April 13th, 2007

El Arte de Blin-Blin Politricks

Pictured above is a shot of Filiberto Ojeda Uptowns / Machetero Air Force Ones by visual artist Miguel Luciano, as featured in a show opening this Sunday, April 15, at Bard College. I’ve been an admirer of Luciano’s arresting approach since Raquel Rivera (who brought this latest project to my attn) sent me a digital dossier of his work to consider for inclusion in Reading Reggaeton. I was quite struck by his Pure Plantainum series — “playful and painful” really says it — and I almost immediately felt that we should put Pl├ítano Pride (see below) on the cover, as it suggests so many poignant readings itself. Critical and empathetic, cartoonish and complex, the image seems to shine a funhouse mirror back at reggaeton’s blinblineo

Here’s a description of the project —

Miguel Luciano transforms the image of the plantain or platano from a stereotype to an icon in his Pure Plantinum series. He explores this complex symbol of Caribbean culture, embedded with layered references to race and class, through associations with the exploitation of field laborers, and its pejorative use as slang for Puerto Rican and Dominican immigrants. An actual green plantain was cast in metal and plated with precious platinum, the giant-sized pendant hangs on a platinum chain and is displayed here as a precious object. It was also photographed in the window of King of Platinum, a store in Harlem, where it is presented as an emblematic token of respect. An object imbued with value in the context of today’s hyper-materialism.

About Luciano’s latest piece of vivid, critical art, Raquel has this to say:

For me, it hurts to look at Filiberto–icon of armed struggle for Puerto Rican independence assasinated in 2005 by the F.B.I.–emblazoned all over these sneakers. I find this piece to be an insightful and deeply disturbing commentary on our consumption-obsessed lives, particularly painful in the context of Puerto Rico’s colonial relationship to the United States.

And Miguel says this:

The Filiberto Ojeda Uptowns / Machetero Air Force Ones are a customized pair of Nike sneakers that pay tribute to the assassinated leader of the Macheteros, a clandestine group of Puerto Rican nationalists who’ve campaigned for independence in Puerto Rico since the 1970’s. Filiberto Ojeda was brutally assassinated by the F.B.I. on September 23, 2005 and has since been revered by many as the “Puerto Rican Che Guevara”. A pair of Nike sneakers become an unlikely vehicle of veneration for the fallen leader that both complicate and question how nationalism and resistance are embodied within today’s colonial consumerist society. Nevertheless, they engage alternative strategies towards reconstructing symbols of resistance from the objects of material desire, while questioning the commodification of Revolution. The Machetero Air Force Ones transform Nike’s Swoosh logo into a ready-made Machete symbol, as the mantra of Nike’s “goddess of victory” gives way to “hasta la victoria siempre”.

& Calle 13 says this (pues, not about the sneakers, but about the assassination of Ojeda):

& just to underscore the connection to (corporate) colonialism, I leave you with one more provocative, painful piece by Luciano (more here, here, and here; interviews here and here) —

Have it your way? Just do it? This is why we hot?


  • 1. droid  |  April 17th, 2007 at 7:57 am

    LIke the most recent escapades in Haiti the blatantly illegal nature of the assassination of Ojeda is almost breathtaking… I dont know a lot about Puerto Rico’s current political situation, but how on earth are the FBI able to operate with such impunity there when they are supposedly only allowed to conduct business in the US? Is it because of Puerto Rico’s ‘commonwealth’ status?

    I wonder how the CIA feels about the FBI stealing their traditional thunder… its usually their job to kill uppity brown people in other countries… :(

  • 2. wayneandwax  |  April 17th, 2007 at 8:57 am

    You hit the nail on the head, droid. The FBI is able to operate in PR because it is “officially” part of the US. See, e.g., the Treaty of Paris (1898), the Foraker Act (1900), and the Jones Act (1917), the last of which passed just in time to conscript 20,000 Puerto Ricans to fight in WWI.

    “Commonwealth”! A lovely euphemism that —

  • 3. droid  |  April 17th, 2007 at 9:06 am

    Jeez. Talk about geting the short end of the stick. All the disadvantages and none of the benefits.

    Its not much, but at least most of the rest of Latin America has some vague hopes for an independent future without death squads and economic tyranny.

  • 4. wayneandwax  |  April 17th, 2007 at 9:14 am

    > All the disadvantages and none of the benefits.

    Yep, that’s how Ojeda — and other independentistas — tend to see it. There are, of course, counter arguments, such as having the highest per capita income in the Caribbean (but that’s still half of Mississippi’s, the poorest state in the US).

  • 5. wayneandwax.com » T&hellip  |  April 24th, 2007 at 2:07 pm

    […] Sandra Garcia Rivera riffea re: William Carlos Williams y Miguel Luciano – The White Nike Sneaker […]

  • 6. Manuel Garcia  |  September 16th, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    Keep on doing good work, we need more voices.

    Where can I get Miguel Luciano’s ART?

  • 7. wayneandwax.com » P&hellip  |  October 2nd, 2008 at 8:50 am

    […] talked about Miguel’s work here before. It’s stunning stuff, and I’m thrilled to report that a shot from his “Pure […]


I'm a techno-musicologist, internet annotator, imagined community organizer.

I left my <3 in the digital global, but I reside in Cambridge, MA, where I'm from.

I represent like that.

wayne at wayneandwax dot com

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