Two of the dozens of images to be projected onto MPAC's 
Two of the dozens of images to be projected onto MPAC's walls

Strange but True

Not many events at Art Basel Miami Beach — and possibly just as few exhibitions shown over the course of Art Basel Switzerland's 36-year history — are as rambunctious as "Cars & Fish" promises to be.

The Miami Performing Arts Center's (MPAC) official opening is still more than a year away, but beginning at dusk December 2, "Cars & Fish" — MPAC's first large-scale public event — will mark the inauguration of its Plaza for the Arts.

This street performance encompasses a commissioned suite of pieces that boasts several art forms, including digital video projections the size of a couple of football fields from Charles Recher, plus hypersonic and interactive musical textures by Gustavo Matamoros that will be emitted from performers that weird science has managed to turn into walking human amplifiers.


"Cars 305-372-7659,

This wonderfully bizarre event will also feature a host of local kids dressed as creatures of the swamp, a parade, and something called Alligator Schmalligator, a giant creature echoing San Francisco's traditional New Year's dragons with a tropical twist. Produced by MPAC artist-in-residence David Clarkson and created by Wendy Wischer and students at the New World School of the Arts, the 35-foot-long beast will weave in and out of the envisaged crowd of spectators as the giant images and seductive music assault the senses. So why the title? Enter a very large fish, an animatronic creation set to dance to the beat of Matamoros's ambient score.

Kids on stilts begin the intense prologue to "Cars & Fish" with a parade at 6:30 p.m., bursting into the crowd and leading their slightly older fellow artists from the New World School who make up the long, winding Alligator Schmalligator. As the fluid images of Recher's light sculpture bathe the sides of the theaters with, yes, all of those promised cars and fish, Matamoros's interactive soundscape will come alive and soar depending on how close and how often the synchronized sound beams come to the living hypersonic flock of performers outfitted with high-tech sound gear.

This is not an official Art Basel affair but one of the many fringe events that have sprung up in sync with the four-day festival celebrating the New World's largest art market. The difference with "Cars & Fish" lies in its reach, which is not only generously multidisciplinary but also disarmingly accessible. Gargantuan images of typically South Floridian trademarks, such as fast cars, glittering fish, and gorgeous swimmers, projected onto MPAC's 150-feet-high walls give this event major mass appeal.

"'Cars & Fish' is one of what will be many interdisciplinary MPAC programs created to enhance and involve a wide spectrum of Miami's cultural community," says Justin Macdonnell, MPAC's artistic director, gushing about the event's lively representation of "local visual artists, performers, dancers, and even young children to celebrate their own city."

That's quite a crowd, and this promises to be quite a spectacle.


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