Tony Cruz Pabón

Tony Cruz Pabón, La Llave/La Clave, 2017, courtesy Tony Cruz Pabón; Fania Records, New York

La Llave/La Clave (The Key, 2018), shown at the 10th Berlin Biennale, mixes the formats of video, playlist, visual essay, and installation. The experience is both visual and auditive. Puerto Rican popular music records (of Salsa, Bomba, and Plena) released from the 1960s to the 1980s communicated not only rhythms and songs but also elements of Afro-Caribbean religious iconography. Products of mass circulation and the cultural industry, these records played a fundamental role in the production and dissemination of the country’s so-called traditional culture. Like books, these records produced and spread knowledge and interpretations about the country in compositions addressing themes such as the creation of visual and racial stereotypes, debates on blackness, and the formation of a Creole national identity.

Although the backdrop of this work is the human and cultural landscape of Puerto Rico, La Llave/La Clave echoes underlying issues of the global order. By taking the record as an object and subject of knowledge, it renders evident the hierarchies within the means of production and the transmission of knowledge. Additionally, it resituates the involvement of art and the record industry in the formation, interrogation, and transformation of collective and national identities.

—Hélio Menezes

  • KW Institute for Contemporary Art


Distance drawing – San Juan (Puerto Rico) / Berlin (Germany). An attempt to draw the distance from San Juan to Berlin (approximately 7,681 km). Only 0.138 percent (10.60 km) could be realized, 2018
Graphite on wall
Courtesy Tony Cruz Pabón

Commissioned and produced by Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art