A Miami based contemporary art newsletter / blog

Shallow Wounds: Two Accounts of Art Basel 2015

“Like an immeasurable shipwreck, when the hurricanes have ceased to roar, and the boatmen have fled, and the corpse of the shattered fleet lies unrecognizable on the sandbar, so Athens lay before us, and the orphaned columns stood before us like the naked trunks of a forest, which one evening were still in leaf and in the following night went up in flames.”

Frederich Hölderlin, Hyperion


Photo courtesy of Rob Goyanes

I sat and listened to the rain. Its patter was a comfort, despite it being a total dictator of evening.

Perhaps it is something about the easiness of submission, the constraint of choice; forced to stay dry and out of perceived danger—or maybe it’s the onomatopoeia of it, the drip, drop, drizzle. There’s something balmy about falling water sounds that calms the anxious parts of us.

The 100% chance of rain does not stall the machine of Art Basel, that largest global art fair, the multi-prismed financial-cultural dynamo. All the rain does is cause some pause in traffic flow, as bodies and products and currencies continue on.

Other things that don’t stop Art Basel: a stabbing with an x-acto knife at the convention center, mistaken as a performance by some visitors; the shooting of a man by Miami Beach Police just a few blocks away the next day; not even Stitches getting knocked out by The Game’s manager. These moments of violence both puncture the metaphysical bubble that is Miami Art Week and help to embolden the general aesthetic of unreality. 

Emerging from the Wynwood bar at 3am I find the parking situation has greatly improved. 7 hours ago I squeezed my hatchback between throngs of stilettos and linen pants trying to unload my gear. A bouncer instinctively shooed me away but after some explanation I was granted temporary loading clearance.

Now the street was nearly empty. It had rained and a grey-brown slush coated everything. I find my car as I left it, wedged against the curb in front of a monumental construction site. Luxury lofts or retail space, I think. Probably both. I pack the first armload of equipment and start to circle the block. My insides call out for water but only find Tecate.

Something is off immediately. The car acquired a disheartening, bumpy lurch. Under the helpful glow of a streetlight I confirm my assumption. There is a large, deliberate gash in one tire resembling the hull of a ship after hitting an iceberg.

“Motherfucker,” I say to myself.

The wash of faces I didn’t recognize, the haircuts, my drink tickets.

“Everybody’s a critic.”

I resume my circle, making a late-night micro-spectacle of myself. As I plod past groups of patrons they shoot me confused or annoyed looks, a few guys giving my car an encouraging pat or gesturing to me that something was wrong with my vehicle: a sign of universal good intentions or universal obliviousness. Probably both.

My partner, whom I performed with, was cornered in conversation as he tried to coil his cables and pack his equipment. I interrupt, “I got a flat tire.” We both laugh exhausted laughs.


Photo courtesy of Dave Rodriguez

It’s impressive if you think about it. What an immense amount of effort, money, and people the art world generates in Miami for this event, and what a scale of epic productive and consumptive proportions.

I could sit here and write the same things that have been and will be written, or I can listen to the rain: the liquid sounds of pooling water gurgling and bubbling, the fizzing of fluids smashing into the ground from the heavens at high speeds, moisture bullets only the tropics can pack.

I can watch the water rise over streets into lakes of great disruption, then recede into mere puddles, fit only for soggy shoes and socks.

Outside our gear piles up on the sidewalk as I get the jack and spare. My partner comes back with money in hand and I begin calculating what percentage will be sucked up by this. We crouch and contort on the cold, sloshy sidewalk and mount the jack under the car. It starts to inch skyward when the bar owner says, “You’re doing that wrong,” and grips the mechanism with a tool I neglected and everything goes higher and faster.

“Thanks for being a dad,” I say, and he drives home to be that.

My partner keeps offering to help and I keep telling him no. I don’t know why. Some mixture of frustration, ego, exhaustion, and intoxication compels me to get us out of this myself. Eventually we get on the road. It’s almost 4:30.

I glance through my phone as I’m lying in bed and see David Beckham is building a soccer stadium two blocks away, the most “responsible stadium” in Miami’s history. It starts raining again and it takes me a while to fall asleep.

This post was contributed by Rob Goyanes and Dave Rodriguez[.] 


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Shallow Wounds: Two Accounts of Art Basel 2015