If you were to close your eyes and think of a time and place in Miami, what comes to mind? Perhaps it’s the sensation of sand between your toes and the sounds of the ocean’s waves; the swirls of cigar smoke dancing around your face as you take in the night standing outside your favorite bar; or the smell of buttery popcorn as you sit and watch a movie surrounded by a group of friends.
Although parts of Miami-Dade have begun to reopen, large parts of the city remain closed off. And for many who have sheltered in place for nearly two months, being outside can feel almost foreign. While you’re stuck at home longing for things to be like they once were, ask yourself what you miss the most about Miami.
The Museum of Art and Design (MOAD) is asking you to think of a place — could be anywhere, past or present — that has personal significance to you. Then, record yourself talking about that special memory and send the museum your recording. It’s all part of their latest project titled I Remember Miami.
This exercise in memory and participatory artwork was born out of conversations between Spanish artist Dora Garcia and MOAD’s executive director Rina Carvajal.
The Barcelona-based artist was scheduled to come to Miami for an exhibition of her ongoing project, Rezos/Prayers, as part of the museum’s offsite series, A City of the People. The piece was commissioned in late 2019, and Garcia’s trip was rescheduled a few times before being put on indefinite hold owing to the COVID-19 outbreak. Under quarantine, Garcia and Carvajal concocted I Remember Miami as a sort of extension of Rezos/Prayers.
"Prayers is a work that I’ve been doing since 2007, which is about describing the city in real time,” Garcia tells New Times over Zoom. “You walk the city and describe anything you encounter in a kind of continuous matter. It’s an exercise of perception, and in the case of I Remember Miami, it’s an exercise of memory.”
Garcia has a lot to say about memory. Whereas one may perceive memories as being things of the past, the Spanish artist believes otherwise. She points out that as we share our recollections, we’re reconstructing them in the present time and thereby breathing new life into old thoughts.
“When I tell you something that I remember, I’m constructing the memory in the present,” she explains. “As long as you can remember, as long as you can construct the memory of something, the thing is still there. The thing won’t be lost because you are still able to describe it.”
There’s magic, she says, in memory and words.
Garcia was born in Valladolid, Spain, and currently lives in the capital of the country’s Catalonia region. She doesn’t visit Miami often, but she does recall a recent trip about five years ago when she was in town for an event at the Pérez Art Museum Miami.
A sly smile creeps onto Garcia’s face as the memories come rushing back. Apart from the Cuban culture and restaurants, the artist best remembers her last few moments on the sands of Miami Beach before hailing a cab to the airport. The sand was so warm and inviting she nearly missed her flight home.
“I am always very organized, especially regarding traveling,” she says with a laugh. “I could hardly believe that I was running through the streets covered in sand, trying to catch a taxi with my sandals dangling in my hands. It was the first time I boarded a transatlantic flight with sand all over me.”
The artist has been inside her apartment for months, unable to leave save for the occasional walk around the block for some fresh air and exercise. Before the pandemic, Garcia spent much of her time traveling for work, so she’s grateful to be taking advantage of this forced family time. Still, there’s plenty she misses about the outdoors and life pre-pandemic.
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“If I were to do this same exercise for Barcelona, I would certainly choose museums as the places I would describe,” she says, gazing downward as she constructs her memory. “To be in an exhibition and to hug people when you first meet them. Ask friends how they’ve been, what they’ve been up to, and just talk to the artist at the exhibition. All things that I did so often before that were so normal to me.”
MOAD is collecting submissions through June 30 via its website. Staff will conduct an initial review before sending the recordings and images to Garcia. The final project will consist of a webpage where people can hear all the memories. You can even choose to listen to multiple recordings at once and create the feeling of an entire city talking, Garcia explains.
Eventually, as museums begin to reopen in Miami, the MOAD plans to create a sound installation with the recordings from I Remember Miami.
I Remember Miami. Submissions collected through June 30. Visit mdcmoad.org/iremember.