Dancer during a performance for HOTBED at Fountain Art Fair.
If you didn’t go to the 5th installment of the Fountain Art Fair this year then you missed HOTBED, a project organized by Miami documentarians wet heat™ that consisted of four site-specific installation and performance pieces by four promising senior level students from the New World School of the Arts in a prominent booth generously sponsored by the advertising agency Alma DDB.
While the primary aim of the project was arguably to produce a compelling feature documentary, the motivation was to provide Miami students with valuable vocational experience. Those selected to take part were given six weeks to conceive, create and present a site-specific performative installation. Some assistance came in the form of a mentor workshop wherein established artists working in the Miami community gave input and feedback to aid the illumination and refinement of conceptual potential within the proposed works with the aim of improving their communicative potential, but largely the four were left to rely on their own devices, even to the extent of deciding amongst themselves which calendar day they would each present at the fair.
Limchoy Lee performing for her installation “Soft Don’t Go.”
Art students in Miami, a city that owes its booming – save for the recent faltering – art economy to one of the world’s most premier art fairs, are exposed to a lot, year after year, but for many reasons are rarely considered active participants. Thankfully a supportive community effort such as HOTBED stands to benefit those involved not only because they are provided with an as-real-as-can-be-expected taste of professional practice – something that is sometimes sugar coated by educational institutions guilty of coddling good grades – but because they do much to galvanize an important sense of belonging in students who upon graduating may otherwise feel as not so much derided as ignored, and always drowning in competition.
Behind the scenes of Jessica Laino’s “The Gust Among Us.”
Interested in the project for many reasons we visited each of the exhibitions and interviewed the students involved. In homage to wet heat’s practice and in an effort to share this with you in the most digestible format, here follows a compilation of footage we shot on those visits.
Being challenged in a real-world situation may be where the value of HOTBED resides, however, we found the more critical comments on the process to be very insightful. If this experience was meant to ape a real-world or at least real-art-world experience is it as valuable if the focus is solely on operating within the context of a fair? Does it matter that the students were sometimes required to work with unfamiliar media? And was the whole experience – the project setting, the self management exercises, and the mentor-ship – little more than an extension of the scrutiny they would ordinarily be subjected to at school?
11pm performance and “Miniature : Monument” installation by sleeper.
John H. Leo, co-founder of Fountain Art Fair had this to say: “HOTBED was clearly an incredible undertaking on the part of wet heat™ and we at Fountain were thrilled for their involvement. It was a highly ambitious project that we felt immediately complemented the spectrum of exhibitors. As a younger fair, it seems only natural to work with an institution who pushes the boundaries of art by encouraging students to push their own boundaries of expression. Overall I would say that the project was a success as I watched observers and participants readily interact. I was impressed by all of the installations, but my personal favorite had to be the clothing install and subsequent performances by ‘sleeper’. I oversaw many of the installs, but (personally) his was one of the more visually stimulating. That said, I felt that all of the exhibitors did an amazing job and I applaud Bill and Grela for their selections and hope to work with them again in Miami for 2011.”
Jose Felix Perez’s club house installation “Fortress.”
In the end, experimental as it was, HOTBED was simply about giving students a space. As such, whatever happened was going to be a ‘success’ because exposure and experience were unavoidable. What can be measured, perhaps, is the extent to which the students engaged with the process. But this itself has proven intangible. When operating at an undergraduate level it is advisable to try new things and to listen to professionals, but it equally seems condescending to assume that seniors would not bring developed ideas to the table or be in a position to dictate or critique the process. For this reason we celebrate all reactions to and outcomes of the project, positive and negative, for each points to its own success; that of the HOTBED project as a whole and of the students to operate in and think independently about a system at hand.
John H. Leo atop “Fortress.”
Ultimately with HOTBED, wet heat’s contribution to the community evolved from serving in a clerical capacity to something essentially more nurturing. In doing so they made a welcome transition and can now be proud not only of working tirelessly to preserve records of Miami’s artistic past, but of making an important investment in its artistic future as well. And all while still managing to remain diligently behind a camera. The obvious question seems to be, will this happen again?
For more information and updates please visit www.hotbedmiami.com
This post was contributed by Thomas Hollingworth