A Miami based contemporary art newsletter / blog

DIY Basel: Miami artists go back to basics


RENT ELECTRICITY GAS as it looked for Felix Larreta’s Spherescent opening.

Last year around early fall the phones of various Miami businesses started ringing. We had all expected the slam since before summer, and sure enough by September (at the latest) the glut of clients seeking Basel related services had fully descend via satellite and a thousand inboxes on our mellow existence, forcing us to gear up for the crush three to four months ahead of schedule. This year, however, while we rightly expected some lapse in extravagance it seemed unlikely that moderate expense and display would come to define the proceedings. But, shockingly, the typical swarm of high budget clients that gainfully employ – and in many cases stave the financial ruin of – Miami’s many seasonal workers have thus far proved hard to come by and while the parties are getting into the swing and the streets are peppered with murals and life there is a tangible sense of conservatism. Sure there are always going to be a select few in the now rare position to make inordinate dissipation their winter hobby, but for the most part, especially among locals, cautiously moderate seems to be the new excessive.

Services ranging from fabricators to art handlers, equipment renters to events coordinators are all reporting the same story, and while they are not hurting too bad (most securing at least one or two high rolling clients) they are certainly not over committed and swimming in cash as in previous years. Many ascribe this shift in trends to the economy, which is understandable; nevertheless, whether or not the current economic climate is a catalyst, there is a common surge of community-oriented consciousness that many artists are tapping into.

In the 80’s many art dreams were made reality. The 90’s by comparison was a good time for art, but maybe not such a good time for the art world. In Miami, our 80’s happened around the beginning of the century, 2001 to be precise. Art dreams were for a short time fulfilled and young emerging artists who had not yet been picked up or poached straight out of college were vying for the carrot being dangled – the promise of art stardom. By 2006 however, things had begun to get real and now, this year specifically, it is not unusual to find artists either leaving their galleries or getting full time jobs.

It’s likely that this is just a phase. But if this were the slow death of the art world would it really be such a bad thing? Whatever happens will happen. In the mean time however, we all get to grow stronger for working together and savoring the many low-key projects born of a return to a more organic, creative approach to art making.

Here follows a brief run down of some of the many unpretentious attractions this Art Basel Miami Beach:

The Brief Happy Life of Workshop Workshop, Design Miami.

Workshop Workshop, a factory and salon created by artist Jim Drain, poet P. Scott Cunningham, and sculptor Graham Hudson, produces zines that respond to Design/Miami itself—its participants, objects, conversations, histories, narratives, belief systems and forms. Even the detritus of the tent’s construction has been put to use by Hudson, who is in the act of constructing the space using remnant lumber, rubber, plastic, furniture—anything the fair and the city (the larger fair) has cast off.


Workshop Workshop promotional image.

In Workshop Workshop, physical and metaphysical byproducts are recycled and put to use, creating an environment, a process, and a series of works that reflect the intense interchange that occurs in Miami each December, and creates a locus for collaboration.

Drain, Cunningham and Hudson will draw from a rotating—and ever-expanding—crew of local and international artists, designers and writers, in order to produce as many zines as it can during the length of fair, with as diverse a range of content as possible.

Completed zines cost $5.00 each or can be bartered for intellectual property.

Proceeds will be donated to two local non-profits, Bas Fisher Invitational, an artist-run exhibition space, and the University of Wynwood, a literature advocacy organization.


Cuddle Fish is a small zine conceived by Miami based artist Bhakti Baxter as a way for the outsider to access the peripheral thoughts, no matter how obscure, of 30 Miami artists. Baxter asked artists to submit not art, but rather source material or that weird/funny/fucked up image floating on their desktop and ultimately on the mind. The entries were then collaged together into what is now a 14 page, lo-fi, black and white Xerox on colored paper zine. A total of 160 copies were made, with an addition of 33 artist proofs.


“Fossil remains found…Undated handout photo of an artist’s impression of “Ardi” – Ardipithecus ramidus. Fossil remains of a short human-like creature that lived 4.4 million years ago could be the closest thing yet to the mythical “missing link”, it was revealed today. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday October 1 2009. The almost intact female “hominid” skeleton, unearthed from a desert in Ethiopia, is the oldest known and writes a new chapter in human evolution. See PA story SCIENCE Human.” Photo credit:  J.H. Matternes/PA Wire

For more information on CUDDLE FISH please watch this hilarious video of Bhakti Baxter courtesy of Wet Heat (third one in from the top).

Twenty Twenty Projects Booth at NADA.

Twenty Twenty Projects Booth at NADA is a result of the project space receiving a grant from the knight foundation mandated that it be used to provide emerging unrepresented artists with a free a booth at an art fair during Art Basel Miami Beach. Presumably Nada was chosen because it is considered to be the highest quality satellite fair.

The artists chosen to receive the booth were Nicolas Lobo and Tom Scicluna, two artists who have worked with the Twenty Twenty Projects since its inception. Rather than simply present some stuff in a booth they settled on making a collaborative project that embodied the ethos of the project space consisting of an armature or a system of display to show smaller projects which stand up as works in their own right.


American Donut – Nicolas Lobo and Tom Scicluna’s installation in Twenty Twenty Projects’ booth at NADA.

The main feature of the booth is a 35 ft radio antenna that has been cut and folded to fit inside the booth. Around the base of the antenna are a series of custom-built glass tables on which smaller projects are be displayed.

The booth’s main function can be defined as a process of production. Books, transcriptions of pirate radio station transmissions in Miami titles 89.5 Miami Dade hint at a clerical air. Inside the booth the pair have set up their own radio transmitter. Via a phone they are connecting to American Donut, a dial up party line (712 429 0405) that they are then transmitting (on the same frequency that the pirate radio station transcribed in the book previously occupied), effectively making their own pirate radio station. All transmissions will be recorded and eventually edited down to a 36-minute record that will exist as documentation of the project.

As their booth-made pirate radio station is a replication of a party line anyone can call into it, immortalizing themselves within the documentation of the project, an otherwise transient medium.


American Donut – Nicolas Lobo and Tom Scicluna’s installation in Twenty Twenty Projects’ booth at NADA.

In addition to the transcription books, the antenna, the transmitter, the tables and the phone, drawings derived from posters of text message glossaries and poster display unit with rubbings of vintage embossed velvet led zeppelin album covers encapsulate the focal notion of continual transmutation. The Led Zeppelin album is none other than the bands controversial untitled fourth album, sometimes referred to as ‘Zoso’ or ‘Led Zeppelin 4’. Some believe that when reversed devil worship messages that are supposedly subliminally transmitted by the album can clearly he heard. The original album covers were rubbed, the rubbings were then scanned, the scans were then reversed and both versions were then silkscreened. This process mimics that of the phone party line that is transmitted as a radio station and cut as a record through several mediums – the subject is the record as object.


ARCHIPELAGO is exhibition by Gean Moreno and Ernestio Oroza instigated by the SaludArte Foundation, a pro-active organization who raise revenues to fund medical care solutions by involving the visual arts community in Miami and by holding cultural and charity events on behalf of the Jackson Memorial Foundation. Activating an idle space (26 NE 25th Street) Moreno and Oroza have in their own words “put some stuff together.”


ARCHIPELAGO installation view.

The exhibition includes:

The Helga Platform – an installation of interchangeable seating by Moreno for the Convention exhibition -reconfigured in a new way.

Freddy – an outdoor bucket pavilion installation by Moreno and Oroza for Night Shift at Bass Museum – but this time indoor and larger.

Scrapwood stools.

A no-budget outdoor lounge.

“…and a couple of other things.”

Unlike the events mentioned thus far this exhibition runs through until February 26, 2010 and since each part of the exhibition can be activated through participation the pair are considering of hosting some programming after Basel.

In addition to ARCHIPELAGO, Moreno and Oroza have been making tabloids to accompany every exhibition exhibited. In that regard their publications have accompanied exhibitions at Charest Weinberg Gallery, The Arts and Culture Center of South Florida and most recently The Spanish Cultural Center whose curator was kind enough to make their tabloid the entire catalog of the show, while allowing the pair to maintain their identity by including information of interest to their over and above that demanded by the exhibition, on this occasion highlights included an interview of Serge Toussaint, a local mural artist by Nicolas Lobo and  a text by Brian Kuan Wood, editor of eflux journal. The tabloids enable the infiltration of institutional frameworks whilst still remaining relatively autonomous – something of a trademark of the pair’s recent activities.

RENT ELECTRICITY GAS at 380 NW 24th Street

On behalf of Terri and Donna, Miami based curator Agatha Wara has set up a curious space called RENT ELECTRICITY GAS (a title borrowed from a Martin Kippenberger artwork). Featuring artworks in the form of seats and benches by Jim Drain, Nick Lobo, Ernesto Oroza and a young German artist Phillip Zach the space’s main function is as a bar. When asked “why a bar?”, Wara simply replied “ because what is the point of making more exhibitions?”

The bar opened in conjunction with Felix Larreta’s SPHERESCENT, the latest exhibition by Terri and Donna, a small but spicy gallery located on NW 36th Street. Located in a large warehouse, RENT ELECTRICITY GAS occupies the main space that you have to walk through in order to get to Laretta’s piece located in one of many partitioned areas within the warehouse. The bar, although more of a concept than a serious business model, is functioning and for the next few weeks will serve some peculiar and actually pretty funny drinks made by Wara’s “foodist” friends. “My bar idea is really an experiment, a bar and an exhibition in one, but neither at the same time. That is what I am hoping to accomplish anyway,” said Wara.

RENT ELECTRICITY GAS opens Saturday December 5th, 7 – 11pm and Saturday December 12, 7 – 11pm.


With only a few hours into the madness of Art Basel Miami Beach there already seems to be a theme emerging as works and events, tangentially or directly related to the process collaboration begin to stand out from the crowd.

From seeing events and talking with people it seems clear that the feeling that gripped the nation earlier this year is now manifest in the art world. Could it be that out of the ashes of a destabilized economy an anti-power global community phoenix is rising? What we have seen so far here in Miami certainly points to a more modest road ahead, but as we embark upon it, as we downsize, internalize, and foster, we are conscious that there is as yet no large-scale infrastructure set up for the change mentality that we seem to be buying into. As a result, people are doing things themselves, perhaps not because they want to, but because that’s the only way to get things done. Community, apocalypse, Obama, whatever, the fact remains that people are getting together, autonomous of a system, to make their own way. All kinds of communities are behaving this way and despite the suffering economy the focus is thankfully predominantly not oriented to the problem of a lack of available funds, but rather on solutions, which for the time being seem to be strength in numbers and hard, smart and humble work.

Jim Drain, an artist who has in the past won the Basel prize is now sat in Design Miami with a Xerox machine. Like a critical mass of microbes, creative’s all over the city are congealing, growing in numbers and stinking the place up with frugal awesomeness. Artists have always complained that Basel is not for the artists. Maybe this year will be different. The primordial soup has been achieved[.]

This post was contributed by Thomas Hollingworth.


  • James Echols

    This is a very good year. I have noticed that, though most of the large fairs have contracted in size and scope, there are many new smaller fairs, exhibitions, and parties, thrown by people who truly love art. Very energetic, exciting and imaginative. We probably will not even attend the convention center at all this year. We do thank the organizers of ABMB for bringing this to our city, giving everyone else the idea of joining in and doing some incredible stuff.

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DIY Basel: Miami artists go back to basics