"Where the Oceans Meet" Aims to Blur Cultural Borders

Lani Maestro's A Book Thick of Ocean.
Lani Maestro's A Book Thick of Ocean. Lincoln Mulcahy/courtesy of the artist
Miami is known as the crossroads of the Americas, a place that unites people from diverse backgrounds and cultivates an environment where people get inspired by the different cultures they encounter. At the recently renovated Miami Dade College Museum of Art and Design, the new exhibition “Where the Oceans Meet” delves into the pioneering thought of two Caribbean writers: Lydia Cabrera and Édouard Glissant.

Curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist, Asad Raza, Gabriela Rangel, and Rina Carvajal, the exhibition considers notions of shifting and porous borders—geographic, national, cultural, social, racial, ethnic, and linguistic—and how crossing borders has shaped our world.

"Where the Oceans Meet" joins two key leaders who dedicated their work to thinking through borders: the Cuban painter, scholar, and writer Cabrera and the Martinican philosopher, poet, and literary critic Glissant. Embodied by the works of art in the exhibition, the ideas of Cabrera and Glissant explore where art can consider and break through barriers of history, geography, and culture.

Although the artists are from different places and parts of the world, they share foundational space that separates and connects them. “I wanted to make a new version of this exhibition that would be even more relevant to our city and the unique location it occupies in terms of being at the crossroads of encounter, change, and history," explains curator Rina Carvajal. "So I proposed a third version of the project, called 'Where the Oceans Meet,' after a line in one of Glissant’s books. Thinking about Glissant and Cabrera’s transnational approaches, I proposed to my co-curators an exhibition that gathers together an even larger representation of artists working across the globe. These artists investigate in very profound and innovative ways a number of the issues that are of great concern to all of us today: borders, the interaction of people and cultures across both physical and ideological boundaries, and the way that those interactions produce our identities.”

Echoing the literary, anthropological, and philosophical work of Cabrera and Glissant, their art investigates how borders shape identities and negotiate imaginary spaces. Their questions resonate across mediums and genres and attempt to answer questions that we have today. In addition to a selection of archival materials related to Cabrera and Glissant, "Where the Oceans Meet" includes works by 38 other artists, including Ana Mendieta, Jack Whitten, and Daniel Boyd.

The title of the exhibition comes from a sentence in Glissant’s book Une nouvelle région du monde (A New Region of the World). The phrase alludes to the geographical connection between Glissant and Cabrera; it also hints at a transnational and global conception of the world. "Where the Oceans Meet" implies a border that shifts constantly, where people, cultures, languages, memories, and identities affect each other, in good and bad times.

Curator Asad Raza hopes this exhibit inspires viewers to investigate their own notions of borders. “Global exchanges have always been so important," he says. "They're not new, and the neo-nationalist ideas that are in the air these days that claim we can reject the 'other' and foreign influences and return to an imaginary purity are complete nonsense. But too often the artificial, sterile globalization process homogenizes culture. Instead, we need to exchange with each other the way Cabrera and Glissant demonstrate and create a much richer and more diverse cultural soil.”

"Where the Oceans Meet." May 26 through September 29 at the Miami Dade College Museum of Art + Design, 600 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; Admission costs $12; discounts are available for seniors, students, children, and active U.S. military. A free opening reception will take place from 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday, May 26.
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