, The 7th Argentine Biennial of Documentary Photography, Tucumán, Argentina, King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center at New York University, New York City, Museum of Contemporary Art of Puerto Rico, in San Juan, Hampshire College Art Gallery, Amherst, Massachusetts, and the Center for Art, Design, and Visual Culture at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
The Museum of the Old Colony resides in the permanent collection of the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico (Museum of Contemporary Art of Puerto Rico).
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