Review: Artist-Run [Miami Beach 2015]
Katherine Di Turi
Tiger Strikes Asteroid, a network of 3 artist-run spaces based in Philadelphia, LA, and New York, invited project submissions as part of the Satellite Art Show - Miami Beach, an alternative art fair model to coincide with Miami Art Week (December 1-6). The brief was to submit a project-installation to be held in a room at an abandoned hotel which would temporarily house exhibitions by 40 artist-run projects.
Since the hotel had been closed up for the last five years in the sub-tropical climate of Miami, the interior was like the set for a horror film. We were in room 106, on the ground floor. As we entered, we were greeted with damp stained walls, worn blue carpet, and no running water. Other rooms were worse: Standard Practice in room 110 had to contend with a caved-in ceiling. The rooms on the ground floor were definitely in a worse state than those on the first floor, but that didn’t deter the new occupants, rather it spurred them on to produce something remarkable in their husk of a space. From the moment we all began working, there was a marvelous spirit of community and an underlying feeling that an event was unfolding; that the process of the installation was as important as the final product.
Some of the results were truly striking, and unbelievable transformations appeared, for example Sediment in room 201, and Arzabe & Reichert in room 102. Our own project, entitled “Above and below the waterline”, was based on the parallels between David Hockney’s move from the UK to Los Angeles and our brief migration from London to Miami. After ripping out that horrific carpet and painting the walls white, we recreated Hockney’s decorative blue swimming pool brushstrokes on the lower half of the walls. Above this “waterline” we hung small-scale pieces, chosen for their use of bright colour palette to embody the light of Miami.
There were only two projects from Europe – ourselves and Club Chic from Austria - and so it was a great opportunity for us to see what was going on in the US. In the Ocean Terrace Hotel you could immerse yourself in a swimming pool, have a drink in one of the bars, listen to a live concert, see a glow-in-the-dark sculpture, watch videos, and experience sound installations – there was a bit of everything, and the level of professionalism and passion was eye-opening. All of the participants were more than happy to talk about the work and their installations, and we made some good friends with many of them. We were also hugely fortunate to be opposite the fantastic Automat in room 103 who had created a break room with a bottomless coffeepot and cake at all hours.
Our experience at the show made us reflect upon the growing number of artist-run initiatives, buoyed by the internet, social media, and by the ease of travel across continents. While each project/initiative was different, and operated under differing conditions (group collectives, curatorials, projects managed by a sole individual, those with a space, those without, those that run on the money provided by a day job, those that get sponsorship, etc.), there was a common belief that artistic process is just as valid as product. Many of the participating projects that we spoke to voiced a similar concern that there is a widening gap between the creation of art and the market; artist-run projects are a way of addressing this. While the public has become “programmed” to contemplate art in white-boothed fairs, there is a growing interest in alternative events such as the Satellite Show, in which one is much nearer the creative process. Visitors were able to engage with the art through the people that had created it – whoever visited a room in the hotel could talk to the very person that had put it together, and that is something that is unique to events such as these.
What we took away from The Satellite Show Miami Beach was that we are on the wave of something that is growing. There was an atmosphere of pure creativity within a community of like-minded artists who were more interested in sharing ideas and insights than competing on sales: this was “art for art’s sake”. We were incredibly fortunate to take part in a truly alternative event in that crazy week in Miami on our first trip there. We took the opportunity to visit a few other fairs, some small, some bigger, but it was always a pleasure to come back to our hotel with 40 rooms full of creativity and community.
Square Art Projects is an artist-run initiative based in London, staging exhibitions by emerging and mid-career artists on an international scale. Started in 2006, it is directed by Katherine Di Turi and Piers Veness.