ARTLURKER

A Miami based contemporary art newsletter / blog

Basel Salts

Blue posturing.

A prelude to ART Basel Miami 2012:

I ’ve just run about seven and a half miles, to a bar named “Times Square Inn” were I often take a break before heading back home. But today I’ve been rerouted to another place in the Opa Locka Triangle where I’m sitting in a small crowded room, with Ray Ray on my lap and Love to my left. It’s an unplugged social network and a nefarious world to the uninitiated. It’s not my scene and apparently not my lap, yet I am suspiciously tolerated here because I run through this neighborhood often and have gotten to know Ray Ray, and Love.

Times Square Inn in the Opa Locka Triangle.

The Opa Locka Triangle is approximately an eleven block area that was created by erecting barricades inside the greater city of Opa Locka back in the 80’s by law enforcement attempting to curtail an epidemic drug scene responsible for numerous murders, assaults, and other related crimes. However it’s not the 80’s anymore yet the drugs and the subsequent war on addiction is still desperately going on behind outdated barricades. Police still answer aggressively to the call of crime, but are also now required to give out citations for saggy, baggy pants as a fashion crime–really.

Times Square Bar interior.

I once thought to simply hang here for the sake of documentary, but along the way it’s become more than that–it’s become breaking down and stealing barricades, barriers, walls, what have you. It’s also become making friends outside my usual comfort zone, rather than maintaining that presumptuous critical distance practiced by traditional documentarians.

 

Map of Opa Locka Triangle courtesy Google Maps.

 

Part of the old Barricade in the Opa Locka Triangle.

Ray Ray is an androgynous looking woman in her early 20’s who usually sports dark baggy athletic shorts, basketball shoes, a Tee or jersey and stocking cap to hide her femininity while Love always flaunts her feminine form by wearing tight strapless dresses, tops, short shorts, etc., she is also always adorned with a long black lustrous wig.

Ray Ray sitting in a truck.

Love.

We are all sitting where little sun filters through semi-opaque encrusted windows–while in the evening the darkness summons a solicitous retreat each time the door opens. This room is furnished with a bed, a couch, a hot plate, a small refrigerator and an old 36 inch TV that’s lost its color standing before a desperate weathered bathroom. This place is normally a cheap one room efficiency for its occupant. But tonight it’s become a sacred space for ritual; it’s become a pop up semi-non profit, crack and heroin dispensary, benefitting the old tenant who barters his home for product.

 

Bathroom with small brown bag to dim the light.

An old skin popper, aka Doc lives here, given the name for his knowledge of pharmaceuticals. Shirtless, Doc, sports a couple of close range shotgun wounds on his shoulder and stomach, healed over from the 60’s, resembling small lunar craters. He is the most gracious host…

The mood in the room is crowded much like a subway station at rush hour with people bracing uncomfortably close to the ledge–even though we are all close, inches apart and bumping shoulders in turn, most visitors volunteer to maintain expectant margins of personal space. This is the stiffening feel of the scene until the door opens to let in the Man. A tall man looking remarkably like Snoop Dog in his 70’s. The mood quickly changes in the room as the aged crack don brightens everyone’s face with anticipation. Once in, the chatter waxes and private space wanes.

I manage to avoid breathing second hand smoke, but can’t avoid the noxious odor of burning crack cocaine–it’s an overwhelming sulfuric stench combined with burning chemicals and plastic, topped by the flavor of sweet citrus, which adds to the existing aromas that already permeate the atmosphere in this small dank room. It’s acrid to my senses, but no doubt an acquired taste to the olfactory receptors of crack connoisseurs.

Bathroom curtain.

For some off reason, my thoughts wonder from this scene to another–to other space inhabited by a different consuming crowd. To larger halls in enormous salon vitrine, where square ridged Ringling like tents stand side by side strong yet give way to brick and mortar palaces, which in turn bow in reverence before Basel art. It seems so distant in the moment from here yet close enough to be reminded by the familiar glow of electric luminescence bathing eclectic desire. Crack is sold here today and tonight where over there, at the other place, rock hard or soft retinal eye candy teases gazing desire, selling reified coolness, conceptualized Post-Fordism, often dubious kitsch and camp or what ever else passes for sincere or ironic artful willingness, this season.

As the outsider, let in to this modern speakeasy–the only white guy amongst a convivence of Black living Americana. Here tonight it’s a Black thing, in this part of the Triangle, run by an old Black man who could easily pass as an event planner / relational artist, doling out the conviviality fit for clean “works” and a three dollar “stem”. Like an ‘old school’ OG situationist, this doling situational event leaves no record or trace other than the anecdotal memory. It’s an institution of sorts that spins and spawns the quotidian conversations.

The situational event is an illusive nomadic gathering playing hide and seek in a small community within an 11 block area–it’s bearing dysfunction is by and large granted a pass by the empathy of the larger community. Ray Ray showed me this room and this room shows me it’s history inscribed on the walls.

Bathroom wall.

Like other rooms down the road this room is similar to situations I’ve been caught up in before in my own past haunting. My past…Ray Ray and Love’s past and present…This is where Ray Ray and Love let their hunger live outside their skin accompanied by the fear of not being fed. It’s in their eyes; it’s in their gestures. This is where others gather as well to hunt satisfaction for haunting desire–searching for lost ambrosia.

Ray Ray constantly speaks about escaping this place–speaks about an all purpose fear–which is the fear of not getting straight or the fear of living straight or clean (being “straight” is just another way of saying you don’t need a fix, yet).

Eventually the smoke clears and old school soliloquy quiets the return to the phantomization of the self. Until the next cloud builds, the fog catalyzes yet another round of tit for tat chatter waxing echoes off these hallow walls.

I ran here first before making my way to that annual event known internationally as ART BASEL MIAMI BEACH. From here I got roughly a 10 mile run before hitting Midtown Miami. I am on my way to visit one of the more modest art fair satellites, but when Blue calls I run home instead to get the truck then drive to meet her at a corner on NW 20th, to say ‘hello.’

Blue watering Max and Sparx.

I regroup in “Overtown”–a mostly Black American community below Midtown and Wynwood, Miami. Overtown is similar to the Triangle, but geographically larger–Blue is a friend who lives in Overtown, and she is like others I know lately who unflinchingly walk the walk and talk the talk.

‘Hello’–she jumps in the truck…then I ask to take her to a small art venue titled “SEVEN”, to see what she thinks about the Basel invasion. Despite her timidity and crack induced insecurity, I get her in the door, at NW 2nd Ave 22nd Street (known by some as the northern part of Overtown–renamed Wynwood in the spirit of gentrification).

As Blue and I tour the compact satellite art fair “SEVEN” [seven art galleries from New York] I take pictures of her standing, sitting and leaning with art work. Curious eyes are staring at me and Blue as she does her best to hold herself back, mockingly close to caressing or kissing this or that sculpture or painted form.

Blue Posing.

Licking Blue.

Eventually, Blue notices a freestanding bricolage with blue ribbon cordoning off a square around a sculptural assemblage made up of a wooden stand, and small birdcage with cat taxidermy inside anointed by a stuffed parrot. All of a sudden Blue is under the ribbon, determined to act up in the demilitarized zone, safely posing with arms pretending to caress the sculpture–when FUCK!, I see a couple of angry gallerists hurrying our way, who then over react and begin yelling as I try to calm the non-negotiable situation. Finally, I overreact as well and resort to a stern ‘shut the fuck up’ which disarms the gallerists.

 

Blue’s transgression.

Not wanting to waste time waxing insensitivity with New York gallerists, Blue and I leave. Blue seems elated to have pissed anyone off at this point. As well I feel I succeeded in having maneuvered Blue out of her usual comfort zone–the street. Later I return to “SEVEN” alone to explain to all concerned, the pleasure I had visiting their temporary insensitive existence in Miami.

Tamas Banovich, owner of (and security for) Postmasters gallery.

By and large, at this point I am feeling sequestered so I run a few miles around to the outside, circling to witness the affects on the mood of the local neighborhood–as if to see polychromed street murals and artistically painted walls rising up to create a new southern aurora borealis–trumpeted by an illuminating mood indifferent to that flash of lightning fast Bic lighter already sparking the mood of the hood’s smoking shadows of cigarettes and three dollar stems.

Plotted by subsumption of Miami’s profane tranquility–cultural tourist wonder about the hood without really being present in the hood. The native narrative is visibly underwritten by real-estate bestowing onto itself pillaging rights of those things pretending to be the left overs of past relational history. Hence forth carrying on an imagined dialectical relationship between Global mobility and an enlightened court of celestial nobility–the result signaling the illusion that new embodied immortal forms have arrived [here] to think somewhere else–res cogitans versus res extensas!

I am done and have abandoned the truck and decide to run back to the Triangle, where I began this story–it’s about a 12 mile run, just short of a half marathon, by way of Overtown and Liberty city where I pause for conversations. The Triangle lacks chatter about conventions, but is none the less inhabited by similar wondering bodies so familiar and uncanny to those wondering bodies from whence this traveler came.

“What dreams may come, When we have shuffled off this mortal coil.”

Such was my cure for Basel Salts this year[.]

This post was contribute by Richard Haden.

65 Comments

  • Franklin

    You need a copy editor. Also, you’re a twerp for bringing your drug addict friend into a free art fair and encouraging her to monkey around with the work until someone had to rush to its defense. You’re an even bigger twerp for characterizing the gallery’s presence as insensitive, when the insensitivity was all yours. But start with the copy editor.

  • Richard Haden

    So Franklin,
    If you read into this article that I encourage a friend to “monkey” around with art, then I don’t think it’s the fault of a copy editor—-It’s your fault for injecting your own narrative–highlighted by such childish terms as “Twerp” and “drug addict”… get over your self Franklin.

  • Kevin

    I, for one am still trying to understand the point of this piece. Opalocka as an exotic destination? Crack cocaine as an exotic indulgence? the writer has wacky friends? Why crack houses will never be featured in Architectural Digest magazine? Running is good for your health? Art Fairs are fun? This reads slightly like the King Kong story, bringing the savage beast from the jungle to the city. They shot poor Kong in the end.

  • Franklin

    I didn’t read into it, I read it. My terms aren’t childish, your behavior was. And just as Postmasters isn’t the insensitive party here, I’m not the one who needs to get over myself.

  • Eddie

    I find the comment section just as amusing as the article itself. In reference to everyone’s belly aching over the ethical aspects of the narrative I would like to point out that the overall message of these events is gentrification.

    Thank you Richard for illustrating where Franklin, Kevin, and Miami Native stand on the issue.

  • Richard Haden

    Franklin, maybe next year you can get a job piss testing all visitors at the door of an artfair…when you catch a drug addict trying to slip past your conservative world– yell twerp twerp twerp to your blue in the face.

  • Kevin

    Hey Eddie:
    I am not belly aching as much as I am head scratching. As for Gentrification, it was mentioned once in the article, but I would not say it was the “over all message”.
    I guess the post is successful in giving the reader a “day in the life of Richard Haden”, beyond that, I am at a loss.
    thanks.

  • Richard Haden

    Kevin, You have a couple of interesting points, but if there is a king kong, in this story he might be the drugged up and stripped down beast reified as the spectacle.

  • Franklin

    Wow, Richard, you sure are sticking it to those conservatives at Seven, taking up the White Man’s Burden to bring your new-caught, sullen peoples to an art fair.

  • Richard Haden

    I don’t judge people Franklin–that seems to be your department. As for Blue-I have known her for almost two years now–as well I enjoy her company. Despite her substance abuse issues, I enjoy discovering a smart and witty person that inhabits her body—as well I try to influence her and others like her to be clean. One way to do that is by exposing her and others to new things and different social environments–like an artfair / art gallery environment for instance. I purposefully intervene in several peoples lives, all of whom you no doubt would label as sullen. Apparently you have issues that keep you from venturing outside your comfort zone… that’s too bad, it will always keep you ignorant of how to help others who are looking for help.

  • Franklin

    “I don’t judge people.”

    I laughed. A lot of progressives tell themselves this, even as they judge the yinyang out of everyone who doesn’t share their ideas of progress.

    Your full knowledge of me consists of uninformed presumptions, so just think of me as a messenger from the part of the universe that doesn’t exist only in your noodle. I bear the following tidings: Whatever your intentions for the above essay, it looks for all the world like you took a crackhead to an art fair and encouraged her to goof off for the camera so that you could use the escapade to strike Debordian poses. Your playing the victim of insensitivity here looks solipsistic, and the whole situation looks disingenuous and self-serving. Tellingly, you made someone else’s art the subject of mockery and risk instead of your own. And although I called her a drug addict and a crackhead, I feel bad for Blue, because you moved her into an unfamiliar environment and set her up to fail there. How about just taking her to look at the art?

    Heed the message or berate the messenger, it’s up to you. Just know that with circumstances this dangerous, you don’t have the luxury of a gap between what you’re doing and what you think you’re doing. Peace out in 2013.

  • Richard Haden

    Franklin, You obviously have the desire to read this article your way…as well your condescending attitude presumes to judge a situation that you did not witness. Also, since you still insinuate this event at “7″ was no more than a prank, despite me telling you otherwise, then you show no credibility or obviously are to hard headed to listen to the facts as I tell them to you…that is your fault not mine. You have nothing to offer, except to act like an ass with a keyboard to bully your ignorant ideas of how one should properly visit an art event–or who should visit an art fair… Blue has just as much right to attend an art fair as you do. And Yes Franklin I know enough about you, from reading other conversations that you have had with me and others…. Franklin, you are a conservative ass with one foot in step with right wing, Tea Party like folks… Well good for you but I suggest you keep your conservatism to your self otherwise that condescending anti-progressive attitude that you like to flaunt just rains like acid rain all over people who try to avoid such shallowness.
    As for you fixation on the subject of copy-editor—there were two involved—-sorry man–my point is not to dumb down the prose for sake a conservative reader.

  • Franklin

    PPS – Get a copy editor who can edit copy. By all means, leave in the Debordian pose-striking. It would hardly be a Richard Haden effort without it. But get someone who can clean up stuff like “80′s” (apostrophe at the deleted numbers, not the plural, non-possessive “s”), “androgynous looking” (“androgynous” already means “neither clearly masculine nor clearly feminine in appearance”; at least put a hyphen between them), the missing serial commas (optional, perhaps, but for each one, Jesus kills a kitten), the vestigial “by and large,” and a dozen other infelicities that make this read like Amateur Night at The Situationist Café. My rates for this sort of thing are reasonable. Liberal service at conservative prices, that’s my motto. This one time I’ll even waive my customary Solipsism Surcharge.

  • Miaminative

    I love the fact that RH is being exposed for what he is, an individual who is screaming for attention at the cost of another.
    Interesting to see that people really aren’t willing to believe your BS or put up with it. Please continued to hide behind your fancy words while you fail in your attempt to show how much smarter you are than the rest. It gets old quickly and you have been doing this for years, it shows in your attitude and work.

  • Richard Haden

    Miaminative, your a hoot. Thanks for following me for years. I did not know I had such a critical fan on my heels. In fact I didn’t even know that I had any one keeping track of my words… I better watch out now, that I have been told, by you, a Miaminative, that I can’t fool (a) Miaminative wit multi-syllable rhetoric. LOL

  • Kevin

    I am amused by how much attention to detail everyone is paying to RH’s words. FE is predictable and will never respond favorably to anything except MODERN ART/PAINTINGS ON CANVAS. The post was interesting, but it wasn’t life changing. Goofing off in an art fair is not the end of the world, nor does it warrant so many words. I don’t condone messing around with an artists work Especially if it is behind a barrier. RH should know better. Knowing how many hours he puts into his own work, I would not like to see somebody harm or disrespect his work. I was initially drawn into the post because I thought it was going to provide an artist’s perspective on Opalocka, a seldom written about neighborhood in Miami. When the focus moved to an art fair I began to loose interest. Although I would suggest RH hire a bus next year and bring a bus full of crack heads and prostitutes to the art basel vernissage!

  • Richard Haden

    Thank you Kevin,
    For what ever the point may be to this article, I think you make a good point—which is that this article is not trying to be a life changing experience….as well, nor do I look at art fairs as life changing experiences either… for if art fairs (as we know them today), were capable of changing lives, then I fear that the power of contemporary art spectacle would have won out over what ever might be understood as authentic living experience–The artfair would have won by turning the “potential” of art into no more than an over commercialized trade show (which is basically what art fairs have become). And since Guy Debord was mentioned in a previous comment, I will reciprocate with this bookmarked comment: ‘Debord argues that the history of social life can be understood as’ “the decline of being into having, and having into merely appearing. This condition, according to Debord, is the “historical moment at which the commodity completes its colonization of social life.” [sic]
    So what the fuck does this have to do with my article? Well it has to do with being a consumer, especially a passive consumer where everyone appears to be over sensitized to protect the “image” of art spectacle and exhibition as though it were so sacred. So… if Blue, despite my tutorial presence, represents a street iconoclast, then good for her. Also, maybe we should ask Blue what she got out of visiting this small venue. For I think she got more out of visiting “SEVEN” than most others I know…basically because she was not colonized or particularly overwhelmed by the all consuming hype of arts wanton prestige. Also Kevin, as you must know, I have been around the business of art installations for many years and have seen many people cross barriers and touch art works that are meant not to be touched…

    And I have seen all kinds of reactions to public transgressions by Gallerist, museum guards, staff, etc, but in this situation I witnessed a situation where everyone overreacted (especially myself) to a situation that did not warrant such overreaction… The situation just developed to quickly for what ever reason…

    As a sculptor I have had people touch, pick up and handle my work in the past–even break my work by accident in the past…so I am all too familiar with people touching art work—— however in this case–as Blue and I entered the exhibition, I made sure Blue knew not to touch work (even as I felt condescending doing so…) However, Blue already knew gallery etiquette. so Blue was just posed pretending to touch objects… hence she drew attention to herself…

    … as you may or may not have seen–much of my work, these days, outside my usual studio practice, is about documenting the lives of people who I meet running who live in the margins of society–and how they earn money to fund addiction and cope with working in the street–much of the time by prostitution… and all are quite comfortable with being documented in video or photographed.
    So on this particular day–at this particular art event, Blue was just being Blue… plus, she asked me to take some good photos of her so that she could get me to send them to her mother who lives a couple of thousand miles away–so that her mother could see that she was doing well.

  • Franklin

    Miaminative, of course there’s nothing wrong with fancy words, unless an author is using them as a veneer of profundity over puerility and exploitation. You’re right not to fall for the BS – the latest is that Blue is now “just posed pretending to touch objects” even though her arms are wrapped around that birdcage, and that Richard was only taking photos to send to Blue’s mother. I hope Mom concludes that she’s doing well from the shot where she’s acting like she’s going to lick that figure on the floor.

    Kevin, your understanding of my taste is about as nuanced as Richard’s understanding of my politics, and neither is relevant to this conversation. As much as I like your idea of Richard bringing a bus of crackheads to the main fair, even better would be to bring the bus to a solo gallery exhibition of work by Richard Haden.

    Richard, your problem is that you’ve studied Debord, and now you’re just Deboring.

  • Richard Haden

    Franklin, I think you might want to search out the possibility of running a right wing private art security firm that specializes in drug testing visitors, operates lie detectors, etc– or just offers the basic service of cultural policing… Surely scope will hire you.

  • Kevin

    FE, One point for the “Deboring” comment, I nearly did a spit take with my hot coffee when I read that one.
    RH, Ten points for keeping the thread alive, as you must realize that this back and forth with FE is just an utter and complete waste of your precious time.
    I realized that the real interesting post would involved bringing a bus load of art basel attendees into Opalocka for a tour of the public schools and community centers which are in dire need of funding and writing about that! 100 points for me. I win!

  • Eddie

    Jesus. This is what happens when I don’t get on the internet for X number of days. I feel as if I missed the entire discussion. This was an amusing thread and I found it and particularly informative as to everyone’s point of view on this matter.

    Does anyone know of any other site which would allow for some great threads talking about contemporary art in Miami. I am curious to know how the discussions are moving in cyberspace on whatever topics are addressed.

  • Kevin

    Oh, wait. We are talking about Contemporary Art? Excuse me, I thought this an Auto-erotic Asphyxiation and Copy Editing message board.

  • Miaminative

    Richard,
    Your BS is the main reason this website has become irrelevant in our meager art community.
    Give it a rest.

  • Eddie

    This site and Richard still seem to be relevant. After all I would be the 36th thread which would make it a fairly respectable comment thread.

    As for the reason for that it would be more to do with the hostility that Richard has raised with his efforts to merge his practice and journalism. I could understand that being an issue to fundamental documentarians. Especially if you disagree with his point of view.

    On a final note as to my post on this thread, one of two conclusions would be made which would be that Richard as made a compelling point to merit the efforts archived on this site by every comment. Or everyone here has nothing better to do with their time. I fall on the latter point.

    Richard obviously takes great pleasure in knowing both are true.

  • Richard Haden

    Miaminative, Your one liners make no sense. Especially your first comment, at the beginning of this thread which claims that you were dumbed down by reading this article…OK…if that were true, then how would I know that you were smarter before reading this article?— since your one liners add nothing more than negative bullying as well, your contribution to this thread does do no more than show that you can thumb a key board.

  • meekzm

    You’ve had your exploitive fun, now please go back to your gallery roving and unabashed xeno-curiosity, and leave the humanizing to the rest of us.

  • Richard Haden

    MEEKZM,
    Exploitive? Not sure how to take your comment…

    …anyway, Blue is in a rehab as is another person I have worked with… and that is always what I hope for…

    As for exploitation, you have no idea… because you have no idea how manipulative my actor friends are most all the time. I am rarely in charge of the situation.

  • Franklin

    I can’t speak for Meekzm, but here’s how to take my comment about exploitation: If you were really just trying to better a handful of lives, I would respect the shit out of that. If you just enjoyed the company of young, inner-city black women, I wouldn’t judge you for it. But instead you’ve used these people for a quasi-art project and publicized it through an online art magazine. The humanitarian or social aspects of these situations, to the extent that they even exist, are serving your career interests in the form of an exposition of your creative and intellectual practice. This isn’t scanning well, and your self-described passivity and victimization in the way it all went down is making it scan even worse.

    Go on, insult my politics again, or what you think they are. It’s hilarious and fresh every time.

  • Richard Haden

    Franklin, You are just about the most inept and ignorant right wing nut jobs that I have ever met in Miami… Now, you have moved along to Boston. Good riddance.

    For anyones information, Blue is now in a rehab… Why? Because I give a shit. I encouraged her and other to get help… Part of that caring is being in solidarity with them–my friends…

    Its People like you Franklin who do nothing but complain… always seeing evil self serving interest in those who actually care. Stick with your tea party people Franklin you are better off.

  • Franklin

    Blue is now in a rehab… Why? Because I give a shit.

    Yes, you’ve made your saintliness conspicuous already. What I don’t understand is why she’s in an Artlurker essay.

    Its [sic] People [sic] like you Franklin who do nothing but complain…

    It’s going to be difficult for a silly person like you to understand this, but the above isn’t complaint, it’s criticism. Here’s how it works: You present your efforts to the public, and the public gets to evaluate them and respond. This applies – are you sitting down? – even to the efforts of the scintillating and right-thinking Richard Haden. Furthermore – maybe you should clutch the arms of your chair for good measure – unfavorable responses may be traceable to defects in your efforts and your presentation thereof, as opposed to defects in those responding. I know, this is likely a new and strange idea for you.

    At any rate, I wanted to give you the opportunity to demonstrate that despite your invocations of continental philosophy and your ability to abut mostly grammatical sentences into a semblance of an essay, you harbor troubling delusions about yourself and others and you have the rhetorical acumen of a block of cheese. Thanks for obliging.

  • Richard Haden

    Franklin,

    Replying to your obsessive racist bullying is a waste of time. However, seeing how you seem to be suffering from the delusion that you are actually offering criticism, let me try to relieve you of that ignorant idea. Franklin, you only offer a whining little white mans racist point of view that is loaded with some screwed up baggage. Yep, you don’t want to see an article written about my Black friends, in an artblog… well…that is really too bad. No one is going to conform to what ever absurd moral or ethical values you are desperately trying to prop up here. You want to be a conservative nut job?–then go ahead but try to keep it away from here.

    Racism is not a critical tool Franklin. I suggest that you stick with arguing with your Choir—all those right winger nut jobs that you apparently like to side with… go back to arguing you pathetic right wing issues with your kindred spirited bunker types..

  • Franklin

    I wasn’t claiming that for myself. I was reminding everyone that you claim it for yourself.

    Oh, was that a sort of “I know you are, but what am I?” kind of riposte? I guess that’s why you’re regarded as one of Miami’s weightier intellectual figures.

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