Not to like talk trash about anyone, but that 19-story tall chick dancing on the side of the InterContinental Hotel in downtown Miami needs to calm the hell down. Sure, she's just a bunch of LED lights urging Ultra ravers to PLUR-out and luring in horny tourists — but many of us think of her as a garish symbol of what Miami once was and now no longer is.
About a year ago, Dejha Carrington looked up and saw that bright lady waving her hips sensually and instead of passing judgment, she saw an opportunity. Her idea was to reclaim a public space and make it a canvas for an interactive art experience. "When you think about the Miami skyline, it has become this quintessential symbol for the city. It's like that ultimate postcard," she muses.
Carrington recently started doing public relations at YoungArts but has promoted plenty of other art spots, like Primary Projects, over the years. She is the co-creator of NEWT Miami: Experiments in Light, Color & Sound which aims to replace the dancing girl from November 10 to 15 with something a lot more brainy. Not only that, she and partner, composer and DJ Kelly Nunes, will pair NEWT with a handful of collaborators for enriching social gatherings. The two are Montreal natives. Carrington has lived in the Magic City for ten years and Nunes still lives in their hometown.
"I kept on thinking that that building is really like a vertical stage for us, and there's an opportunity to do something that's actually immediately reflective of the neighborhood," she remembers. The hotel owns the building and the dancing chick was the brainchild of brand-makers Fresh Juice Global, based out of Los Angeles. But Carrington remembered that the company had done interventions on the building before, so she knew it was possible to manipulate its lights. "We think Miami is ready for performative architecture," she says.
They contacted Fresh Juice Global and pitched them the idea. The company loved it and asked what it would take to get things going. And what was that idea? "Isaac Newton has a theory that for every color in the rainbow, there is a corresponding musical note." Nunes and their animator worked together on projection mapping. Nunes composed a soundtrack that is synchronized with the animation. Using color and rapid motion technology, NEWT "gives these inanimate objects personality," she explains. All you have to do is pull up their website on your phone and listen to what you're watching. "(Nunes) really brought the music to life," Carrington says of this synesthesia. "We're essentially trying to take you to the highest sensorial feeling according to the formula by Newton," she concludes of the trippy plan.
The work is influenced by James Turrell, Carlos Cruz-Diez and it's an homage to landscape architect’s Isamu Noguchi’s "original vision for the park as an activation point for community networking and cultural programming." Public art is the great equalizer. "People don't always respond to the traditional gallery space," Carrington explains, so she asks, "Who actually gets access to art?" NEWT will be visible from everywhere from Overtown to SoHo Beach House's rooftop to the Port of Miami. Everyone in different places will be experiencing the same thing. They decided that most people do have cell phones, enough to bring in almost everyone on the project. "It's about creating a happening, an installation, and mobilizing people in a collective experience."
This is the first time she's stepping out to actually creating content. "It's been a real shift for me. You go from pushing emerging and established artists who you really believe in, to getting behind your own idea." It's been harder to do that. "At the end of the day, I know who an artist is and I know who a creative is, and I try not to be one or the other, but more so try to look at what I'm trying to accomplish."
And the support for NEWT has been overwhelming. The InterContinental has embraced it as one of its cultural programs, it won the Miami Foundation's Public Space Challenge, the Downtown Development Authority provided money to organize corresponding satellite events. The plan is to mobilize the community and activate places on the ground with partners like O, Miami, the New Tropic, ArtTuesdays, Silent Revolution, and A+E District to create a series of events, pop-ups, and talks.
The Awesome Foundation also kicked in some funds. This was the anniversary edition of that grant, so there was a popular vote component, and they won. She really realized the demand for it. "People are interested in making these kinds of decisions for what happens to the public space around them. We're seeing that as people are starting to reclaim the city... You can get involved here in a meaningful way." Most importantly for NEWT, they're trying to raise the rest of the money they need through Kickstarter with a tight deadline looming on September 30.
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Though there's always the possibility of doing another project at a new location, this one is ephemeral. And she doesn't expect people to linger forever, leering at their creative enterprise. "At the end of the day, it's a building. We're using it as a catalyst to kind of create all these different programs with these groups that are already doing these awesome things... It becomes a lot less about the building and a lot more about the building as a symbol of what's actually happening in the immediate surroundings," she says.
Finally, we had to ask how she feels about the dancing girl. "I think I came up with something that suits my taste. I've been looking at all the YouTube channels and some people say, 'This dancing girl, we really need to get her off,' and someone will reply, like, 'It's really reflective of Miami's Latin flavor.' It's in line with Miami's sexy brand. So never since I've done this project have I seen so many polarizing views on one person. It's really like she's this personality on the skyline." And now NEWT is adding its own personality to that skyline which defines this city.
NEWT Miami: Experiments in Light, Color & Sound screens from November 10 through 15. Events soon to be announced. To help NEWT donate to the Kickstarter campaign now through September 30. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Instagram @projectnewt. Visit projectnewt.com.