ROXANA PÉREZ-MÉNDEZ                                                     ARTIST STATEMENT

As a multi-media/performance and installation artist who works closely on the fragility of history and identity, I present works that refer to an immigrant experience though the lens of my own experience as a Puerto Rican woman. 

Using humble, ephemeral processes, ready-mades and materials that layer and hide digitally manipulated imagery, I test the fixed notion of identity and its ability to polarize one as the Other. To this end, I use the Pepper’s Ghost hologram as a recurrent form in my work. Originally developed in 1860s and used for creating illusions, known as “ghosts” in theatrical performances and theme parks, it is a two-way glass mirror positioned at an angle to the audience. The Pepper’s Ghost screen acts as both a mirror and reflecting medium, simultaneously producing reality and illusion. In Cortando Caña, IV (1/2017), for example, there are three elements—tropical air plants, a two-way mirror and a video performance projection of myself, chroma keyed out of the background and “working the field.” Uncanny, ephemeral and amusing by nature, the construct of the vision is a tenuous one since the illusion quickly falls apart if the viewer steps to either side. In this miniature world, the viewer witnesses a situation where no resolution is achieved but the spirit remains to continue to keep cutting away at the task at hand. 

Presented singularly or in digitally layered in multiple, I embody the formation of the feminine identity in response to migration and in response to asymmetrical binational imaginary whereby the Puerto Rican subaltern nationality is embedded in an American dominant nationality. I bring forth my own personal history yet also extend beyond the autobiography to the metaphor for the female experience. In my work, I walk the streets, clean the hotels, make mixed tapes, and leave the country by any means necessary. In My English is Not So Good Looking (2/2010), I perform all of the characters and choreography for the last 50 seconds of ‘America’ from West Side Story. In this moment as the body reflected in miniature upon a transparent screen, I am every girl who wanted to sing and dance in West Side Story and everyone who choose not to hear the misrepresentation of Puerto Rican urban culture. Through self reflection and reflection of the self, the viewer comes to understand that identity, even gender, is not only an intrinsic quality but also a performance. 

Reflecting on larger global narratives, I also play with the distinctive Puerto Rican cultural production and manner of assimilation within the diaspora.  In Quien a buen arbol se arrima(1/2017), a large-scale installation at Taller Puertorriqueño’s Centro Corazón, I surround the viewer with a glimmering Phantasmagoria built from elements from theTaller’s archive, objects of Puerto Rican craft and kitch. These reflections, in the form of digitally manipulated video layered upon the crafted dioramas—Immigrants standing in line to board ships from Spain, Taino Indians dancing in ritual, Gente celebrating a funeral and Folkloric dancers dancing late into the night—catch the viewer through the mirror, connecting an imaginary then with a contemporary now.