There will be plenty of objects on show (and sale) at Art Basel Miami Beach and its satellite fairs and events this week. But there will also be challenging, thought-provoking and playful experiments in the shifting space between object and performance, between the activities of daily life and the ideas in artists’ heads. The way in which they play with our ideas and perceptions is part of the art.
Take Dave McKenzie’s Declaration, part of Art Basel Miami Beach’s Art Public exhibit in front Miami Beach’s Bass Museum, which consists of a small plane flying along the beach at 11:45 a.m. Thursday through Sunday trailing a banner bearing an ambiguously worded marriage proposal that will change each day. Part of the same exhibit, Lourival Cuquinhha’s Varal is a gigantic clothesline inspired by the ones in a slum in his native Brazil, provoking thoughts about how social habits shape our visual landscape.
Artists “use the tools that are available,” says Art Public curator Christine Y. Kim, an associate curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. A work like McKenzie’s aerial banners alters a mundane bit of reality to raise questions in people’s minds, she says — and in a way, the questions are the artwork.
“They’re ubiquitous, these airplanes that pull banners over Miami Beach,” Kim says. “So how do people relate to them? Are they annoying? Maybe they’re today’s UFOs? How do people relate to these objects, or ways of messaging?”
AiR, another piece Kim selected for Art Public, sounds like a fairly traditional, if striking, performance. Jazz pianist Jason Moran, a MacArthur “genius grant” winner, and his wife, Alicia Hall Moran, a classically trained singer and Broadway performer, will make music Wednesday evening inside Jose Davila’s Untitled (The Space Beneath Us), a 32-foot-square pit covered with bright yellow tiles.
But Kim says the Morans’ one-time performance reflects the couple’s response to Davila’s massive hollow and to the luxe vacation and lounge culture (and clichés) of Miami Beach. Whether or not the audience perceives that, she says, it’s part of the essence of AiR for the musicians.
Luna Park, a performance/installation by the French duo Kolkoz (Samuel Boutruche and Benjamin Moreau), sounds still more intriguing and confounding. On the beach in front of the Bass, the artists will recreate the cratered terrain where the Apollo 11 spacecraft landed in 1969. Each afternoon, the sandy “moonscape” will be destroyed by a soccer game between teams of artists, gallery directors and others, then built up again.
The piece is meant to juxtapose different realities — the lunar landing site on a dead planet, the beach on a living one, a competitive soccer field. In an email, the artists described their work as “a crossover between banal reality and a physical experience of a simulation.”
But would a passerby who didn’t know that Luna Park was meant to simulate the moon think it was anything but people playing soccer on bumpy sand? Does that mean the work is art for some, but not for others? And does that matter?
That the simulation depends on people in the know pretending that Luna Park is a bit of the moon is, for Kolkoz, part of the fun — and inspiration. “We agree that nobody will believe that a real part of the moon actually fell on South Beach, and moreover, by chance, just in front of the Bass Museum,” they say. “We accept this lie, this simulation, … we like that inversion.”
Another work on the beach in front of the Bass that blends practical reality with fanciful invention is The Guiro, an intricately constructed wooden bar by the Cuban duo Los Carpinteros that’s modeled on and named for a ribbed percussion instrument made from a gourd. The word is also Cuban slang for a party, and the work, sponsored by Absolut vodka, incorporates seating and a bartender mixing drinks. It will also be the staging area for musical performances including a piece by composer Joan Valent for Wednesday night with 15 musicians playing guiros and other instruments.
Another group is turning the ubiquitous cocktail party into a creative opportunity at the NADA art fair at Miami Beach’s Deauville Hotel. Produced by Friends & Family, a design and event agency owned by New York restaurateur Taavo Somer, it’s meant to appeal to a hip, creative crowd for whom drinks and a DJ just don’t do it anymore.
“That’s so boring,” says party producer Johnny Misheff. “Miami during Art Week suffers because of the emphasis it places on catering to these New York and European fancy pants, this VIP exclusive ‘Did you get into that party?’ thing. We hate those parties.”
Instead, Misheff and company are staging a free event open to anyone at the Deauville that will include artists painting on the beach, inflatable sculptures in the pool and other tongue-in-cheek takes on children’s party activities.
Misheff says art-loving crowds increasingly expect a creative sensibility wherever they gather.
“People are tired of the minimalism of the late ’90s and early 2000s,” he says. “Our parties have fun friends doing fun things that challenge you in so many different ways. A party to us is people gathering and being active in supporting each other and being alive.”