Take a Peek

The Miami Beach Cinematheque is no stranger to all things weird and wonderful, but this time its coordinators have devised something completely different to coincide with the Art Basel festivities in South Beach.

Guy Maddin's "Cowards Bend the Knee Peepshow Installation" is a movie within a movie, featuring live performance art juxtaposed with images that would make any peeping Tom drool, all done as prologues to actual movies that may or may not relate to the cinematheque's own installation "Assemblages: Boxes and Kinetic Items" by Miami's William Robb.

Here's what's happening: Maddin is a surrealist Canadian filmmaker, and the ten-part "Cowards Bend the Knee" may well be his masterpiece. It is about hockey — what else? — with an autobiographical twist showing Maddin's own days with the Winnipeg Maroons, as well as narrative departures that include visits to a combination abortion clinic/bordello, where we meet a madam named Lilliom and her lovely daughter Meta. We witness revenge, lust, murder, and a lot of fast, furious, not exactly clear images.

At the cinematheque, the action plays out through the peepholes of an installation — created by fellow filmmakers Steve Staso and Keith Bunker — that itself will be intensified by a live performance piece starring Julie Atlas Muz. She's a mermaid. I am not making this up. She's also the reigning Miss Coney Island, the star of the indie pic White Bitch, and a former winner of the coveted Worst Humiliation to Downtown Dance award in New York.

Art Basel Miami Beach naturally has a performance fringe of its own. The Art Video Lounge, an ambient walk-through affair at the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens, promises projections and soundscapes that will resound amid the tropical foliage — though decidedly on a more modest scale than the mammoth sight-and-sound projections happening across the bay at MPAC's Plaza of the Arts.

A host of other strange and wonderful things are afoot in Miami Beach — mostly in and around the "Art Positions" container show at Collins Avenue between 21st and 22nd streets. Art Performs — though it might sound like an open-mike event for the eyes — is a series of daily shows given by a seven renowned performance artists and curated by London's Jens Hoffmann. The free enactments will take place on a raised platform as visitors weave in and out of the funky shipping containers below.

The Art Sound Lounge, another official Art Basel event presented in association with New York's Internet radio station, is a comprehensive program of audio pieces by funky up-and-coming and established musicians — complete with audience participation.

A tad more ambitious, though definitely not a highbrow event by any means, is Gurn Miami 2005. This bizarre Art Basel import brings the United Kingdom's World Championship Gurning competition to sunny South Florida and challenges locals to compete. What is gurning, you ask? Making crabby, distorted, and over-the-top nasty faces as you pull yourself through a horse collar and the audience applauds — or not. Sometimes false teeth are involved. Maybe mooning too. This stuff has been going on in and around Britain's Lake District since the mid-1200s, way before the term performance art was invented. It seems to be a sport, a competition usually held alongside antics like climbing a greasy pole with a leg of lamb atop it, or fair maidens getting a tad too jolly. In the Cumbrian mothership of the Egremont Crab Apple Fair (or Fayre, as they say), this is one big act. In South Beach, who knows? It sounds like the weirdest offering at this year's Art Basel.

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