A Miami based contemporary art newsletter / blog

Can you feel it? John Burtle at the Little River Yacht Club

Sense, ideality, objectivity, truth, intuition, perception, expression–this common matrix is being as presence: the absolute proximity of self-identity, the being-in-front of the object available for repetition, the maintenance of the temporal present, whose ideal form is self presence of transcendental life, whose ideal identity allows idealiter of infinite repetition. The living present, a concept that cannot be broken down into a subject and an attribute, is thus the conceptual foundation of phenomenology as metaphysics.” (Derrida and time, page 56)

Installation view. Image courtesy of John Burtle.

MMMmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmMmmmmmmmm mmm mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm mmmmMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM MMMMMMMMMmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm mmmmmmmmm… Oh, Oh OOooohh, Oh, AaaaaAAAaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh hhhhhhhhhaaaa aaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, OUCH, Ew, Hmmmmmmmmmmmm, OOOOOooooooooooooooooooooo oooooooooooooo… Mmm MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMmmMMMMMMM MMmm mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm… Ha, Ah, Ha, Hachew, ick, AAAHHHCHOOOoooo, ew, ahh, MmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmMMM MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM MMMMMMM… Oh YUCK, Blah, aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh Ha Ha Ha, mmmmm, ZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZZZZZZ zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZZZZZZZZ“““““““““““““` ZzzzzzzzzzzzzzZZZZZZZZZZZZ ZZ….

Text mumbling courtesy of John Burtle. Originally posted on Facebook, 2011.

Running a Dérive (drifting) above 71st street is on any ordinary day a journey to an alternative place that is purposely out of sync with that emerging “Lombardi” circus running concurrent with the downtown “Art Walk”. Its a site, a locale, an urban area, a fixed flat topography. Its a place with vacant green lots in the concrete jungle all at once malleable and protean on the shifting margins of Miamiʼs limited historical zero sum gain. Its a place whose specific location is on both sides of rivers and moats. Its a place without gated communities whose drawbridges and barricades promote exclusivity.

Inchoate, yet realizable by it’s already emerged alternative to gentrification with far less pomp and circumstance–it transcends both the Design District and the Wynwood Arts District as an area to play, produce and think in less leveraged overhead–all the while waxing nostalgic yet working closer to pre-capitalized splendor. Its somewhere, over here, there about, close to that other place near or far from deserved Utopian dreams, resolutely counterpoised and unraveling master threads and narratives of reducibility.

Its the Little River, its Little Haiti, its Lemon City and its many other places inside and out of what ever is already here. Its a hood–its my neighborhood, but most of all its not mine.

Recycled cloths, bailed and ready to be shipped–headed for probably Haiti. Image courtesy of Richard Haden, from Running a Dérive series, 2011.

Not exclusively a culturally inspired address because its a mix…its spoken and unspoken dialogues woven between alterity; its a salad bowl instead of a melting pot, with all it’s ingredients still discernible. Its artist studios next to the recycled bails of clothing, run alongside the toxicality of artisan auto body shops, and a bit farther around the corner(s) are streets that flaunt walks on the side of risk.

…and like that endless flow of being up here–that which doubles as singular or collective–thyself can always depend on they-selves cooperatively sharing an industrial base. Its a fountain-head stepped in mutidirectional vectoring. It’s multifarious trajectories having become subjective temporalities, shared or not, of temporal form laid over the concreteness of material form. Its in this place, where we are not exactly self-centered, that we can still carry on and work within degrees of authentic enthusiasm for being here, somewhere, dislocated and displaced, while all at once nomadic or in self exile.

Railroad tracks, Miami, somewhere out in the avenues close to NW 71st street, between 36th and 22nd Avenue, I think. Image courtesy of Richard Haden, from Running a Dérive series, 2010.

Itʼs a mixed industrial neighborhood with housed ethnicities anchoring the neighborhood soundly, keeping it from drifting towards that consuming la la land filled with gratuitous amounts of redundant boutique drudgery.

With no clearly or exactly defined borders and with railroad tracks running through it–there is no right or wrong side of the track–it is a place where graffiti is still real and local muralists like Serge Toussaint still hold their own along side commissioned murals and insurgent tags of hit and run aesthetic.

Now showing, a month or so ago, was John Burtle, an artist from Los Angeles who, like so many of us that drift through Miami with dissimilar curiosities, drifted through, Miami, to leave a trace. John Burtle by invitation, came to leave a trace on this place, in this place–a place where sea walls are illusions and yachts roll about on trailers….

John Burtle @ The Little River Yacht Club, [an artist run alternative space].

Here at an evolving locale in the “Little River community” is embedded–added to the magic pad of collective memory, there was, still is, and shall continue, like other past, present and futural events–a fast and fleeting exhibition. Its now showing status turned off, yet still mnemonically activated and tossed up here as fast as it was made, onto an exhibition archive on ARTLURKER.

Untitled, 2011. Paper and paint. Approximately 10 x 10 ft. Image courtesy of John Burtle.

John Burtleʼs work was made on the spot for the exhibition. And like things made in the proximity of a place, for a place–that I reckon are often left to be affected by said place, without thought–this exhibition, like the place, hyper-sensitizes the visitor, who is most likely embodied and personified by the place, if only briefly, informing the maker too.

That which makes us aware of place also makes us aware of being in it. Its just an existential experience whose affection is the estranged terrain that washes it’s signification and mood over us. It’s flowing Psycho-geography goes viral if you look outside yourself.

John Burtleʼs work does something like that. The five works in the show are about sensitizing sense [Hypostasis] and effecting the body. The installations title, Can You Feel It? concerns the sense of smell; whatʼs heard; its about the sensation of heat; its about being touched or touching another and its about seeing. Its also about reading sense as well as imagining how things feel or felt; its forward looking play and engaging while simultaneously grounded in memory. The works speak of intimacy or remind us of a lack of it. Its here too that we speak to(o). In this place, at this alternative pop up weird salon. Its an alternative institution, if you will…

Untitled, 2011. Rolling table [48 x 32 x 36 inches], synthetic orange fur blanket, and various hand implements for the body. Image courtesy of John Burtle.

Walking towards a bright orange table loaded with curious implements, we view an assortment of strange tools. The presence portending the possible use on someone standing next to us–while above our head a heat lamp warms our gaze–while back on the table, that assorted array of implements becomes a bit more focused. There are sexual toys, massaging tools and other equipment for the body–hardness and softness contributing to the ambiance of eerie suspicions and suspect moves which are scored in view of another.

A large painted collage fills a section of the room with ambient Lettrist forms, emitted by repeating patterns–itʼs ambiance loaded with retinal candy that positively charges the room; its also a bright orange pimped out table covering whose furious synthetic fur sells fast and cheep possibilities of pleasure. Its outwardly affectious and in this case, its pulled off in the style of Art Povera–the spirit of cheapness re-ified in its comment…in its less capitalized splendor.

Untitled, 2011 (detail). Paper and paint. Approximately10 x 10 ft. Image courtesy of John Burtle.

What typically goes on around here seems out of order, however, its quite the opposite: Its disquieted friendliness that is normal disorder of the day about the everydayness of everyday life up here, over here, there or wherever.

The show exhibited attitude. It snubbed its nose at the gentrification down below. The larger-than-life nose crafted out of paper and glue, fitted with a motion sensitive trigger, spun a grinder built inside (engineered by Meatball and Justin Long) and permeated the room with the smell of hot pepper.

Untitled, 2011. Fabricated nose: paper, glue, electrical motor, grinding mechanism, pepper, motion detector. Approximately 4 x 2.5 x 2.5 ft. Image courtesy of John Burtle.

Now that the trace is left, theyʼve grown fond of the nose and who knows where it will end up if not permanently mounted to the Yacht Club wall instead of a taxidermy trophy shot and hung by a rich imbecile back from an African safari.

Sense, ideality, objectivity, truth, intuition, perception, expression–this common matrix is being as presence: the absolute proximity of self-identity, the being-in-front of the object available for repetition, the maintenance of the temporal present, whose ideal form is self presence of transcendental life, whose ideal identity allows idealiter of infinite repetition. The living present, a concept that cannot be broken down into a subject and an attribute, is thus the conceptual foundation of phenomenology as metaphysics.” (page 56 derrida and time).

Untitled, 2011 (installation view). Dripping eye lenses: resin, pigment, string, water and pump. Dimensions variable. Image courtesy of John Burtle.

I speak of a place and I use this art event as that which is “good enough” and not at all that spectacular in itself for itself to focus on an area which is not necessarily all that peculiar or spectacularly different than many other so called underdeveloped urban areas. Yet this is where shit happens folks…its in this urban sprawl that we see color leaching back through sterile whitely painted walls. Its horizons not blocked with attitudes–nor with haughty commercial institutions holding back progressive alternatives to the status quo by the weight of overtly capitalized and gentrified institutionalized or wanna be commercially informed institutions who are inspired by fashionably packed recycled baggage.

So, to close this article, I would like to digress towards that hyperlinking frame of mind, that ever present spontaneous stream of consciousness, and bring up a curious notion that I heard at a lecture, recently at MOCA North Miami, a local Miami art institution, a notion whose idea has something to do with the subtext of this article…

The speaker: Dr. George Yudice, Professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Literature at the University of Miami, described, in a nut shell, that institutions are entities that reduce risk. He used one particular example that “startled” me…he used the police as an example of an institution that reduces risk–an institution that when run well, serves the public well-being as a utility to reduce risk.

Is this axiomatic definition and proscribed duty, all that we expect from our institutions? Is this all that we desire from our institutions…to be merely social entities that guard and preserve–that which when successful, reduce risk? It would follow then that when we apply this reasoning to other existing institutions we can see through analogy, hundreds of other kinds of institutions that are accordingly designed to reduce risk. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), for example, in its necessity is of course certainly the kind of institution or agency designed to reduce risk to the environment and our health; historical institutions as well preserve historical ideas; as do those cultural institutions that preserve existing cultural heritage…

BUT, is this model the proper paradigm for what we should expect from progressive art or politically oriented institutions? Is reducing risk, the best that we can do when it comes to dealing with so many inequities in today’s society? Is this all that we expect institutions of art to be? Fuck no…of course not and Doc didn’t mean it that way either.

“Two Girls One Bun,” 2011. Performance at the LRYC (The Little River Yacht Club) by Jesse Meadows and Camila Alvarez, 2011. Image courtesy of Richard Haden.

Contrary Dr. George Yudiceʼs conservative (and presumably ironic) model does he ask us to examine and critique the conservative model to suggest that we supersede that model by adding to or replacing that model with an aggressive insurgent model? Does he, shouldn’t he be calling for progressive institutions to replace or amend conservative models–all the while acknowledging the notion of reducing risk is but a small part of some institutions utility or essence? In addition can’t a case be made for pedagogical models to be based on looking for progressive solutions for what ails society? And finally why does the idea or notion of “to preserve” or to “reduce risk” have to prioritize efforts and funding–instead of it’s inversion? It is not the forward looking duty of today’s arts institutions to not only mindlessly preserve the idea of risk reduction as a paradigm and reduce risk, but to actually seek out risk itself in the name of affording growth? In other words, if there is to be some form of artistic insurgency that seeks to surpass the repressive powers that control, then it would seem natural that creating risk, in the shadows of those institutions that suppress it, illuminates the first order of every day–to make progressive changes that counter the edification of outdated institutional values or practices.

It is not difficult to fathom that we can agree that progressive institutions can maintain duel roles: First, reducing risk by curating/preserving and archiving (like collecting institutions do so well) and secondly, simultaneously promoting and encouraging risk while looking forward for alternative solutions. Progressive institutions can encourage authentic risk, out of the box as it were, which ultimately arises from choosing new paths on unfamiliar terrain (New Methods, a symposium recently organized by associate curator at MOCA North Miami, Ruba Katrib, investigates this issue).

The other which way, the way it has been by always looking back, away from taking risk today, is seen more today in less than creative circles–as the old guard with furrowed brow and an ever growing conservative suspicion of sustainable approaches to societyʼs ails seems ultimately hell bent on maintaining non-sustainable long term scorched earth policies–the fear of taking risk is endemic to the conservative mind. Take risks. Look for risky situations. Risk ‘it’. Not in societyʼs Club Med, nor paid for by cheap holidays in other people’s passive risk free misery. Be willing to get messy[.]

Performance at the LRYC (The Little River Yacht Club). Title: “Two Girls One Bun”, Performed by Jesse Meadows and Camila Alvarez with Justin Long willing to “risk” going along. Image courtesy of Richard Haden.

This post was contributed by Richard Haden.


  • Chad Cunha

    Richard- I agree that alternatives spaces like Little River Yacht Club (which I have yet to visit) is where art can be made/experienced that is seemingly untainted by commercialism. As a supporter for these spaces, I would have at least mentioned the local factories- FIU and NWSA- because these PARTICULAR institutions are producing the next generation of local artists and with the right pedagogy can “reduce the risk” of alternative spaces from going extinct in the 305.

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Can you feel it? John Burtle at the Little River Yacht Club