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M/The New York Art World: Diary of A Performance Artist - By Rachel Hoffman

Performance artist, Rachel Hoffman, who is active in the Miami arts scene, was asked to write for M about her everyday experences in Miami at a time when that city prepares to hoast some thirteen (and counting) art fairs next month. This is the first in a series of In The First Person articles to be published here to give readers an unvarnished, de-VIP-erized look glimpse into the art world.

In The First Person

October 27, 2007

I sit in an outdoor South Beach café in my big dark sunglasses, saturated with beautiful things to look at; becoming more and more overwhelmed with art in Miami. It shows up in the most unexpected places. Everything inspires me? Que rico!

Wade Simpson, my close friend and make-up artist sits across from me. Although it is only 10 a.m., he has already pointed out three reality TV stars and a transvestite on a little moped. I snap out of my art trance with this last observation. I don¹t know much about reality shows, but I am stunned with admiration. The style and unique beauty of the person on the moped impresses me so much. Those long legs, the tiger print gloves, the shiny red lips and the diamond choker all seem too perfect to be anything other than a fantasy. I know that this vision will haunt me for quite a while.

It is the end of October, and even though it still feels like summer, a delicate and magical Halloween breeze is blowing. It is still bikini weather, but I plan to spend the next five days in ballerina costumes. I am preparing to do five performances at the Miami Beach Cinemathque in homage to the "GIALLI" And Beyond: Italian Horror Masters Film Cycle. For the last few months, I have been studying the provocative and stylish films of Mario Bava, Dario Argento, in order to create an installation of soft sculptures, performances, and a short movie for this occasion. Argento¹s violent and sexy film, SUSPIRIA, which is set in a German Ballet academy, impresses me most with all of the fantastic colors and images. Although the term "Gialli" refers to Italian made films named after the yellow ("giallo") covered pulp-fiction paperback books about crime and murder mysteries, SUSPIRIA is more like a supernatural fantasy with witchcraft. It¹s funny, but I seem to have avoided the color yellow on a formal level in this exhibition. This is all about the aesthetics of blood. The focus is red.

I keep catching myself chewing on my lip, because nervous energy is beginning to consume me. Perhaps I should try to relax, enjoy myself, maybe window shop, but soon I will have to begin getting into make-up, and go to meet Dana Keith, the Director and Curator of the Cinemathéque, so that we can prepare for the first performance. I want to pinch myself because I feel so lucky. What a fun project! The MBC is located in South Beach on Espanola Way, and is home to the Miami Beach Film Society. This non-profit organization provides a nice intimate space for film screenings, art exhibitions, and other events. Dana is fun. He is always moving things around, changing the space, and doing the unexpected.

During Art Basel Miami Beach in December, Dana will present GIVING VISABILITY, Representations of reality and unseen worlds... with a continuing Jonas Mekas film retrospective and photography exhibition for the entire month. A showcase of five extraordinary filmmakers and video artists will be presented at The Miami Beach Cinematheque throughout Art Basel Weekend, as an open opportunity to peek into the lives of the famous and infamous. Three transparent screens with the rotating video/film work curated by Liutauras Psibilskis of Michel Auder, Candice Breitz, Gabriel Lester, Jonas Mekas, and Francesco Vezzoli will be installed all weekend, with an open-house style reception.

The occasion also marks the premiere of a Jonas Mekas Retrospective in Miami. Mekas is the legendary "Godfather of American Avant-Garde Cinema", and his films Happy Birthday To John, This Side Of Paradise, and Scenes From The Life Of Andy Warhol will be featured Art Basel Weekend at MBC.

October 28, 2006

It is the Saturday before Halloween, but almost everyone in South Beach is already in costume. Wade and I have gone back to the same café for breakfast. We notice that even the dogs are ready for trick-or-treats. A tiny Chihuahua with a sombrero and a mariachi guitar proudly prances by on a leash. The animal probably does not weigh more than two or three pounds, but does not seem to mind the ensemble at all. I assume the tiny dog is a male, but Wade thinks it´s another cross-dresser.

I hope to make it over to the Wynwood Art District to visit Charo Oquet, my friend and curator Edge Zones Art Space, which is another fabulous non-profit organization. Many people say that it is refreshing to come to this space because Oquet shows so many different styles of work. I love working with her because, as a curator, she is open-minded, and edgy. It´s really enlightening to talk with her because she has this great energy. When I am feeling nervous before or after a performance, she always knows the right things to say to build my courage and get me fired-up.

I recently asked her about her curatorial style. She told me that she chooses to focus exclusively on the present time, introducing Edge Zones artists as clear exponents of a new cultural stage, assuming the responsibility that all experiments entail a great amount of risk." I admire Charo for her selfless devotion. She does not seem concerned with replicating galleries, or focusing on money. She shows work that pushes boundaries, and always says how Miami needs to remain open to experimentation in order to continue to grow; that Miami artists must launch challenges against "existing contaminated concepts."

Charo dedicates an enormous amount of time and energy to help other artists in Miami and abroad. She has been able to organize all sorts of projects that introduce Miami artists to international curators, writers, and artists. She empowers artists because she does not just show work, she teaches artists how to grow and survive. Last spring, she invited me travel to the Dominican Republic with a group of Florida artists to do performances and installations at the Museo de Arte Moderno in Santo Domingo, and to conspire with Caryana Castillo and Eliu Alamonte of the avante-guarde performance group "Collectivo Chocolatero" in Puerto Plata. This was a life-changing experience that enriched my work with new confidence and complexities.
In December, Charo launches the Zones fair, coinciding with Art Basel Miami Beach. She tells me that, "this year 12 fairs will come to Miami, with ours it will be 13." This peaks my interest. In the last year I have witnessed things that almost seem supernatural at Edge Zones. I know there are no logical explanations, and I am aware that my superstitious nature and over-active imagination may cause me to embellish? but the number 13 is poderosa. I don¹t fear it. I find it to be lucky. Edge Zones started late, but it is a really great space. I think that this year Charo¹s home-grown Zones fair will be different from the other fairs, and previous Edge Zones shows. It will be worth the trip! I was able to preview some monumental figurative sculptures for the building façade of the space, prepared by Miami-based artist Patrick Flibotte. These enormous "inflatable twins", reveries from the artist`s precocious boyhood, are meant to cause pleasure and discomfort. The artist simultaneously builds the viewer-up, and knocks the viewer down. Fantstico!

My make-up artist asks me why I daydream so much. He seems annoyed because it is his Birthday and I should be paying him more attention. He tells me he needs some time to himself, joking that he "is going back to the hotel to put glitter on his @$$!" I welcome the time alone and decide to go to the gelato place on Washington and Espanola Way. I order a cup with half-coconut and half-tiramisu. It melts quickly as I walk down the street, eating wildly. It must be all over my face by now. Because I am already in a pink tutu, men are staring, drooling almost, and cat-calling. Judging from the reactions, it becomes obvious that my pink ruffled panties are showing, but the gelato is too good.
I don`t care.
October 29, 2006

Now it is my birthday? and my turn to act totally neurotic. Unlike Wade, I have no desire to sit in a hotel room and put glitter on my @$$? but then, I do that all of the time when I get bored.
Tonight Argento¹s TENEBRE will be shown at the Cinematheque. This is his most violent and cold film. The murder victims always wear white, probably to show off the blood. Argento uses his own hands in the place of the actor¹s for the murder scenes. My favorite scene in the film is a dream sequence in which a beautiful young woman dressed in white, with the exception of her sexy candy red stilettos, forcefully shoves the heel of her shoe into the mouth of the man that she chooses to torture. For me, this is more unsettling than the actual murders.

Last night got a little out of control, and after witnessing all of the wild South Beach debauchery, I think that my ballet costume is tainted. Wade recommends that I burn it, but I want to keep it for the memories. I am armed with a bottle of disinfectant and some imitation Britney Spears perfume. It smells yummy, like cotton candy. I notice stains on the pink satin waist and ribbons. I wonder how they got there. Did something happen last night? Did I forget? Was I drugged? All of the scary movies get me paranoid. I am constantly looking over my shoulder for a stalker. Maybe I am living in a real "Giallo"? Many mysterious and spooky things occur when I perform and make actions, especially in Miami. There have been many strange coincidences. Anything seems possible.

But then I remember that I went back to the ice cream place after my performance. There was a little accident during the melted coconut and tiramisu gelato frenzy. Whew, what a relief! That was probably my best performance of the weekend!

Text provided by M / The New York Art World

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