As long as there is human expression in art, there will be problems with art. Humanity is filled with contradiction. People love and hate. They can create and destroy; they can inform or withhold. There is the desire to express and impress. Art created and consumed by such beings is rich in duality, feedback, and contradiction. Consider the idea of capitalism and gender and you will find more ideals to rebel against or celebrate.
Auto Body, the new exhibit produced by Spinello Projects, calls profound attention to art exhibition and its contradictions as much as it subverts the idea of the exhibition. From December 4 through December 7, the group show will unfold alongside Art Basel Miami Beach as both a protest and a conceptual art experience of profound merit. Fundamentally, it seeks to make the spectator think as much feel while denying the idea of commodification. Textually, much thought has been put into the work by a group of curators and artists who span several generations but are all women.
All the works are ephemeral and cannot be turned into a commodity to be purchased, owned or dealt. Tami Katz-Freiman, an independent curator and the former chief curator of the Haifa Museum of Art, is one of four women who are "Auto Body's" curatorial committee.
"'Auto Body's' mission is to exhibit innovative and alternative work that departs from the object-based driven market highly saturated during Miami Art Week," she notes. "The idea to focus on time-based practices as an alternative to an object-driven market during Basel week fascinated me, and the fact that it's a 100 percent non-commercial project shown during one of the most prominent art fairs in the world, at a time when the underrepresentation of women is still most apparent captured me, as well as the other curators involved."
Through format, principals and content, "Auto Body" will bring attention to issues with art on various levels in what looks to be a far-reaching survey that will prove to be one of Miami Art Week's essential experiences. Though no one will come out with an object or a receipt, the curators and artists hope they will have expanded minds. Brandi Reddick, a co-curator of "Auto Body" and Artists Manager at Miami-Dade County Art in Public Places, says, "I hope the project will be viewed as an examination of the way we think about gender and equality, to equally challenge both male and female viewers to begin thinking about the future of women in power, not just as a concept but in practice."
The exhibition will unfold in the cavernous 7,500 square-foot space that once housed the Giant Motors: Auto Body & Paint Shop (1750 Bay Road, Miami Beach) or "the male domain," as Katz-Freiman likes to refer to it. There's dance, live music, a radio show, performance art, and videos. Thirty-three female artists are participating, and a curatorial platform of 25 women nominated the works, with the final works selected by the curatorial committee including Ximena Caminos (director/chief curator, Faena Art Buenos Aires and Faena Forum Miami Beach) and Chana Budgazad Sheldon (executive director, Locust Projects).
So the men who once ran Giant Motors for decades have moved on and now the women have come to create.
"This multi-generational scope of artists that has been selected to 'Auto Body' bring the gender issues to the front stage and examine a diverse scope of themes characterized as the forth or even fifth wave of feminism," says Katz-Freiman. "Among these issues [are] gender inequalities within the systems of the art world, new identity constructions, sexuality and the male gaze, tensions of border and immigration politics existing on opposite sides of the globe, subversive relations to 'nature/culture' dichotomy, categorization conventions, stereotypes relating division of labor and domesticity, as well as subversive feminist statements about Art History, which was always male-dominant. Works that deal with endurance will also be part of the performance program."
A taste of what you will see includes María José Arjona's Right at the Center There is Silence, a video where the artist stands completely still, surrounded by four microphone stands each holding a razor blade to her neck. It's both a test in endurance and a very literal expression in the danger in speaking.
In the exhibit's opening performance, Up Against, Cheryl Pope will use only her head to knock down 700 water-filled balloons hanging from the ceiling. Closing the exhibit is a performance by Kembra Pfahler. She will drive into the building to put on "a provocative performance" entitled P.L.O.W. (Punk Ladies Of Wrestling). It will feature original music by her "theatrical death rock band" The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, as Pfahler and her all-female crew "resurrect the defunct mechanics workshop with a campy pin-up car modeling performance."
Dancer/choreographer Ana Mendez does not want to reveal her work before the audience sees it but says, "It's an idea I've had for a few years, but hadn't found the proper space and show...It's a solo," adding, "My piece isn't necessarily gender-centric. It's just circumstantial that I happen to be a woman performing my piece ... but I do think it reads better on a woman's body because of stereotypes of fragility and weakness in women."
Performance artist Antonia Wright, on the other hand, plans to call attention to a similar stereotype by defying it. She will present a two-channel video installation entitled Suddenly We Jumped that actually shows a bold sense of strength in her body. She describes the image unfolding in super slow motion on the screen. "In the piece you see me thrust face first, nude, through sheets of glass. I transform my body into a functional, mechanized weapon of simultaneous destruction and creation."
Like Mendez, she sees no limit to gender in her work. Asked what is special that her gender brings to her artistic expression, she states, "Honestly, I find this question a little insulting. Would men be asked what is special that the male gender brings to expression via art? Making art is a human experience, not necessarily tied to a sex, per se. I feel one of the goals of this show is to bring to light the double standard that women often experience."
"This exhibition is not about exclusion but integration," adds artist Agustina Woodgate, who was represented by Spinello during its official entry in Art Basel Miami Beach 2012 with her solo exhibit "New Landscapes." "My approach is Humanist. It's about equality and creating an awareness of human rights."
For "Auto Body," Woodgate is creating a radio show inspired by the exhibit's themes and location that will bring even more female voices into the mix. For the duration of the exhibition she will host a bilingual, online broadcast that examines the future of transportation and migration in Miami. She will invite local female voices to "represent the city with sound, music, conversation, and language experiments." You can stream it live online at radioee.net once the exhibit opens.
Though there's hardly room to list all 33 of the artists represented in "Auto Body," all of those interviewed seemed excited about the company they are sharing. Naomi Fisher is a notable local video artist participating in the exhibit. She will present her three-minute HD video Ashes, which she shot in a charred area of the Everglades following a controlled burn, and features a performance she made with fellow artist Stella Rey. "There are a lot of outstanding artists," says Fisher of her company in "Auto Body." "I'm especially psyched about A.L. Steiner and Z. Drucker's works. The artist-run space I direct, BFI, did a book of a collaboration by Drucker and Steiner a few years ago. I'm a huge fan of both of them!"
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Mendez just adds, "I feel truly grateful and honored for this opportunity to be among such powerful brujas."
Auto Body will be open December 4 and 5, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and December 6 and 7, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. 1750 Bay Road, Miami Beach. Parking is available at Sunset Harbour Garage, 1900 Bay Road (between 18th & 20th St.). Visit autobody-movement.com.
Follow Hans Morgenstern on Twitter @HansMorgenstern.