Performing our Reality / Dreaming our Escape - Notes from Satellite 2.0
Alexandra Hammond for Performance is Alive
It’s just before the opening of Satellite 2.0 and the Parisian hotel in Miami Beach is as ready as it will ever be. Each room has been cleared of furnishings and occupied by a gallery, curatorial project, artist collective or publication. Many have been transformed beyond recognition while others, including our booth for Performance is Alive, revel in the dingy tones of cream and pale-peach paint, making use of the vaguely sordid yet standardized markers of the hotel’s architecture of transience: dated carpeting, wall-mounted televisions and lamps.
We have covered the linty carpet with an uncanny layer of adhesive plastic rug-guard topped with beige drop cloths. Artist, Curator and Performance is Alive founder Quinn Dukes has been performing and managing performance events for years and knows that “performers get messy”. She is keen to support the artists and tend to the realization of their works as much as possible under the constraints of a nonexistent budget and the hotel setting. The only rule: no fire.
After a day and a half of nearly round-the-clock preparation (more for many of the elaborate booths) the Satellite Art fair feels like a possible setting for a Borges story: a world within the world, with its own sense of time and cultural mores.
The lobby is now equipped with a giant cereal bowl, titled F+++ Off, fashioned from a modified Doughboy pool and filled with enlarged Captain Crunch pieces sculpted out of foam. A bubble-bath fountain shaped like a giant milk carton pours down from above. Its creators, Jen Catron and Paul Outlaw don bathing suits and float in doughnut-styled inner tubes from time the fair opens until it closes each day. They take their job seriously, just like the exotic car rental agency that normally shares the lobby of the Parisian and continues its usual business throughout the fair, tending to and lending out a small stable of Lamborghinis and Rolls Royces that are parked out front.
Curator Jesse Firestone (creator of the Soothing Center and an organizer of the fair along with Founder Brian Whiteley) stops into our booth for Performance is Alive. Jessie, Quinn and I joke that if we had to stay at the Parisian forever, we would survive and make our own world. Like the Eagles’ Hotel California, but with more exuberance and less downfall.
The fantasy of the self-sustaining art-pod was particularly poignant in the days immediately following the presidential election. The final dissolution of the myth of American exceptionalism calls for action, and the temporary world-building represented by repurposing a hotel for a few days of art viewing (even as it participates in the commercial crush of Miami art week), can be seen as a utopic gesture, perhaps even an act of love towards a world that has revealed itself as a more troubled place than we had imagined.
Nestled on the second of three floors of this most wacky and artist-powered of the Miami art fairs, Performance is Alive’s room 15 was poised to be occupied by the first of its politically-charged performances. Artists addressed the interconnected subjects of landscape and environmental destruction, race, gender, consumer capitalism, labor, violence and eroticism. In short, the range of issues that arise when the medium is the ever-political, ever-present body.
Berlin-based Russian Artist Olga Kozmanidze would initiate the series with her work, Comfort Zone, to be followed by works ranging from the Millennial chorus Yaaasss Gaga arranged by Sean Fader; the period politics of Vanessa Dion Fletcher’s infomercial-style piece Menstrual Accessory; Monica Jahan Bose’s participatory performance Floating/Drowning about climate change as a crisis linking American and Bangladeshi women, and Sarah H. Paulson’s rose-petal and incense-infused Fire in Fire: Prayers for the Ocean.
Other performances would include Sergio Mora’s Enthrall, a meditation originating from a life-sized nativity scene; Miriam Parker and Christina Smiros’ dance and video-projection-based work on pop culture, race and identity titled Flying Escape; and Dominique Duroseau’s transcendent Mammy was here, a masked pilgrimage through the halls of the Parisian during which she offered baggies of black powder labeled “original blackness” to onlookers.
Meanwhile, Trevor Amery performed beyond the walls of the fair, traversing Biscayne Bay in a handmade Baidarka kayak and documenting the precariously urbanized coastline of Miami Beach. Ayana Evans took a more confrontational approach in Make Your Own Way, stopping traffic on Collins Avenue in her signature “Operation Catsuit”, a neon green tiger-striped bodysuit. She literally rolled through the halls and stairwells of the Parisian, announced by fellow artist Nyugen Smith, who proclaimed, “Make way! Black woman coming through!”
Themes of labor and finance were explored by young Alberto Checa, who processed the reality of his immigrant mother’s self-sacrifice by re-performing the physical tasks of her work day in Hemos Vivido Nueve Anos (We Have Lived Nine Years), as well as by Joseph Bigley, who stuffed sausage casings with the moistened, shredded transcript from the Supreme Court hearing of the Citizens United case in Free Market Cannibalism.
Residues of party and entertainment culture were examined in Alexandra Sullivan’s durational karaoke performance where she repeatedly sang the Eagles’ Desperado, and by Emma Sulkowicz and Violet Overn’s temporary transformation of the room into a post-party kidnap scene that resembled Home Alone on roofies. In contrast, Thomas Albrecht silently performed SAND, which culminated in his pouring a briefcase filled with said material over his head while dressed as a buttoned-up “man in a gray flannel suit”.
Marcela Torres and Chase Calloway, J.R. Uretsky, and Agrofemme + Ian Deleon represented diverse approaches to themes of violence, self-defense and the vulnerable mind-body in Me/My/Us In My Corner, Dog Girl, and Night of Faith: Transmorphia, respectively.
In addition to live works, screenings of performance in video and live stream were also included. Bosnian-Herzegovinian Romani artists Selma Selman transmitted her repetition of the words, “Vi Nemate Pojma” (“You Have No Idea”) to the American continent via Facebook Live. Video screenings including Miles Pflanz’ critique of American monuments, his staging of languidly destructive Brooklyn art kids, and a Pomeranian dog among many bouncing tennis balls. Meditations on pain and endurance were approached in disparate ways by Elan Jurado’s body-pushing, pain-enduring, Chris Burden-style Life Cycle of a Broken Government Structure as well as by Jenna Maurice’s attempts to merge with landscapes: hugging Saguaro cactus (Forming an affectionate relationship with the Seemingly Unaffectionate) and submerging herself in an apparently peaceful pond that was nevertheless said to be full of Water Moccasins (Integration with Pond). Lastly, Philip Fryer’s performance documentation of The Tower, originally performed at Boston University merged ambient and cavernous distortions with slow gestures of release.
After three days presenting the work of 27 performance artists, we removed the adhesive plastic carpet covering and got paint mixed at Home Depot to match the exact years-old pale yellow of the Parisian room 15. We patched, painted, dismantled the projector and sound system, and attempted to leave the room as it had been when we arrived. The week had been awash in fertile chaos, trips up and down the barrier island resort city, and between its various hardware stores and art-fair mega-tents. The Satellite had reentered the atmosphere, its contents dispersing over the surface of the earth beyond the tiny strip of sand and hotel towers we call Miami Beach. The data from our time onboard would be processed and reinterpreted. The research continues.
#AliveAtSatellite performance images