Archive for the ‘Fairs & Festivals’ Category

Bill, my Art-Buddy

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

  William Bayer (left) is an internationally-renowned crime author. His novels have been translated into a dozen languages, his books have been transformed into television movies, and he has won numerous awards for his writing. He is also my Art Buddy.

Once a month, Bill and I go on various art adventures; galleries, private collections, or museums. Our gatherings involve lunch while we catch up on local chit-chat and gossip, plans and projects, and our respective artistic endeavors. Then we head out for several hours to the splendor of our eyes and minds and souls. We are cut from the same cloth, Bill and I are: Lovers of many mediums, aficionados of emotive arrangement, debaters of classical forms, or simply gluttons of the primal desire for beauty…

He is a man with exquisite and discerning taste. When I first met him — through his wife, Paula Wolfert — I was taken with his stunning collection of Art Deco silver, North African bedouin curved daggers, and a voluminous collection of over-sized film noir one-sheets (movie posters). How could I not be star-struck? We shared a love of film which for him, I’m sure began being raised by an Oscar-nominated screenwriter, Eleanor Perry. We bonded early over our love of films when he learned I was *trying* to explain to some online foodie community ignoramuses that Casablanca was NOT a noir film. It turned out that he had not only written numerous crime novels, but one specifically close to my heart, THE GREAT MOVIES:In Cinema History, 60 Films Deserve to be Called.


Art Basel – Technological Art (Video)

Sunday, December 9th, 2007

I had fully intended on writing each day’s impressions during this trip. That is plain and simply impossible as there is just too much to digest. Going through the hundreds and hundreds of photos I have been taking, I am devising a new plan where I will continue writing about everything I’ve seen over the next few weeks. In attending six different exhibit spaces yesterday afternoon (Pulse, Aqua Wynwood, Art Miami, Gesai, and Zones) and all that Design Miami had to offer last evening, I can better represent the various impressions thematically. In going through the pictures, that which has struck me the most is that Video may very well have Killed the Radio Star and technological art is becoming increasingly apparent.


Several large exhibits at Art Basel struck me including Sam Taylor-Wood’s That White Rush, a DVD production shown on a large, flat screen television. Running for just over two minutes, it depicts a Leda And The Swan-like image; a woman seemingly copulating with a bird. At first glance (as readily shown by those who just walked by), one seems to be viewing a mere photograph or finely-executed painting. The movements of the woman’s feet are miniscule and barely discernible. It is at first appalling – is she really having sex with the bird? Then it becomes erotic and sensual…

Another piece was a chamber presented by Francesca Kaufmann, Milano (although based on the signage, I am unsure if this was the actual artist or the gallery representative). Within the chamber are two vintage videos of The Carpenters in short, looped segments. Combating each other, one is a loop of Karen singing "Me, Me, Me" while the opposite video has strains of her classic voice crooning "You, You, You." 


I was thrilled to catch a photo of a man in yellow experiencing the two auditory experiences simultaneously. I was oddly drawn to this display and returned several times during the exhibit. A similarly-arranged exhibit was also made with a blue chamber and two Annie Lennox videos, but as her words were indistinguishable by me, the Carpenter’s dichotomy of the Me/You became more poignant.


Within Design Miami, video is incorporated in the selling of Max Lamb’s cast bronze chairs. Heavy and solid bronze, a background video which runs at an accelerated speed and shows the artist deconstructing the chair from a giant block of styrofoam.

On a twist from the produced videos being displayed, artists Jennifer and Kevin McCoy took the innovation a step further with a full installation piece. In High Seas, 2007, this mixed media sculpture of the Titanic is mounted with a motor and camera which runs around a track, producing a live video output of what appears to be the rocking motion of sea travel. The sensation of sea-sickness was palpable!



It is also gratifying that much of the video art being produced is not limited to the high-end , expensive productions. In a smaller gallery off one of the side-roads, I stumbled on this charming series of sculptures by Troy Abbott showing bird cages in which sits small video screens depicting what would otherwise be a live, caged bird. Don’t want the hassle of having to clean a bird cage or listen to loud chirping in the middle of the night? No noise and no mess with this caged bird!

Art Basel – Day Two

Friday, December 7th, 2007

EyesHow much more frustrating can it be, than to walk around for hours on end, looking at thousands of pieces of amazing art (unfortunately in painful shoes), taking HUNDREDS of photos, only to have a technical glitch somehow delete all said photos?

First, you have to understand that a good four hours-plus of yesterday’s endeavors was spent getting the necessary press accreditation just to be able to take said desired photographs within the various events. Note of minor annoyance: The security guards check bags and pockets to assure that no unauthorized folks get to bring cameras into the event, however everyone-and-their-brother with cell phone cameras are happily snapping away with no retribution. Which makes it doubly more annoying that I took the effort to be able to take the shots, only to somehow lose them later. I’ll stop griping now.

Despite a fairly rainy morning, I met some great people over a home-style Cuban lunch and managed to snare a ride over to the Design District. There I saw some truly innovative furnishings and home decorations. I may head back over to re-document those items which I was really drawn to… A second day was spent walking the convention center before heading over to see all of the containers. After a change of clothes (and shoes!), I headed to Aqua Art Miami. This was set up in the same fashion as one I saw at The Jupiter Hotel at the Portland TBA festival. There — as in here — a young, urban hotel is emptied of guests and each room replaced with an exhibit by various visiting galleries. In this instance, the Aqua event was very exciting and cutting edge, showing artists of great promise as well as those of questionable talent. The few pictures I can offer here are from the Aqua exhibit and tend to be a bit outside the realm of that which is found at the convention center in that there is more mixed media and "craft-based" media; clay, paper, etc…

That in itself brings up an interesting dialogue I had with a number of people today: That the concept of "craft" is still a four-letter word in this level of the art world. The convention center exhibits, while displaying a number of video and sculptural arts, contain little (if any) glass, clay, or textiles.
I won’t even go into the fact that I have not seen a single piece of art jewelry on the Society Dames wandering these hallowed halls…

That’s it – I AM going to back and re-take so many of the pictures I wanted to share. There was too much of interest that I wanted to discuss. Thanks for your patience!


Art Basel – Day One; Finale

Friday, December 7th, 2007


There were a handful of parties held during the evening of the first night — I headed to the Miami Art Museum for a raucous event in honor of the installation The Killing Machine and Other Stories by Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller. This was a series of rather disturbing multimedia installations. Okay, only the Killing Machine itself was disturbing. It was incredibly reminiscent of a Star Trek TNG episode Schisms where the victims are subjected to tests through mechanized arms on an examination table. In this case, it is mechanized also and surrounded with audio equipment to provide an emotional intrusive soundtrack, obviously meant to evoke a response of fear and impending danger. Elsewhere in the exhibit, I enjoyed an enclosed cabin through which various turn-tables could be seen, each designed to play a crescendo of operatic arias.


Leaving, MAM, I shared a cab with Ryan Biziorek, an Acoustic Consultant from Arup. His company was a consultant for a Ambisonic sound exhibit by Forsyth & Jane Pollard entitled Silent Sound represented by Kate MacGarry. Her piece is part of the ArtPositions display of the festival and are works by emerging artists wholly and entirely contained within, well, storage containers. Ms. MacGarry’s piece was an intensely moving piece of auditory art where one walks into a very dark, enclosed space to simply listen. A CD was available (and purchased!) which is binaural. As the explanatory card says:

The complex sensitivity of human hearing allows us to perceive the three-dimensional nature of our surroundings, deciphering the direction from which sounds originate and well as physically feeling sounds through vibrations. This recording, made using technology developed by Arup Acoustics, captures the full dimensions of the sound, enabling you to sense the live performance in its experiential and spatial entirety. The soundtrack replayed inside the listening chamber is a special ambisonic recording of a live performance, featuring an original score composed for the project by J. Spaceman (Spiritualized).  Embedded within the recording is a subliminal message, known only to the artists. Silent Sound by Iaian Forsyth and Jane Pollard began life as a live performance at St. George’s Hall in Liverpool, England, and was commissioned by A Foundation for Greenland Street 2006. The project was inspired by The Davenport Brothers, Victorian Spiritualist performers who presented a public séance on the same stage in 1865.


I experienced a full Stendhal Syndrome with the sounds of the piece bringing tears to my eyes. I was fortunate to share a great pizza and wonderful company with Ryan as well as Fabio Altamura and Kaavous Clayton. Fabio is Kate’s representative at the container and Kaavous is the "production engineer" who physically constructed the space within the container. Illuminating, enlightening, and engaging company and a wonderful evening!


Art Basel – Day One

Thursday, December 6th, 2007


I did a lot of foolish things in coming to Miami Beach for Art Basel alone. First, I took a red-eye flight that put me into Miami Beach at 4:30 a.m. Bad timing. I should have been here the night before or several hours later. This is not a town that wakes up much before 10:00 a.m.  Second — and most obvious — is that I came alone. The convention center hosts over 200 galleries showcasing more than 1,500 artists and far too often I desperately wanted to turn to someone and exclaim, "ohmygosh" or "isn’t that hideous!" Truthfully, I only walked two or three aisles during my first visit and that has not accounted for the fact that there are numerous additional locations of exhibits.

But there is solace in platters of stone crab! I am walking distance to Joe’s Stone Crab which provided my first lunch and will be hard to beat. 

Generally, the event is a difficult far to navigate as the planners, while offering listings of events on their website, failed to include an adequate map beforehand so that one could determine what is happening where. In this regard, I am comparing this event with the incredibly successful and well-planned Time-Based Art in Portland, Oregon. Granted, not nearly as heavily attended, but an easier event to plan for, especially for a first-timer. Finally, before I head out for dinner, this is an event for insiders and the über rich with connections. It is hardly an understatement that those with money get access and attention. But I’ve got three days left and hopefully the slight feelings of displacement and bewilderment will subside.