Justin Long’s days of innocence, growing up with his brother above their dad’s motorcycle shop on the Miami River, “were all about making our own things, fixing things up, whether a go-kart, a motorcycle, a bicycle, whatever,” he recalls. That adventurous, improvisational spirit, years later, animates his art-making and curatorial work. Freewheeling, collaborative experimentation is also the soul of “Collabo 6 All In!” a casual, one-night performance-exhibition project that returns for its sixth iteration Aug. 31. Long is the curator — in a sense.
Initiated in 2005 by artists Bhakti Baxter and Jason Hedges as “Co-Operate,” the archetypal Miami-centric pop-up has a nomadic history, arising sporadically in sites around town. It was last held in 2015.
Just a month out, Long still can’t provide many programming specifics. As usual, there’s no overlying theme. For months, he’s reached out — especially to prior participants, but also to students — to see who’s on board. “If you were invited before, you’re on the list to be invited again,” he said. “It’s a really open process to whoever wants to be part of it.” Although about 80 artists have signed up; enrollment remains open.
“We really don’t know until installation what we’re getting,” Long said. “It’s kind of a mad-dash scramble to put together a map, make those curatorial decisions about what needs to go next to what, and try not to step on anyone’s toes.”
Collaboration is the only rule. No soloists. “It creates these new partnerships,” Long said. For example, artists Allison Matterly and Jeffrey Noble formed an ongoing collaboration, “Nice ’n Easy,” from their 2015 effort; they now produce public commissions in Wynwood, Miami Beach and Hollywood.
In 2015, after curating exhibitions at the Bakehouse Arts Complex for two years, and with the prior organizers’ blessing, Long took over Collabo for a Bakehouse “Collabo 5.” Most projects were lighthearted. Asif Farooq, Hiroki Haraguchi and Andrew Nigon’s deconstructed piano — activated by three chickens scratching about in a pen and triggering electronic sensors — exemplified that playful tone. By contrast, Randy Burman’s disdain for repressive, anti-democratic politics inspired his “Vent-o-matic,” in which patrons armed with old shoes bombarded 54 portraits of right-wing politicos the artist had painted and mounted on a chain-link fence.
“I like just giving people opportunities to experiment and do things that they wouldn’t have the chance to do,” Long said. That means space and support in a no-stress environment. This is sometimes a little messy. Last year’s Collabo resulted in confetti showers and holes in the walls.. In a dramatic ceremonial fire, Gustavo Oviedo and Juan Raul Hoyos burned their old paintings and stretchers to create a new collaborative work from the ashes. A piece made of bath gel and shampoo led to a couple of couple of slip-and-falls.
But everything’s cool. No major injuries or lawsuits, just a little embarrassment, and a broken Bhakti Baxter sculpture..
This year’s event is in a new venue. Mana Contemporary, a development company with a strong arts affiliation, will host “Collabo 6.” Mana has well-established arts campuses in Jersey City and Chicago. Miami is its newest venture. Mana’s 777 Building at 145 E. Flagler Street is home to a handful of community-oriented organizations, among them Dale Zine Shop, Bookleggers Library, Borscht Corp, Bas Invitational, LIZBO Arts, Vidium and O, Miami Poetry Festival. About 35 artists rent subsidized studios. “Collabo 6” will take place next door in a recently vacated, three-story, former movie theater and Payless shoe store.
But during a recent walk-through with artists, few were ready to talk about their projects. Frankie Cruz, known for creating indoor butterfly habitat/painting laboratories, insisted, “I’m not going to know until one day before the show.”
Carol Jazzar was more forthcoming. She, Douglas Hoekzema and Amanda Sanfilippo will create a 3D mandala “using foliage, fruit, vegetables … stuff from our yard,” she explained. On an adjacent wall, they’ll paint a night sky. A Bible text will read, “The kingdom of the Mother is spread upon the earth, but people do not see it.” Jazzar switched the gender from the original “Father,” because “the earth is female — at least for me.”
Mana facility co-manager Rafael Vargas Bernard, also an electronics and sound artist, will partner with Laura Marsh, who creates ornate, multilayered fabric banners. Their project will embed a motion-activated sonic device in one of Marsh’s pieces. “My part is going to be waving that flag around and chasing people,” he joked. “When they get really annoyed, I’ll pick someone else.”
Nick Ruiz and Juan González will transform a discarded Chinese-style, wooden headboard that Ruiz found into a freestanding sculpture. It will feature “grotesque little heads and different body parts that tend to be missing from older classical sculptures, noses and arms and things like that,” Ruiz said.
González is working on a foot — and maybe something else. “I’m working on a nose and a little head and a hand,” he said.
For her part, Jenna Efrein said, “I’m going to suspend plastic bottles to create an environment for people to pass through physically.” Her partner, Christin Paige Minnotte, will produce and project a video on the bottles “to create the illusion and sense of being in the ocean with a bunch of plastic in it,” she explained.
Mariana Smith and her partner, Juan Ledesma, have a few ideas but are still pondering. “I don’t want to go too far in advance in planning.,” she said. “I want it to all kind of come to fruition with the energy of everybody over here trying to figure out what we’re going to do.”
IF YOU GO
“Collabo 6 All In!” will take place 7-11:30 p.m. Aug. 31 at 141 E. Flagler St., in Miami. Admission is free. To participate, contact Justin Long at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information on the event can be found on the Facebook page for Collabo 6.