Augment mock in the central courtyard of el Museo del Barrio
Barrio Batey, 2016
Augmented Reality/ Virtual Installation
Taíno Towers/ El Museo del Barrio, East Harlem, New York
Created for Mi Querido Barrio, the inaugural augmented reality exhibition of the Caribbean Cultural Center/ African Diaspora Institute's new Harlem Home, Barrio Batey superimposes, through augmented reality technology, an Antillean indigenous batey over two sites in El Barrio/ East Harlem. They are the central courtyard of the Taíno Towers and the central courtyard of the Heckscher Building where El Museo del Barrio is housed. Some of the images included in the scenery are adapted from actual photos taken at el Parque Ceremonial de Caguana in Utuado, Puerto Rico, one of the most important Taíno sacred sites in the Caribbean. Bateyes, such as these, often marked the center of a village, with the rectangular caney or cacique's home at the head of the primary batey and the round bohio homes of the naboria surrounding it. In these fields or plazas, the areito celebration or ceremonies took place and the batu ballgame was played. The batey was the meeting ground, the sacred ground for ceremony, celebration and more. Today central plazas in towns throughout the Caribbean islands are still the meeting space where the community gathers for important events. In New York City spaces like El Museo's courtyard became a gathering space for the Summer Nights concert series, artist interventions and performances. With its important collection of Taíno art and its incredible contribution to the cultural fabric of New York City through Taíno art exhibitions and related educational programming, I found it necessary to imbue the space, even if cybernetically, with the essence of the indigenous ancestors that inform our beliefs, traditions, aesthetics. The two selected sites appear to be those that historically in the community have worked to bring a presence to our ancestors.
The augment is created within a panoramic setting that essentially places the viewer within a cube. This format allowed me to insert imagery in the four cardinal directions, north, south, east, west, which might shift depending on the position of the viewer, but to also consider the viewer as anchored in the fifth direction sacred to indigenous communities: center. The center is anchored by a representation of life above in the concentric circle that appears in the sky, associated with water, our navels and our north star, Polaris with a connection to the cosmos. Below it is marked with a representation of the cemí Maquetaurie Guayaba, Lord of the dead.
Through the skies appear various symbols and geometric figures marking our ancestors' belief, one that is widespread through the Americas that our world is protected by a cosmic web of geometric patterns. One panel shows a bohio together with the royal palms native to Puerto Rico. The symbols on that panel represent that of a baby and of one of our ancestors, twins born from the back of a turtle. The two figures are seen side by side as well in the monoliths on which their petroglyphs appear.