Porvenir/Portátil Manuel Alejandro Rodríguez-Delgado
526 E 12th St, #C
Los Angeles, CA, 90015
The after-school routine in 1989 was to rush to grandma’s kitchen drawer of discarded objects. A broken spray nozzle & empty pill bottle would make a competent laser gun, while a door wedge and a couple of thimbles were the beginnings of a spaceship - main cabin and thrusters respectively. Those afternoons were usually occupied with the task of finding the hidden relationships between disparate objects & materials. “Usually”, except for Tuesdays. On those days I’ll wait by the orange trees for the overflight of the American warplanes. Their tail fins mirrored heraldry I’ve seen in movies before. My favorite was an iron gauntlet clutching a thunderbolt. I could swear that at least once the pilot waved back at me.
At night I’ll sit in front of the TV for the week’s Spanish-dubbed episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The TV was an oracle relaying a vision of the future. My childhood imagination was obsessed with the technological utopia the show promised, with the USS Enterprise and its brave crew “boldly going where no one has gone before”. In between segments were ads for the Puerto Rico 2004 Olympics Venue Commission. The 21st century promised a brave new world where we would build a high-speed rail, a futuristic Olympic stadium, and a new apartment complex for the athletes. Every apartment, like the cabins of the Enterprise, would have its built-in wall-screen console.
Twenty-one years into the future I found myself in New Mexico. The pandemic lockdowns were in their 5th month. One night I had a dream where Jean Luc-Piccard, captain of the Enterprise, was standing on the threshold between my grandfather’s plantain fields and the jungle. His Federation Starfleet uniform was disheveled, full of the same black mold that grew on burlap sacks when left under the rain. His pants were stained with the reddish-orange mud of the Puerto Rican mountains. He stared at me, half lost and apologetic.
I called mom a couple of days later. She was going through a family album and commented on a photo my father took while vacationing in 1986. She is holding me while standing on a fishermen’s dock in the coastal town of Guánica. Her t-shirt read Reagan ’84. I visited the dock in January 2023, what remains of it is already underwater. The rising sea level is also eating away at the foundations of a small seafood restaurant nearby. The future caught up with me and I never saw it coming. My technological utopia never materialized.
Porvenir/Portátil operates in the space between technological landscape and imaginary environment. Through my experimental sculpture practice, I assume the role of artist-inventor who produces technological objects that behave as artifacts of near-future realities and speculative cultural identities. My works are constructed using refurbished and repurposed electronics, materials, and hardware. By reconsidering technology from an artist’s perspective, I overcome the hermetic ecology of industrial processes and invent a new means for the research & development of technological objects as articulations of emotional and psychological dimensions.
This project was supported, in part, by a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant.