"I'm with occupying everything. For me it's all about questioning structures of power."

Sigurdarson says he chose Opa-locka as a stage for his work because it has the largest concentration of Moorish Revival architecture in the Western Hemisphere. "Glenn Curtiss, the developer of Opa-locka, was an aviation pioneer who made his fortune selling planes to the U.S. Navy during World War I," the artist explains.

Curtiss was inspired to create his bizarre development after seeing the 1924 movie The Thief of Baghdad and even built a train station and city hall boasting spiral staircases, onion-shaped domes, minarets, and towers fit for a sheik. When Florida Gov. John Martin toured the site in 1927, he was regaled at the train station by city honchos wearing turbans and Bedouin robes while mounted on white steeds.

Magnus Sigurdarson in Opa-locka.
Magnus Sigurdarson in Opa-locka.

Location Info

Map

Emerson Dorsch

151 NW 24th St.
Miami, FL 33127

Category: Art Galleries

Region: Central Dade

Details

"1001 Dreams of Occupation: What's in It for Me?": February 10 through April 7 at the Dorsch Gallery, 151 NW 24th St., Miami; 305-576-1278; dorschgallery.com. Tuesday through Saturday noon to 5 p.m.

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That scene must have looked very much like one of Sigurdarson's faded postcards from the colonial days when the first seeds were planted for today's lingering distrust of the West in the Arab world.

In his video, Sigurdarson appears at the train station holding one of his cardboard "Occupy" signs he says also reference the foreign powers that colonized Northern Africa and fetishized its culture through propaganda and art. He has used Ravel's Bolero to score his video, further freighting the work with a sense of the surreal.

"While standing there surrounded by these tiled arches and striking Moorish architectural flourishes, I couldn't help but think of those people who died during the Arab Spring fighting for freedom in their public squares," he says in a hushed voice. "Over here, people see the Occupy protesters and they sometimes think it's kind of like, 'What's in it for me?' So I want to question that attitude with the work."

Sigurdarson pauses to mention the murder of Neda Agha-Soltan, who was killed during the 2009 Iranian presidential election and whose death was captured on video by bystanders and broadcast over the Internet. Arguably the most widely witnessed death in history, Neda's murder became a rallying point for those thirsting for democracy throughout the region.

Interestingly, back in 1970, a photo of Mary Ann Vecchio, a 14-year-old runaway from Opa-locka, also provoked outrage when she was captured kneeling in anguish over the body of a student killed by the Ohio National Guard at Kent State. It is just one of the deeper layers of history informing Sigurdarson's show and a reminder that the United States remains mired in a war on the other side of the globe.

"What is happening in the Arabic world represents a paradigm shift. We can no longer talk about them as the 'Other' now because we want them to be our friends," he says.

"Stop to think about how rapidly the world has changed. That we elected a president with the middle name Hussein is fucking unbelievable."

The Dorsch is also opening "The Politics of Time" by Kyle Trowbridge and "Magnetic Poetry" by Carlos Rigau.

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