Amid the avalanche of artworks unleashed on Miami during Art Week, performances can bring art and ideas to life in startling ways. Here are some of the most gratifyingly reality-altering and inclusive events this year.
The traffic that drives us mad all year hits a hysteria-inducing peak this week. Which makes it the perfect time for “Traffic Jam,” from composer and disruptor Steve Parker. He’s inspired by his hometown of Austin, Texas, blessed like Miami with insufficient and outmoded public transportation and mushrooming sprawl.
“I’m really interested in using local materials, and in the city where I live, one of the most abundant materials, sadly, is a surplus of automobiles not moving very much,” Parker says. “It’s a satire about the ridiculousness of transportation. ... this is a way to turn that on its head to create a collaborative experience where people in cars are doing something together.”
Watch out for music-and-noise-making bicycles (think John Cage’s prepared piano on wheels) roving through traffic, and moving sound-sculptures in parking lots and People Mover stations. Volunteers who want to indulge their habit of pounding the horn can join in car “choirs” (workshops to learn how to participate in all of the above are at noon Wednesday and 6:30 p.m. Thursday at MDC Live Arts Lab at Wolfson Campus downtown; sign up and learn more at MDClivearts.org.) “Traffic Jam” climaxes with a mad car carnival Dec. 3 in an MDC Wolfson Campus parking lot, with choreographed musical bicycles, interactive auto installations, a giant xylophone made of car parts and performances from Miami artists such as Guitars Over Guns and Juraj Kojs.
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One of the most inclusive events will take place at one of the most exclusive locations — the Faena Art District in Miami Beach. Nov. 27 it hosts Tide by Side, a four-block, four-hour “civic ritual” and carnival/procession directed by curator Claire Tancons, collaborating with Brazilian-bred, New York based avant-garde composer Arto Lindsay and architect Gia Wolff, who specializes in working with carnival floats. It features artists such as Miami’s Carlos Betancourt, Cuba’s Los Carpinteros, Spain’s Miralda (organizing dozens of restaurants, food trucks, and other culinary participants), and 30 Miami music and performing groups, from high schools and colleges to Afro-Cuban ensemble IFE-ILE and Haitian group Rara Lakay. It all sounds like a curated amplification of Miami culture and carnival madness.
Ximena Caminos, executive director of Faena Forum and artistic director of Faena Art, says that although the Faena Hotel and other commercial properties are priced for the elite, the artistic mission of the district and Forum are egalitarian.
“We want to invite the whole city to participate,” Caminos says. “This is a large scale cultural district ... let’s work with everybody and show this is a place for the community. There’s a lot of public space and public art. This is a connection, a bridge between us and the local community. We want to bring new ways of doing things to Miami.”
On Tuesday there’ll be two shows of “Once With Me, Once Without Me,” a site-specific dance by Pam Tamowitz using her company and students from the Miami City Ballet school, inside the soaring, multi-windowed Faena Forum. Tamowitz, a celebrated New York choreographer who did a version of the project at the original Faena Art Center in Buenos Aires, says she was inspired largely by the Forum itself. The sets by the building’s architect, Sho Shigematsu of OMA, include a platform that encloses the audience and others that people can walk around, as well as a moving wall and 3D mapping that responds to the light coming in through the honeycomb of windows.
“What I love is they chose to do dance for this opening,” says Tamowitz. “They could have done installations or anything else, but instead they chose a living, breathing art form.”
Over in the Design District, Locust Projects presents an intimate, dream-like performance that’s the opposite of the wide-open Faena efforts. Alexis Gideon’s “The Comet and the Glacier” combines installation, song-cycle, video animation and surreal story-telling. “It’s really a whole universe,” says Gideon, a musician and video artist making his first installation.
The piece is based on Gideon’s invented story of the author of a mysterious, long-lost book called The Almanac, and a character, based on Gideon himself, who remembers the book from childhood, although this is impossible. The real Gideon’s memories of his childhood in New York (such as the way traffic sounded like waves on the beach) are layered with the imaginary Gideon’s “memories” and the invented mythology of the Almanac. A museum-like “exhibit” leads to primitive-looking huts and giant blue boxes, each holding videos and sets that reveal a different part of an imaginary world. You can see the installation any time. But the delirious mix of real and invented memory, of myth and story, doubles when Gideon performs the songs live, which he’ll do Monday through Saturday.
“I lead the audience through an emotional, evocative experience,” said Gideon, walking through his project recently. “I want to create the experience of a dream. This is about memory ... about mythology and the loss of the mystical and magical.”
On Dec. 1, downtown’s Centro Cultural Español will look toward Cuba with “El Acercamiento/The Approach,” part of a four-year series created by artists and students from Los Angeles, Miami and Havana. (It travels to Havana’s Fabrica del Arte Cubano in March.) The performances include a multimedia installation exploring the experiences of Afro-Cuban and Afro-American women, vocalist Carmina Escobar’s live video-linked interaction between singers in Miami and Havana and Cuban artist Aissa Santizo’s “Wet Steps,” an event on the beach that honors those who have died trying to cross the sea between Cuba and Miami.
Mana Wynwood, the vast complex of warehouses and empty space slated to be an ambitious but still undefined cultural project, will host an event that promises to be one of Art Week’s strangest experiences. Presented by New York’s Milk Gallery on Dec. 1-2, “Whole Glory” features celebrated tattoo artist Scott Campbell raffling off the chance for 10 people to put their arm through a hole in a wall (the title is based on the sexual slang term “glory hole”) and get a tattoo of his choosing. Campbell won’t be able to see them, and they won’t be able to see what he’s adding to their skin. An earlier New York performance had people lined up around the block for the chance to participate. “I wanted to come as close to connecting that needle and my intuition as possible,” Campbell says in a video of that event. “To eliminate as many barriers and as many critics between those two things, so it becomes a purer art form.”
Essentially, you’re turning your body into an anonymous vehicle for Campbell’s imagination. Art gets real, indeed.
If You Go
What: Traffic Jam
When: 3 p.m. Dec. 3
Where: MDC Wolfson Campus parking lot, Northeast Second Avenue between Fifth and Sixth streets, Miami
Info: Free. Workshops to participate in weekday pop-up performances and main event at noon Nov. 30 and 6:30 p.m. Dec. 1; details at mdclivearts.org.
What: “Tide by Side”
When: 2 to 6 p.m. Nov. 27
Where: Faena Arts District, Collins Avenue between 32nd and 36th streets, Miami Beach
Info: Free, faenaart.org/artistic
What: “Once With Me, Once Without Me” dance performance
When: 4 and 8 p.m. Nov. 29
Where: Faena Forum, 3300 Collins Ave., Miami Beach
Info: $25, faenaart.org/oncewithme
What: Alexis Gideon’ “The Comet and the Glacier”
When: Live performances 3 p.m. Nov. 28, 7:30 and 9 p.m. Nov. 29, 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. Dec. 1, 11 a.m. Dec. 2, 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Dec. 3, 11 a.m. Dec. 4
Where: Locust Projects, 3852 N. Miami Ave., Miami
Info: Free, locustprojects.org
What: “El Acercamiento/The Approach”
When: 5 p.m. reception, 6 p.m. performance, Dec. 1
Where: Centro Cultural Español, 1490 Biscayne Blvd., Miami
What: Scott Campbell’s “Whole Glory”
When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 1-2; tattoo raffle at 10 and 11:30 a.m., and 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30 p.m.
Where: Mana Wynwood, 2217 NW Fifth Ave., Miami
Info: Free, manawynwood.com