Allora & Calzadilla
The Night We Became People Again (2017)
Shot in a variety of locations around the island — a disused Commonwealth Oil Refining Company, Inc. (CORCO) petrochemical plant, a Central Rufina sugar refinery (where archaeologists have found remnants of the ancient Taíno and Saladoid cultures), and the cave in Guayanilla-Peñuelas where Allora & Calzadilla’s long-term installation “Puerto Rican Light (Cueva Vientos)” (2015) is installed. To the mournful tones of an ambient vocalist approximating the sound of an electrical current, the camera patiently captures natural light as it pans across these empty sites. Formally, the film is exquisite. Allora & Calzadilla have a knack for catching the sun as it crosses hovering insects, rusting elements of machinery, and speckles of airborne dust, lending an almost sculptural quality to the two-dimensional imagery. All of the sites, devoid of any signs of human activity, suggest an abandoned world and serve as a poignant metaphor for the recent exodus of the island’s population, as Puerto Ricans look for better work opportunities and a more manageable cost of living on the United States mainland.