ICA Miami: "Goodoo" Dolls, Melting Ladies, and Mental Help (Photos)

As far as new museums go, the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) is unique in that it's currently setting up shop within the Moore Building in the Design District. Oh, yeah, and it was forged out of a dispute from the people behind the board of directors over at North Miami's Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA).

While the ICA waits in hopefulness for a more permanent building to call home, the museum has seen fit to officially open its doors to the public during Miami Art Week. It's only the best possible timing.

See also: Miami's Newest Museum Offers Some Serious Art Therapy

Pass the tiny glass doors and once inside the place is awash in white. In the middle of the bustling entranceway, there lays an ash-colored figure. At first, your instinct might be to help this person stand up who has clearly fallen down, but as you approach, you notice the sunken features and what appears to be dry glue covering the body.

Ah, contemporary art at its finest -- and strangest.

The melted lady, as she shall henceforth be referred to, is part of the "As I Lay Drying" installation by Andra Ursuta, which takes up the entire middle area working its way up rather than around the space.

Inspired by patriotism and protest, each piece instills a sense of rebellion. Peering out from the second and fourth floors, you can see two quilted fists that inflate and deflate every so often. Viva la revolution!

Be sure to look out for the collection of colorful butt stools. They're stools with neat butt-imprint cushions atop. We're still working on the rebellious meaning behind this one.

The melted lady and butt stools were not, however, the strangest things on display at the ICA. Rather, Pedro Reyes' second floor exhibit, "Sanatorium," was delectably mind-bending.

As an artist, Reyes is fascinated with social relationships and seeks to use his art to shape our interactions and outlook.

The "Sanatorium," as described in the curator statement, is a "'transient clinic' wherein the visitor is treated for highly individuated experiences and afflictions, but also for the passive condition of interacting in public spaces and viewing art... In the Sanatorium, performance art is experienced as an unspoken contract between volunteer therapists and museum visitors."

Structured as an interactive experience, the "Sanatorium" is drenched in white--a common theme throughout the museum--giving it that mental hospital feel. The space is divided up into various closed-off rooms and areas, each dedicated to a different facet or method used in mental health treatments.

Each section is run by a volunteer therapist (they'll be the ones with the white lab coats on) whose goal is to assist you in your treatment.

In the GooDoo room, there's a stack of gray faceless dolls next to a selection of bright charms. Your therapist asks you to choose a doll, think of someone very important in your life--could be yourself, or a loved one living or gone--and then proceed to pick five charms that remind you of that person. As you fasten the trinkets on the doll, you simultaneously project positive energy into it; hence, "goodoo" instead of "voodoo."

Another noteworthy room is filled with wine bottles--though not for drinking, but storing secrets. At Cityleaks, museumgoers are asked to write down anonymously a personal secret and that of a close friend. The secrets are then wrapped in string and placed inside bottles and, as we were told, when the city leaks, it'll spill your secrets.

Fact: Christian Slater attended the opening Tuesday night and Cultist saw him scribble a secret or two and put them in the wine bottles.

Behind the door marked Vaccine Against Violence, a solitary clock on the wall and a large, gray stuffed figure hanging by a noose in the center. The point of this exercise is to think of a person who has harmed you in your life, blow up a balloon and insert into it all the negativity associated with that person, and then place the balloon anywhere on the mannequin. Next, proceed to beat the shit out of that doll. Let it all out.

One patient emerged from the room with her shoulders dropped, looking as if a weight had been lifted, and exhaled, "That was intense."

Other experiences include: Compatibility Test For Couples, Epitaphs, Museum of Hypothetical Lifetimes, and Philosophical Casino.

"Sanatorium" and "As I Lay Drying" will be on display until March 2015. The Institute of Contemporary Art is located inside the Moore Building (4040 NE 2nd Ave., Miami) and is open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission is free. Visit

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Carolina del Busto is a freelance writer for Miami New Times. She nurtured her love of words at Boston College before moving back home to Miami and has been covering arts and culture in the Magic City since 2013.