New Times' MasterMind Awards honor the city's most inspiring creatives. We'll profile those honorable mentions, and eventually the finalists, in the weeks to come. This year's three MasterMind Award winners will be announced February 18 at Artopia, our annual soiree celebrating Miami culture. For tickets and more information, visit newtimesartopia.com.
It can be daunting to move to a new city. An unfamiliar space can breed alienation and isolation, exiling you from any prior sense of self. That's how Christian Dougnac, native of North Miami Beach, felt when he moved to Boston in 2013. Despite plans to perform with a band he was in at the time, he instead found himself excommunicated from a subculture of Miami artists living in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood.
"It was hard to go out. I just moved out to a new town. Everyone who was presented to me was ignoring me and having someone behind their back saying, 'Fuck that kid,'" Dougnac says. "The Miami kids exiled me."
Dougnac birthed Pariah, an experimental performance-art band, to cope with this transition. The aim of the group is to create a "temporary autonomous zone," or a space that eludes formal structures of control. Inspired by Hakim Bey's anarchist book by the same name, Dougnac, along with bandmates and fellow artists Krystle Bruise and Jayan Bertrand, transform venues. The transformation forces the crowd to remove themselves from their immediate context, only using sensory perception to identify with the world.
"This becomes dangerous because you become a kid. It's like ignorant play. The autonomous zone is liminal. It’s removed, it’s still in between."
The group members, who participated in 2014's Sweatstock, see themselves as a community band — a modern take on the Village People. But, they want you to join in too. At the beginning of some performances, Dougnac and company pass out cheap toothbrushes and toothpaste to the audience, commencing a ritual of hygiene that the artist says "activates all the senses."
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"This is brute toothbrushing," he says. "I was doing this at a rock-n-roll venue, suddenly you're doing something artistic, and maybe it belongs more in a gallery, but I'm trying to create an autonomous zone. So, take something like toothbrushing and put it in the context of a rock-n-roll show and suddenly what was 10 becomes 60 — the dynamic range of excitement becomes insane. Everyone becomes part of Pariah."
Dougnac, who moved back to Miami in August 2014, has found a loyal following for Pariah. At a performance at New College in Sarasota, the performance artist had his head shaved onstage. About two months later, at another show in Sarasota, he was approached with a gift.
"Kids from Sarasota show up, and they hand me a giant toothbrush... They had taken my hair and made it into a toothbrush," Dougnac says.
Pariah recently signed with Moniker Records in Chicago and has begun touring with the intent of forming a cult following. The band performed last week at the International Noise Conference.
"We’re creating a fictional cult, founded on a regulated nomadic lifestyle, mimicking a state of always running," says Dougnac, whose parents were Cuban exiles in the '60s. "We want to re-create a refuge experience, and ask, 'What is home, even when you have settled?'"