LEST WE FORGET (PUERTO RICO)
NYUGEN E. SMITH / MARVIN FABIEN
This edition of “Lest We Forget” was developed one year after Hurricanes Maria and Irma devastated parts of the Caribbean and the US. The site, located on the northeastern shore of the island, is a Neoclassical building constructed in 1847 by the Spanish Marines and used as living quarters, a warehouse, and a ship repair shop until 1898. The specificity of the site begged for the island-nation’s colonial past and present complicated relationship with the US, its current state of redevelopment post 2017 hurricane season, its economic dependence on tourism, and the region’s battle with climate change to inform the composition of the text and soundscape for this edition.
Smith composed and delivered an amalgamation of his original poetry and text sourced from travel blogs and websites. The online news sources and related essays advise clients and others on traveling to the Caribbean post 2017 hurricane season. The soundscape produced and mixed live by Fabien is a polyphonic musical sound influenced by popular rhythms of the Caribbean such as Bouyon, Dancehall, and Reggaeton. The emotional dynamics found in this sound makes an effort to reconstruct and to “re-member” the “assemblage of pieces”—pieces of memories of body, of space, and identity—that suffer the consequences of colonialism and effects of climate change.
Together, the artists engaged the witnesses in a moment of contemplation and confrontation bringing attention to language used by the tourism industry that encourages and bolsters travel to the Caribbean. In making this work, the duo channeled the rich history of Spiritual systems in the region through sound, text, movement, and symbols to deepen the vibration of the performance and to serve as a reminder that these systems have long been used as a coping mechanism during times of crisis and as a source of empowerment for practitioners.