the Razors Edge"
(essay in Spanish)
Mano Poderosa Racetrack: Nuevo Devocionario Boricua"
- (essay in English)
( en Espanol )
La Mano Poderosa Racetrack: New Puerto Rican Devotionary
By Taína B. Caragol
La Mano Poderosa Racetrack is a multimedia installation that playfully combines Puerto Rican folklore with consumer fantasy in order to display and explore the coexistence of these two elements in the shaping of Puerto Rican culture.
Departing from the Puerto Rican colonial tradition of saint carving, Luciano appropriates La Mano Poderosa (The All Mighty Hand), a popular icon representing the blistered hand of Christ with the members of the Sacred Family and the parents of the Virgin Mary mounted on each finger. Luciano resacralizes the icon, building a monumental faux wooden hand and replacing the saints on the fingertips with both commercial characters and folkloric figures of Puerto Rico. A vejigante stands in for the Divine Child, while Mama Inés, Ronald McDonald, a Power Puff Girl, and Colonel Sanders replace the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, St. Anna, and St. Joaquín respectively.
The Stigmata, a symbol of death and regeneration, houses a video monitor looping footage of live cockfights, where roosters bludgeon each other to a soundtrack of screeching tires and revving engines on a raceway. Inspired by the recent Hot Wheels racing craze in Puerto Rico, the artist assembled a 20 foot racetrack that attaches to the Stigmata. The constant duel between the roosters is paralleled by the interacting viewers who are seduced into choosing their own cars to compete in a race from the Stigmata Starting Gate to the Sacred Heart Finish Line, speeding down a straightaway from the point of sacrifice to salvation. Luciano awards the winners with golden plantain-mobile trophies whose phallic form suggest the "macho" fetish of car-racing in Puerto Rico while alluding to the colonial exploitation of Caribbean "banana republics."
In a tricky ideological game, the artist seduces viewers into becoming willing participants in a colonial society whose sole purpose and devotion revolves around consumerism. La Mano Poderosa Racetrack invites us to rethink our "Puerto Ricanness" from a critical perspective. Lucianos work presents a new Puerto Rican devotionary, and the push-and-pull of a culture. It is precisely within this tension, that the possibility of cultural resistance and re-negotiation resides. In La Mano Poderosa Racetrack, we all win, we all lose.