Giving your art show a name like "Weird Miami" is a sketchy proposition. A phrase so loaded almost instantaneously sets a person's mind spinning, imagining deep treks into the most bizarre recesses of an already otherworldly place. It's pretty easy for expectations to creep too high: Will there be nudity? Will there be high explosives? Will there be an LSD-laced skunk ape hunt followed by a five-course fire-pit feast?
In reality, the Bas Fisher Invitational's two-part project — a gallery-bound group exhibition and a series of three artist-led bus tours — doesn't take any particular interest in exploring and exploiting Miami's excessively odd, desperately deranged, and unearthly lurid aspects. Instead, it aims for a more mundane brand of strangeness, which is not to say unexceptional.
More than anything, "Weird Miami" turns people into tourists in their own city, forcing them to discover certain unnoticed and unknown places while tracing undocumented histories, redrawing maps, and making new friends. "We kind of pride ourselves on being a community builder," project leader Agatha Wara says. "We really want community involvement, whether it's artists or just people who want to become engaged."
"Weird Miami": Through September 19 at the Bas Fisher Invitational, 180 NE 39th St., Miami; 305-879-6978; basfisherinvitational.com. Open by appointment only.
For its part, the gallery exhibition (nicknamed the "Weird Miami" Visitor Center) features Magic City-centric work from eight artists. "It's not a literal interpretation of a visitor center," Wara explains. "Each artist is presenting different facets of their personal experience with Miami. You're not going to walk in and find a front desk and a map." You will, however, find amphibian parts, stiff saris, and a ramshackle raft.
In one corner, there are the leftovers — frogs' legs, spatulas, grease — of Jason Hedges's opening-night cooking experiments. In another corner is Peggy Levison Nolan's Bar Mitzvah Boys and Prom Queens, a hauntingly benign living-room setup featuring a worn-out chair, kitschy knickknacks, and found family photos. Then, in a dark, adjoining room, Alyse Emdur's 20-minute video documentary, Weatherwoman With Lissette Gonzalez, loops unendingly, painting the walls in a hot TV glow.
The show is rounded out by Autumn Casey's 12-minute video, 069 Lips, and Untitled (Miami Testimonials), a set of prints by Adler Guerrier. There is Isabel Molos-Rigau's glue-and-ink-abused sari, Our Fabric, lying near the center of the gallery floor. A book-and-bookshelf installation drilled into the wall is a combination of two pieces — Selections From the Archive of K.O. Fuses and Esoteric Bookshelf — by Nicolas Lobo and Kenneth Andrew Mroczek. And almost out the door is Justin Long's sculptural object, Her Name Is Rio, a sort of makeshift raft cobbled together from an inflatable boat, wood, bike parts, other random junk, and an outboard motor.
Then there are the artist-led bus tours. "It was all kind of inspired by NYC artist collective Flux Factory," Wara says. "They do these summer tours, and I was like, 'Oh, my God! Miami would be perfect for that!' There are so many nooks and crannies and neighborhoods and strange stuff that we would never know about unless somebody walked us through it. And who better to do that than artists. They are always superaware of their surroundings."
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The "Weird Miami" tours kicked off July 18 with Adler Guerrier's sold-out "Untitled (How the Other Half Lives)," a trip that began someplace Guerrier called "pseudo-Wynwood" and wound through Allapattah, Liberty City, and unincorporated Dade County, with stops at hidden and not-so-hidden spots such as a small corner shop called Wig's City, Bom-Bo's back-yard garden, soul food joint Jumbo's Restaurant, and epic trade center Flea Market USA.
Book a spot on one of the two remaining tours — Kevin Arrow and Clifton Childree's "TBA" August 15 and Christy Gast's "Ripe Riparian" September 19 — by calling 305-879-6978 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The deal: You will be shuttled to a string of secret destinations. And the only guarantee: It will be weird.
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