Artist Tomas Vu happily showed first-time surfers the ropes as he assisted them in waxing their boards. Bystanders walked over to see what was happening along the strip of sand where surfing is normally prohibited. “Untitled is on 12th Street, and surfing starts at First Street and goes to Fifth Street. So no boards are allowed over here, but we were able to get permission,” Vu says.
A crowd of onlookers gathered as the first three surfers attempted to ride the waves. Many observers wanted to jump in themselves after witnessing the fun. Vu says, “We’re trying to get out and see if this experiment works. I’m hoping to get more of a community to come here and pull them into the fair, as a curiosity and an exposure to art. We’re talking about getting back to nature and looking back at art. There’s this gazing at each other. That’s part of the experience.”
Surfers were seen cruising, floating, and falling during their wet and wild adventure. Brian Boucher, an art critic from New York, says, “It was incredibly fun. I felt humbled by my total inability, but there were a couple of moments where I was moving fast, not on my own power, and I was keeping my balance. I felt like I got a tiny taste of the magic.”
Though a neophyte, Boucher found the surfing experience meditative. “A lot of us in our circles of the art world spend a lot of time in our heads. To be on a board and in my body for a couple of minutes is a completely different experience. It’s about getting people who don’t normally do this sort of thing and getting them into nature and into their bodies,” Boucher says.
Yushen, a first-time surfer from China and in town for Miami Art Week, says, “It’s pretty fun. A very cool experience, but it’s also really hard to surf. It’s very hard to balance. But it’s really fun and the surfing board is really cool. I love the image.”
After the first batch of surfers, a more experienced local jumped into the water. Miami Beach lifeguard Lucas Bocanegra discovered the installation through New Times' story and graced the waves with his experience. “Surfers like the freedom of surfing, the freedom of expression. They like not having any rules out there. These boards, especially with the art and text that’s on it, represents that,” Bocanegra says.
He feels a connection to the text on the board. “Do we dream under the same sky? Does everybody feel the same freedoms and nobody is being oppressed by what’s going on with the world?” Bocanegra says. He planned to hit the waves again with one of Vu’s handmade Beatles-inspired wooden surfboards that hangs near the entrance of Untitled.
As he stood on the beach observing his installation come to life, Vu seemed pleased with how his art experiment turned out. “Let’s face it," he says. "When you’re sitting out there in the middle of the water like that, it’s peaceful. We can use a little bit of that, don’t you think? If not just for a moment. God knows we need this.”