“Cannonball” conjures images of hurtling objects — or screaming kids hurling themselves into a swimming pool. And making waves in Miami’s cultural world is what Cannonball Miami, an adventurous downtown art enterprise, seeks to do.
Originally called Legal Art, the 10-year-old group started out offering free legal and career advice to local artists. But as its mission expanded to include artist residencies and events intended to broaden thinking about art in Miami, it changed its name.
Cannonball’s latest project winds up at sunset Saturday with Swash Motion, an event by Los Angeles-based musician and performance artist Corey Fogel inspired by Miami’s beaches.
Fogel is the third L.A. artist Cannonball has brought to Miami to create projects in collaboration with the L.A. gallery Machine Project. The program was funded with a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and Cannonball is a finalist for the latest round of Knight Arts Challenge grants
The outsiders’ perspectives help Cannonball fulfill its goal of being a catalyst for the Miami arts scene, says its executive director, Chris Cook. “I wanted to bring in artists working in ways we’re not seeing a lot of here in Miami.”
Five of the seven live-and-work studios in Cannonball’s space at 1035 North Miami Ave. are for local artists and two are for visitors.
“We think it’s important to not only support local artists but to bring in other artists to create dialogue through practice or exchange of ideas,” Cook says. Despite the similarities between the two sprawling, seaside metropolises with their many immigrants and cultures, Miami inspired each of the visiting artists in ways that L.A. did not.
Fogel’s performance will involve drum playing, floating musical instruments and fabric-swathed objects on the sands of Miami Beach.
“I’m really inspired by the white sand and clear water as a canvas and raw material, and the openness of the beaches in Miami,” Fogel says. “It is a kind of visceral reaction to Florida as a departure on the tip of the country. That inspires me … in sending all this exploration and experimentation into the open.”
Fogel was preceded by experimental theater artist Asher Hartmann, whose The Florida Room was staged in three private homes in Morningside in April. At one show, the 20-some guests mingled with the actors over drinks and snacks, making it unclear who was a performer and who was in the audience until the action began.
The play was a surreal sequence of emotional monologues and exchanges over ideas about home, ownership and who belongs in a place. Actors roamed from kitchen to bedroom to backyard, sometimes coaxing the audience to join them on a bed or sofa or challenging them to react to their outbursts.
Hartman was struck by the Florida rooms in older Morningside homes, which he saw as a link to a mysterious, riotous natural world he found compelling.
“We don’t have those indoor-outdoor spaces in L.A.,” Hartman said. “They’re completely enchanting. I was very interested in the mystical nature of the outside, the richness of nature in Miami, with everything so verdant and alive. These rooms felt like spaces where anything could happen, like spaces of transformation.”
Classically trained soprano Juliana Snapper’s Miami project delved into the city in an even more personal way. Snapper spent two weeks in April visiting people in small, enclosed work spaces — toll booths, motel lobbies, drawbridge towers— and persuading them to sing with her.
Her efforts, and those of her L.A. cohorts, have been documented by Miami filmmaker David Fenster, who will create a film about their efforts that Cannonball will screen this summer.
“I wanted something that would take me all over the city, put me inside the spaces where people work,” Snapper says. “A project that would let me offer something but also be a real collaboration. … I thought singing together, creating a performance together, that demands immediate and mutual trust and serious play.”
Not surprisingly, it was difficult persuading people to open up to a stranger by asking them to sing in front of a camera.
“God, it was challenging,” Snapper says. “I spent the better part of two weeks driving around Miami at all hours tapping on the windows of drawbridge towers, motel lobbies, peep shows and tollbooths. I knew I must have seemed like a crazy person, but the exchanges I had with people were great.”
She drove back and forth through toll plazas early in the morning, trying to find a time when she could stop long enough to explain herself to tollbooth operators, and even visited Miami Playground, an adult entertainment emporium on Northwest 36th Street.
Most people said no. A few who said yes then didn’t show up for work, leaving their substitutes to confront Snapper and her cameraman.
Among the six who agreed were the operator of a downtown food truck, a man staffing the gate to a parking lot and the chef at Palatino Jamaican restaurant in Wynwood, who, with his wife, a co-worker and a customer, improvised a kind of African-flavored doo-wop.
Snapper doesn’t think she could have done this project in L.A., where “people are so suspicious and there’s so much reality TV,” she says.
“In Miami I felt like everybody had a relationship to music … and that’s what we tapped into instead of being on camera.”