At installation artist Veronica Gessa’s home, the living room is empty, save for a couple of potted palms, some old leather chairs, and ten old-school TV sets stacked atop one another. Their screens flicker silently rotating images of Gorillaz, large block text reading "MEET ME IN THE PALE MOONLIGHT," a melting Jake the Dog from Adventure Time, and the familiar III Points triangle logo.
Gessa, who creates art under the name Mokibaby, has been the primary installation artist of Miami’s storied III Points since the festival’s genesis in 2013. She recalls becoming fast friends with festival cofounder David Sinopoli. “It really was a bunch of kids throwing a music festival,” she says.
Gessa remembers looking into TV-screen installations with Sinopoli and commenting on how cool she found them. Sinopoli asked her, “Why don’t you do it?”
A proud alum of New World School of the Arts, Gessa has always had an interest in film and theater. Though she has never received formal training as a visual artist, she takes an interdisciplinary approach to the creation of art. “When you’re an actor, you take everything you see, you learn from it, and you run with it,” she says.
After Sinopoli brought her onboard, Gessa began collecting old TV sets from friends and strangers. She combined her experience curating lights and video in nightclubs with her new medium to create a tapestry of visuals.
She cites TV installations in party scenes in films such as Less Than Zero as her primary inspiration, as well as the work of media theorist Marshall McLuhan, who famously wrote, "The medium is the message."
Gessa seeks to chronicle different moods through visual collage on her screens. The first year of III Points, she displayed five "feelings": sex, drugs, the internet, rolling eyes, and Miami. She has since expanded the concept to include more abstract themes such as “time, life and death, debauchery, and creation.” Certain films, such as Romeo and Juliet and Marie Antoinette, reappear in her installations.
Building on the collaborative spirit of the music festival, Gessa has also endeavored to make her installations more interactive for audiences. She cites one of her favorite moments of the festival during James Murphy’s DJ set in 2013 as “just watching how everyone experiences things.” She has since allowed viewers to change the tapes displayed on any of the screens to create their own experience.
The artist says codependency — her own relationship to her art, as well as the consumer’s relationship to media in general — is a central theme in her work. “I don’t know if they exist for me or if I exist for them,” she explains. The consumer experiences a similar flux of control in the “enslavement” of the screen.
After four years of helping create the now-established chill yet intellectual vibe of III Points, Gessa is expanding her wheelhouse. She has collaborated with brands such as RocNation, A Club Called Rhonda, letgo, and Red Bull, as well as artists including Kathryn Chadason, Max Reed, and the local Dale Zine and Porn Nail$.
Big names such as Gucci Mane and Arcade Fire have also taken notice of Gessa’s installations and requested their own. The artist is even designing a line of TV sets, including a “disco TV,” for future projects.
So while you’re vibing to Nicolas Jaar and Kaytranada at this year’s III Points, take a look at one of the many TV sets around you. Maybe you’ll learn something about yourself.
See Veronica Gessa's work on Instagram: @mokibaby.
III Points 2017. Friday, October 13, through Sunday, October 15, at Mana Wynwood, 318 NW 23rd St., Miami; 305-573-0371; manawynwood.com. Tickets cost $125 to $345 via iiipoints.com.
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.