Blackout, 2017
Allora & Calzadilla

Photo: Courtesy the artist | Lisson Gallery, London/New York
Installation view: Allora & Calzadilla. Blackout, MAXXI, Rome, Italy, 2018

Copper, ceramic, iron, steel, oscillator, speaker, vocal performance
139 x 262 x 129 cm
The relics of an electromagnetic transformer that exploded in Puerto Rico in 2016, causing a lengthy power outage and complete blackout across the country, are reimagined by Puerto Rico–based artist duo Allora & Calzadilla as an instrument that reproduces energy flows. Ceramic insulators and transformer coils form an amorphous mass of electrically charged copper assembled into a monstrous power station of sorts. The pieces were acquired from the chronically underfunded Aguirre Power Plant in Salinas, which is operated by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority—one of the largest bond issuers responsible for the current 74-billion-dollar debt burdening Puerto Rico’s economy. Blackout’s frayed, mangled, and corroded body presents a state of material and sonic decomposition. It expresses the depraved political, financial, and environmental network that weaves energy production and debt, embodying economic distortions, structural disfunction, and legal maladjustments.
mains hum is a series of vocal actions created in collaboration with the conductor Donald Nally and the composer David Lang that explores the mains hum—the continuous, low humming that buzzes from old or improperly grounded electrical transformers. The composition uses a quote by Benjamin Franklin, only the words remain indecipherable, transformed into a system that controls the music. The quote reads: “In going on with these Experiments, how many pretty systems do we build, which we soon find ourselves oblig’d to destroy! If there is no other Use discover’d of Electricity, this, however, is something considerable, that it may help to make a vain Man humble.”


Group exhibition: Abundant Futures
Venue: C3A Centro de Creación Contemporánea de Andalucía, Córdoba  
Curator: Daniela Zyman
April 1, 2022 - March 5, 2023
mains hum is activated weekly by the Córdoba-based choir Coro Brouwer and students from the Escuela Superior de Arte Dramático.
Jennifer Allora born in Philadelphia, USA, in 1974.
Guillermo Calzadilla born in Havana, Cuba, in 1971.
They live in San Juan, Puerto Rico.