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Locust Projects' New Exhibits Force Viewers Outside Their Comfort Zones

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The abundance of art in Miami is overwhelming, even to the point that its novelty is beginning to wear off. The methods by which your average art viewer encounters and appreciates art have become routine -- frustrating and inspiring artists to force their viewers into more interactive, more energetic experiences. That, at least, was the case for exhibiting artists Carlos Rigau and Karl Haendel at Locust Projects last weekend.

Stepping into Locust, attendees were greeted by darkness and the steady clicks of multiple projectors simultaneously going off, an epileptic's worst nightmare. Seating was intimately arranged to face neon rectangles projected on the wall as the night's first speaker, Miami-born and New York-based artist Carlos Rigau, introduced viewers to his piece, "Fighting, Kissing Dancing."

"I proposed a design of a space where I would show other people's art works," Rigau said of the environment he initially created to showcase six short video works. Visitors enter a room illuminated by the neon rectangles in which they will see pieces by different artists highlighting their individual narratives and mis-en-scene strategies. The rectangles are a combination of the formats in which viewing occurs in cinema and television. "The rectangle [for cinema] is a 16 by 9 ratio and the other square is 4 by 3 [the ratio for television]. You put both those shapes together, you may have a new space.

"I'm interested in that, setting up a basis for perception," Rigau said. He is interested in the way perception is up to the individual because how a person sees things is how he/she eventually comes to understand them. The installation was part of the De La Cruz Collection for a year, where it curated three different exhibitions.

After a brief clip demonstration of "Fighting, Kissing Dancing," Rigau took guests back to the Project Room of the gallery for his featured piece, "By Design," a video sculpture made up of a low Formica wall and platform resembling retail shop fittings, supporting images and objects that resemble wood. Projected onto the wall is a video of smoldering flames and a gritty Miami.

After a studio visit with artist Christian Marclay in New York, Rigau took his his words to heart. "He kind of gave me this weird advice about doing something for your medium, so like, contributing and it will kind of give back to you, which is sort of how I came up with these ideas about videos and how to see it," he said.

After a few questions and discussion, guests walked back to the main gallery and faced their chairs in a circle toward the center of the room where attention turned to Los Angeles artist Karl Haendel, whose projected pieces flashed across the walls. Haendel engaged audience members about his work as the discussion was moderated by Diana Nawi, associate curator at Miami Art Museum.

Sixteen different projectors switched through 1,280 images, in which every single 35 mm slide had been carefully selected by Haendel. Obama, scribbled-over Picassos, exclamation points, boxing scenes, bleach, cheeseburgers, crying babies, Humpty Dumpties and numerous other visuals graced the walls and interchanged every few seconds. Haendel said he's interested in forcing the audience to make their own connections and the messiness of objects bleeding together.

"Here you have a knight and a battle ship -- maybe there's a connection about power and masculinity," Haendel said, pointing to two separately projected images.

"The traditional relationship between an art viewer and going to see art is pretty stable. There's a viewer and an object...Like a painting or a photo or sculpture or something...I'm suggesting that as a viewer, the thing doesn't matter. That object, the image, the only thing I'm really interested in is the relationships between them," he said.

Haendel argues that when someone is just looking at a singular object, he/she does not see it in its entirety. "It's a little bit of a lie because it's hiding a lot of things...construction of how its meaning is made and you just assume it to arrive fully formed and intact," he said.

Haendel chooses to produce art that forces the spectator to be active and participate with their brains because the traditional mode of viewing art requires little to no brain power.

He points to images of rubber-bands and electricity, and explains something about confusion and twisting. "It's sort of disturbing to viewers to have to do that work, to make their own connections, their own meanings," Haendel said.

During the discussion, an audience member inquired something about the "random" images being projected and the word was not well received by Haendel. "I hate the word 'random' because it's overused and I don't think people really know what it means...Say someone you haven't seen in 10 years showed up at a party you're at and you say 'That's so random.' It's not random at all. The reason you know them and the reason you're at that party is the same reason they are, because you're from the same place. Things have reasons...I'm very careful and there's a reason I choose every single one of these images," Haendel said. His work over the years is an accumulation of almost 10,000 images.

Both artists strive to produce work that confronts the viewer and forces him/her to realize that everything is relative, no matter how brief the interactions are. As Locust's mission to showcase experimental, contemporary art, Rigau and Haendel's work will be on view through Saturday, March 2, so go find a connection.

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