ARTLURKER

A Miami based contemporary art newsletter / blog

THE RISING TIDES OF MIAMI

PAMM being built at Museum Park.

Dead reckoning algorithm.

This article is divided into two parts. Here is part one. The second part will follow, soon. While both installments are concerned with Miami’s cultural currents, the first installment takes issue with the change in name that the former Miami Art Museum, MAM, has adopted on account of its physical makeover and relocation and apparent internal dynamic shift as PAMM or Pérez Art Museum Miami. The second installment will take us to the actual currents of the Miami river while taking advantage of a boat ride and an on-deck film screening to examine the practice of “Dead Reckoning,” recontextualized as a cognitive device for navigating the temporal currents of Miami and beyond [dead reckoning is the process of calculating one's current position by using a previously determined position, or fix in time by advancing that position based upon known or estimated speeds over elapsed time, and course. And of course ‘dead reckoning’ is always subjected to cumulative errors].

Catamaran with screen rigged on deck. Image courtesy Domingo Castillo.

Aguirre Wrath of God original German movie poster.

The stage is set in two places: the first is downtown Miami, by the bay of rising seas where an actual building is being built for a Miami art museum to relocate and the second is on-board a catamaran cruising down the Miami River while watching a Herzog film: Aguirre, The Wrath of God, on deck. My point, if it can be found, should be located somewhere in the interstices between the irrational satirical ranting of the first section and the musing contents of the second. Then by combining the two segments into a twisted and convoluted narrative, I hope to create the conditions for an analogy between two protagonist–the first being the films protagonist: a 16th century Spanish conquistador and colonizer, named Lope de Aguirre, the second, an American, Argentine born protagonist named Jorge M. Pérez, whose career in real-estate development represents, to me, through his sordid business practices, a modern day Latin American version of a Spanish conquistador.

Commissioned portrait of Jorge M Pérez.

PAMM AS AN INSTITUTIONAL PROSTITUTE presents AGUIRRE, THE WRATH OF GOD. On a cool Miami Saturday evening, MAM / PAMM sponsored a film screening on a boat, motoring down the Miami River. The film was, is by Werner Herzog. To gain passage on the round-trip boat ride, the organizers required all passengers to write a short work about the current show at MAM: NEW WORK MIAMI 2013. The following is a reproduction of the call for submission to climb aboard. Film screening:

“Aguirre, The Wrath of God” Public · By Miami Art Museum Saturday, February 2, 2013 Catamaran on Miami River. Special instructions given upon reservation confirmation. Travel down the Miami River to Biscayne Bay on a catamaran while watching Herzog’s,”Aguirre, The Wrath of God” (1972). The film tells the story of a 16th-century Spanish expedition in search of El Dorado, led by the ruthless Don Aguirre. *Seating is limited* so, how can you gain a coveted ticket and undisclosed information to join this very special screening? SPRING BREAK has asked that you see the exhibition “New Work Miami 2013″ on view at MAM and write a 500 word response. All responses must be the author’s original text. It may be a review, reflection, or creative response that makes reference to the exhibition.”

I never made it to see the exhibition. And if I can remember, I will tell you why later. Below is a longer, more articulate, gentler and possibly nicer version of my original submission to board the CAT.

Rendering of the new Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) as an Institutional Prostitute.

MAM (Miami art Museum) has become PAMM (Pérez Art Museum Miami). Turning MAM into PAMM has caused much grief amongst many locals who care about the direction this Miami art institution is taking. Originally MAM was founded in 1984 as “The Center for the Fine Arts,” then in 1996 it became Miami Art Museum and emerged, in hindsight perhaps wittily genderized, alongside another Miami Museum namely the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). Both MAM and MOCA were established, respectfully, as competent Miami arts institutions and from their beginnings, till now, have aspired to share a common mission: To represent and foster the intellectual growth of the local arts community while attempting to further an international conversation.

Likely before any international conversations took place, the first Miami natives, the Tekesta, inhabited the area for more than one thousand years before the first non-native colonizing Spaniards arrived to dominate the conversations. Then, years later, after present day Miami emerged from the swamp, after many trials and tribulations, successes and failures, and amongst its notable noble or ignoble histories, Miami became unique for “holding the distinction of being the only major city in the United States conceived by a woman, Julia Tuttle.” Miami has continued to renew itself through its colorful re-beginnings and to separate itself, surprisingly, from much of its sordid past by growing up and of late even out growing a more recent tendency that appeared to be heavily invested in turning the Miami metropolitan area into both a retirement and party capital of the eastern sea board.

The “Magic City”, a nick name given to Miami for its intrepid fearlessness towards rapid growth, shares that common spirit with the psychic mood of those locals who are capable of getting over being type cast as inhabitants of an infamous playground for the nefarious. In addition, most people with ties to the area have learned to overcome that paranoid and over-romanticized allusion that Miami still suffers an Original Gangster stigmata as though blood were still flowing into its rivers and canals due to the fact that Miami was once the most violent narcotics distribution center for all of North America.

Jim Morrison’s Mugshot, Miami Dade county, FL 1970.

Miami [now], shows signs of becoming a burgeoning multi-cultural Cosmopolitan capital, and until recently MAM has played a role in raising that cultural prestige. However the memory of MAM’s role in progressing that progressive milieu, seems to be fading away—MAM as a once community run institution, run by and large with transparency has lately become guarded and opaque since real-estate interest have co- opted the institution…its transparency has given way to subterfuge and concealment, while the commercial usurper has adroitly invaded the institution with the determined presence of a self-serving and self-interested resolute parasite–since then, this living and breathing entity has created a dark cloud over the once altruistic, not for profit, mood that MAM and other public cultural institutions generally strive to uphold.

MAM, MOCA and the Miami art scene have managed to turn the corner over the last decade, from being a minor provincial outsider, on no ones international art map, to becoming more of a maturing player with a gaze towards an international conversation. Miami’s identity and influence has strengthened because of it. However, after too many nights of celebrating this new found sense of self worth MAM woke up one morning with an epic hangover, and desperately sought out a cure. MAM found them of course and was treated to the usual mashed up mix of elixirs and concoctions combining hair of the dog, blended fruits and veggies, raw eggs, spices, vitamins, etc–topped off with a long white feverish toot of desperate relief. Unfortunately though, “someone” slipped MAM a “Mickey,” lacing the hangover cure with the potent mix of god-speed and crony capital, resulting in, changing the convalescing MAM, over night into PAMM who hasn’t looked back or in the mirror ever since. Since that unfortunate turning point, MAM’s independent gaze has glazed over and the voice has become tired and raspy from singing too many vocal sets in too many smoke filled back rooms. As well, MAM’s peripheral vision has lost sight only to be re-focused through the dark pinned eyes of a real-estate developer whose bottom line is to sell Miami as a destination to those transient intransigents whose upward mobility contributes to that haunting spirit of unsustainable growth—Such is the mission of Jorge M Pérez, Chairman and CEO of “Related Group:” “Redefining Cities & Skylines,” marketing new definitions.

Jorge M Pérez, “Related Group”, Condo buildings, Miami, FL via www.related.com.

“Redefining Cities,” is quite the slogan to brandish about a large town especially when one considers, just maybe, only, a very small fraction of the more than 5.5 million inhabitants of the greater Miami metropolitan area look towards a Pimping Pérez to redefine the city for them in the first place. In deference to an existing community spirit, it appears that we’re stuck with this man, this specter of wealth, his colossal cojones, his overinflated ego and overabundant bravado, who has no doubt survived the collapse of a few self-realized real-estate bubbles of his own design. We are stuck with his minions too, these “Related Groupies”, who too think that “Redefining Cities,” our city, is the necessary thing to do as well—All the while, they too, must think, we too, need redefining by their chivalrous codes of commercialized gallantry, inspired by that deluding allusion to a God of free-market, whose pure form guides the dream for a pure form of laissez-faire capital. And like any free market puritans, the “Related Group” went full throttle towards MAM, delivering that financial Mickey, dangled from a carrot and stick in one hand, while waving the flag of PAMM stapled to a pike in the other….The mission, to hatch a coup d’état by breaching that unguarded public facade of MAM. Well of course, the bloodless coup succeeded, even before it started with the aid of MAM’s inner circle, its director Thom Collins, and the other usual band of suspects–a board of cultural felons whose silence before and after the coup showed little or no sign of board tribulation (turns out maybe the nefarious underworld types never left Miami after all).

Thomas Collins, Director of MAM / PAMM.

So here we are, presently watching the memory of MAM suffer the fate of erasure, while giving rise to PAMM—with no past and future undetermined, PAMM has a new address, a new house, and a newly constructed palace designed by Herzog & de Meuron, this is where Madame de PAMM will hold court for Pérez’s by the bay of rising seas. In doing so, MAM’s transgressed body and soul has been reduced to that of an old school philosophical anachronism, representing that classic relationship between subject and object (between Pérez and MAM) turned into a fading subjective memory of abject thingness—as though Pérez himself had invited Medusa to stop by and have a fateful chat with MAM—MAM’s old address is now nothing more than brick and mortar awaiting a new tenant. There is no doubt that MAM gave in to Pérez and his “Related Gangster Group” coup d’état because of the anxiety created by financial pressure, for as most people know, MAM could not afford to move to new digs on her own. So instead of just staying at the current address, a solid fortress high on a safe hill, higher above the currents of rising seas, MAM decided to give up a safer raised address and let its vessel holdings empty onto a move to Bicentennial Park (renamed Museum Park) by the bay of rising seas— closer to sea level, closer to radical exposure and sublime affects attributable to anthropogenic global warming (AGW).

MAM NOT PAMM logo posted to the topical facebook name change protest page by Mixolidia Gautreaux.

MAM & PAMM unrelated image via www.ikonfx.com

MAM just buckled at the knees when advised to give in to the chivalrous bribes and promises made by the charming courtier developer for no better reason than the man needed the prestige of museum to front to his condo deals whose success, he thinks, depends on the villainous demand that he be given renaming rights to seal the deal– Hence forth, MAM became PAMM after a pimp tricked MAM into becoming a tricked out prostitute named PAMM. Yes its practically medieval the way all the serfs went along with the plan, allowing MAM’s voice to opine her depressing digression into transgression by echos from the hear after, claiming that the cross-addressing and renaming improves its habitus–again, MAM became PAMM after a pimp tricked MAM into becoming a tricked out prostitute named PAMM.

Joan Miro, Le Courtesan Grotesque, 1974.

Picasso, Courtesan with Necklace of Gems, 1901.

However, PAMM is not your average prostitute, mind you, for PAMM belongs to that elite upper-class of tropical concubine perhaps better thought of as a modern day courtesan. PAMM has also been made over with all the lip gloss and painted affectations of southern comfort and cronyism soon to be housed in that emerging palatial palace designed by Herzog and de Meuron…as well PAMM is now complimented by a regional court created by mixing the dysfunctional nature of south Florida politics with the vacuous nature of southern business ethics… all for the sake of Pérez and his “Related Group,” to mime an aestheticized jargon as though it were all just part of the crusading good old boy network, networking a good old boy experiment in relational real-estate aesthetics. Anyway, PAMM is dressed up with nowhere to go. Then someone called out Jorge M Pérez for being the Donald Trump of the tropics– easy enough to envision, especially if you can imagine the two as part of the same American anti-environmental crime family–meaning that Pérez, that self styled emperor of palm and coconut landscapes could easily trade places with Donald Trump–that tasteless builder of towering kitsch camps everywhere. Pérez and Trump are essentially interchangeable–they both build phallocentric towering icons to themselves, that have nothing to do with philanthropy or add to the betterment of any existing community, as well they still work that antiquated modernist myth that natural resources will last forever—But yet like any great modernist real-estate tycoon worth his salt, they hedge their bets by selling that positivist insuring stance that science will always come to the rescue, saving the day, always keeping the empires elevators forever running higher, ever closer to the clouds.

Donald Trump and Jorge M Pérez: furrowed brow and goatee to the right standing next to a bad comb over on the left. This is the misanthropic portrait of the physiognomy of capital. In conclusion.

I obviously, wax the metaphorical potential of prostitution as a subject informing a means to an end. However, I would also like to unequivocally make clear that I do not have a problem with prostitution as long as it is based on a consensual relationship between adults… However, I think it is necessary to assert that the relationship between Jorge M Pérez and MAM / PAMM is not necessarily based on a consensual relationship. I saw this because, in my opinion, the relationship between Pérez and MAM was initially founded on a form of financial concubinage…as just another form of coercion that essentially leads to the same thing: selling the self, or selling the body out of desperation—as sure as Heroin is forced upon a body as a form of coercion…Capital can be too. the strategy is similar, whether it be opiates or capital…its all about letting the addictive power of both real substances or abstract substance (opiates or capital) form a profitable relationship based off a unilateral dependency between the body, the consumer, the prostitute, the institution, [and] the dealer, the pimp, the loan shark, the investor, the banker, the capitalist or what have you.

And finally, I temporarily end this diatribe with the following wrap up before we move on to the next installment: MAM has obviously created a conflict of interest by selling its name, its credibility and its prestige to the greater greed of a developing agent whose self-interest obviously lies with exploiting the future of PAMM by exploiting the existing prestige of MAM…In case you haven’t caught my drift, its all creating a front for marketing condos. It begins by blurring the lines between marketing and exhibiting art and marketing real-estate– And the trick blurs best by branding and artist name dropping and exploiting the addictive power of conspicuous consumption. These procedures have become popular marketing tactics among developers as the real estate boom picks up steam here in South Florida. All this and more gives rise to that other obvious more destructive fetishistic practice: conspicuous construction. As such, the state of Miami’s current and future cultural production can easily be seen as a fragile future especially when its authenticity can be so easily effected by the misguided relational practices and interventions instigated by commercial interest[.]

This post was contributed by Richard Haden.

18 Comments

  • Franklin

    This being a Richard Haden essay, it’s needlessly personal, it mistakes insults for critiques, and it blathers one evidence-free assertion after another. Nevertheless, the main point, that current events at the museum are a corporatist betrayal of the public trust, is worth making, and Haden deserves credit for pointing this out.

    Just to be clear, the kind of corporatism I’m talking about here is the collusion of private and public enterprise designed to enrich a small circle of connected, private-sector actors. Those of us who oppose corporatism on political and ethical grounds look upon the situation at MAM with dismay. Recall that the land under the Herzog & de Meuron building is a public park, and county bonds are funding construction to the tune of tens or hundreds of millions of dollars. That it’s all a front for marketing condos holds water, even if art or the public good indirectly gets served in the process. Anything curators do in the new building will take place against that unfortunate background.

  • Richard Haden

    Franklin,

    The qualifying statement at the beginning of this article reads as follows:

    “My point, if it can be found, should be located somewhere in the interstices between the irrational satirical ranting of the first section and the musing contents of the second. Then by combining the two segments into a twisted and convoluted narrative, I hope to create the conditions for an analogy between two protagonist–the first being the films protagonist: a 16th century Spanish conquistador and colonizer, named Lope de Aguirre, the second, an American, Argentine born protagonist named Jorge M. Pérez, whose career in real-estate development represents, to me, through his sordid business practices, a modern day Latin American version of a Spanish conquistador.

    What is it that you don’t understand about this qualifying statement? It’s a rant… And rants are personal. You apparently have a problem with an article that is personal? Get over it Franklin… if you want objective writing without a voice, or a soul then don’t read what I write…for I write from my perspective, from my point of view which is personal at times (not always but often)

    So Franklin, so if you have nothing better to say, in the way of critique, than to critique an article that already claims a personal angle, then I say you need to learn how to read better…for simply being a spokesman for the obvious, or simply repeating what ever is already said in this article is really shallow. I suggest that you try again. For you fail to make a valid point that contributes to what has already been wrote.

    Of course there is no evidence to write about the real inner intention of what ever is in Jorges Perez’s mind… for his actions and his statements speak volumes. And if you need proof then you are dumber than the concrete that the new PAMM is made out of— like you, I already know It all about private interest taking over the public trust and that is already said in the article…

  • Franklin

    I guess that “needlessly personal” warrants a clarification – not needlessly personal to you, which is of course your privilege, but needlessly personal to Perez, Collins, and the MAM board, presuming much about their bad intentions and malfeasance. These aren’t given to you to know, and I say so not out of any fondness for the targets. Such types typically see themselves as a force for good. (People who see themselves as a force for good but cause heedless mayhem is the inadvertent theme of your last essay.) As a matter of fact, you rather do need some evidence if you’re going to refer to people as criminals and felons and not make yourself look like a loon, but that again is your privilege, and you’ve already demonstrated total immunity to the suggestion that your assertions are scanning in a way that undermines your message, so I see no need to repeat that discussion.

    Back in the day I wrote about the 2005 bond measure that provided the first round of funding and the dubious ethics of using public green space this way. It looks like there was another bond measure in 2010. I thought I would mention them in so many words since you didn’t, and they support your point.

    I’ll add this: your remark about “free-market puritans” and related comments betray a misunderstanding of the situation here. A real free marketeer would have bought the land at market value, paid for the building with loans from private banks, solicited donations from private sources or dipped into his own pockets, and otherwise left the city, county, and state out of the whole deal. Such a person would regard the goings-on at MAM with no small disgust. This is an important distinction in light of the private museums of Margulies, Rubell, de la Cruz, and Cisneros, and (last I checked) their lack of support for PAMM. Perez is a different sort of creature, and the free-market folks seem to be on your side regarding this matter.

  • david rohn

    Museums bending over for big collectors isn t new. I remember 1 big show in the early ’90′s of already expensive contemporary artists. The wall at the entry to the show was a giant (and embarassing) homage to the collectors, their taste and knowledge. I don t know if they finally died or decided to take their tax write off bonanza while still living by donating their expensive investment in art, but that was obviously the point of the show.
    A decade or so later, we often see various health care, Wall St., real estate or other magnates celebrated not just for largesse, but also for being connaisseurs of contemporary art.
    Museums always need money, even if they get a big chunk of tax revenues, but asking the rest of us to pretend that rich people are art experts is really a big step beyond being asked to be nice to them so they take a tax write-off in our direction.
    Or have we simply assimilated the market-based idea that being smart in business is the same as being smart about contemporary art now?
    The bigger question may be how the focus on money in a market driven art world, winds up having a huge effect on what ends up being exhibited and above all saved in museums.
    Sadly curators often seem to be the markets happy cheerleaders instead of acting as contrarian correctors of the markets silliness.
    Everybody wants to be ‘cool’ and somehow ‘cool’ seems to mean connected to money.
    Rich collectors like safe art that embellishes and complements their achievements as amassers of money and we have to wonder whether this may be a reason why Marina Abramovic had to wait 25 years after she d codified the groundwork for performance art, (and after art dealers had figured out how to market her achievements), to have a retrospective at MOMA.
    I sometimes wonder whether the current collector / curtorial elites would nowadays be receptive to the raunchy genius of Jean Michel Basquiat?
    Or whether much of the early work in Conceptual Art (which was specifically designed to sidestep being comodified)would also be ignored nowadays.
    Allowing the business world to dominate art neutralizes one of the most important components of Modernism: that art would serve as a barometer of socio political advances and abuses and a catalyst for change and progress.
    Avant gardism was almost always by definition subversive, but what we now see paraded as ‘adventurous’ art all too often seems to trade in harmless intellectual cleverness, or PC pablum
    Too bad, I think we have a host of unsolved problems and need genuinely experimental art more than ever.

  • david rohn

    Museums bending over for rich and influential businessmen/collectors isn t new of course. I remember seeing a show at MOMA in the early ’90′s of expensive young contemporary artists where the introductory text on the show’s entry wall went on and on extolling the virtues of the collectors being featured. It was clear that they were being brown-nosed for eventual donation. I don t know if they ve died or whether they’ve already cashed in their tax deduction by donating to the museum.
    Or maybe they’re holding out to have a wing named in their honor.
    Let’d face it: it s much easier to be nice to rich business people so they give art or money than it is to be asked to pretend that they re art experts because they’ve followed the market and been as brilliant in their art investments as in their other financial investments.
    As the ‘Art World’ has morphed into the ‘Art Market’ and art fairs have transformed it all into an industry, there have been a few things lost.
    As the article points out, museums then become mirrors of the investment-based gallery system, instead of repositories and reflectors of a wider artistic discourse than may not necessarily be marketable.
    So Marina Abramovic finally has her monumental retrospective at MOMA 25 years after she almost single handedly codified Performance Art, but just after her work was neatly and carefully commodified in the gallery / art fair system.
    I sometimes wonder whether Jean Michel’s visceral and messy work on broken discarded shipping palettes would go anywhere in the current climate; Or whether the majority of Conceptual Art, which was meant to defy commodification, would even be noticed.
    Successful industrialists and magnates are rarely revolutionaries: they have thrived in a status quo that has and continues to serve their interests.
    So an Art (market) World that is driven by their interests cannot be expected to fulfill one of Modernism’s proudest and most useful aspects: serving as a social and political catalyst, serving as an outlet for contrarian and potentially innovative ideas.
    And unfortunately, all too often, we see more and more ‘safe’ art that deals with harmless if sometimes clever intellectual concerns, or at best PC pablum.
    Too bad, I think we have a lot of unsolved problems and that we could use a more adventurous art discourse than we seem to have at the moment.
    Mainstream art seems in many ways to have followed mainstream news to become a form of entertainment.

  • Richard Haden

    Thanks David for the comments… can’t help but complain that had Perez just been given a gallery with his name on it that would have been more in line with past donors, to museums. For instance I know of collectors and board members who have given more to the Whitney or MOCA LA than Perez gave to MAM without the either institution changing names. The power of naming should reflect its origins, should it not. MAM’s origins do not belong to Perez. Nor is Parez anywhere close to being the philanthropist like a Whitney or a Guggenheim.

    Then there is like you wrote about, the issue with gifting for tax breaks–that is what it is…as it is a way of re-directing tax money towards hopefully good causes.

    However the other issue in this article that I touched on is the fact that with Global warming leading to rising seas I see building a Museum next to the bay as another sort of ignorant move… Yes the new building will have 2 inch thick glass which is supposed to withstand 150 mile an hour winds, but… with ever more flooding and higher seas It is more likely a boat will drift through the large glass instead of wind. Just doesn’t make sense to invest over a couple of hundred million of public money in a building that is being built in harms way.

  • Richard Haden

    And Franklin, you still seem to be having a problem with the concept of a rant… for one thing, there is no such thing as a cultural felon… so why is there a need to prove someone is guilty of something I made up? However, board members, Thom Collins are certainly complicit in the scheme to let MAM be renamed after a man who is at best giving a lousy collection of works that he is tired of storing–that are in desperate need of repair as well as bad example of the artist’s work.

    As for free marketeers, it a bit naive to believe that these people would have a problem appropriating the public trust.

  • Franklin

    I stand corrected – I guess if you couch felony and crime in enough metaphor you indeed don’t need to provide evidence thereof.

    But what is this, that “it [sic] a bit naive to believe that these people would have a problem appropriating the public trust”? Margulies is the driving force behind the Overtown Youth Center, and been the primary opponent of the Museum Park scenario – on moral grounds – ever since the idea was first floated ten years ago. Rosa de la Cruz has stood by him the whole time.

  • FRANKLIN BLANCO

    Mr. Haden: One thing we know for sure is that the Miami Museum will NEVER be the Richard Haden Museum despite what you claim to be an “honest assessment” of the re-naming of the Museum in your convoluted piece – you despise money because you do not know how to make it and you are sore that the Museum was not re-named Smith or Haden rather than “Perez” — suck on that baby (mind you the museum may be renamed several more names like the Arsht Center..)

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THE RISING TIDES OF MIAMI