When ArtCenter/South Florida opened on Lincoln Road in 1984, in the heart of South Beach, the street was “nearly abandoned and severely dilapidated.” Today the center, which hosts exhibitions, classes, and a studio residency program, is credited with kickstarting the revitalization of the mall and its surrounding area. Following the appointment of Natalia Zuluaga as Artistic Director this August, ArtCenter itself is getting something of a revitalization. Dynamic changes are underway as the promising Bard Center for Curatorial Studies graduate begins her tenure with an ambitious exhibition that rethinks the space's programming structure—and the very shape of what an exhibition can be.
Part of an emerging generation of local creatives that have been actively distinguishing Miami’s cultural identity through art—challenging stereotypes about the city and bringing it visibility outside of the annual art fair invasion—Zuluaga will oversee programming, education initiatives, and artist residencies. In addition, she works on a variety of collaborative curatorial and publishing projects such as [NAME] Publications and PDP/PLP, a transdisciplinary “think tank” co-run by Alan Gutierrez, Patricia Margarita Hernandez, and Domingo Castillo.
For her debut ArtCenter exhibition, she worked with Castillo, an artist and co-founding Noguchi Breton gallerist, to co-curate An Image, which runs through December 18. Together, they organized an exhibition that deconstructs, subverts, and reasserts notions of the image: what it is, what it could be, and how it functions in culture. The exhibition title is borrowed from Harun Farocki’s film, included in the show, and the installation presents a smart selection of video art, objects, performance, and talks.
I spoke recently with Zuluaga and Castillo about their conceptual framework and the intricacies of their robust exhibition, which is a must-see during Miami Art Week next month.
Exterior view of An Image, ArtCenter South/Florida. Photo: Zack Balber
Audrey Phillips: Natalia, what led to your move to ArtCenter/South Florida and what shape do you see things taking with future exhibitions?
Natalia Zuluaga: My move to ArtCenter was really the result of a confluence of things, and luckily so. I think the institution is going through an interesting transition period and was a great place from which to explore my own interests in “institutional forms” and programming. So the invitation to come in and re-imagine the way ArtCenter’s many pieces fit together (exhibitions, residencies, pedagogy) was particularly exciting for me.
An Image reflects a way of programming that allowed us to think through ideas over longer periods of time. So, instead of thinking about an exhibition schedule that included 10 exhibitions a year, I figured we could shorten that down to 3-4, and instead unpack the ideas over longer periods of time and through a variety of engagements. This is where the thinking behind an exhibition in the shape of objects, lectures, screenings, and using the exhibition space as the site where most of these things happen came into fruition. So future programs at ArtCenter may not be exhibitions at all, and instead focus on the necessary outputs for the content we want to engage with and breaking with the demands we place on ourselves to produce (or overproduce!) in one particular way.
Barbara Kasten, Installation view of An Image at ArtCenter/South Florida. Photo: Zack Balber
AP: The exhibition seems so thoughtful, even the design of the web page—which is beautiful. I imagine it was also approached as an image in and of itself. Could you talk about the process of selecting works and how they operate in relation to one another?
NZ: Domingo and I really did want to think about all of the components in the exhibition as images, or as contributing factors to the construction of an image. We wanted to move beyond the representational force of an image which had dominated so much of “image” discourse/politics and think about the way an image is both imbricated and a catalyst for a number of social/political processes. So yes, the website, and especially the installation was important for this because we knew that the exhibition space as an image would travel further than the amount of people who could possibly access it in person.
As a project we like to think that it works on two registers: that the exhibition space itself works as the place where the construction of an image is set to play, and that the public programs were a way of thinking through effects and gamuts of temporalities. In the space you have works by Harun Farocki, Enrique Castro-Cid, Barbara Kasten, and Suzan Pitt as immediate examples bolstered by the exhibition design and by the lighting, which Alan Gutierrez so carefully designed. Each one of these pieces does something slightly different: Farocki gives you the careful construction of desire in an image; Pitt—the presence of the hand in her very rich imagery; Castro-Cid in the relation between reality, computer-aided design, and painting.
I think together the pieces are more than individual images—and this is important because we weren’t interested in importing images; we wanted to create one too.
Alan Gutierrez, Installation view of An Image at ArtCenter/South Florida. Photo: Zack Balber
Domingo Castillo: We looked at ARQUITECTONICA’s Pink House as a case study of a project that literally reprogramed the visual identity of Miami for the 80s and made ARQUITECTONICA an instant global architecture firm. The house, which perfectly exemplifies the “post-modern” in architecture, won multiple awards before it was even built. The proposal of which was first designed by Laurinda Spear and Rem Koolhaas, showed a return to the hand-painted and romanticized rendering which clearly highlighted their admiration of the Bauhaus thinking but begins to do something else.
When the house is finally constructed it’s redesigned by the newly established firm. It begins getting highlighted for its five Shades of Pink and it continues to get awards through all the photography-based architectural magazines. Luxury brands use the house as a stage for their advertisements, becoming the actual post-modern moment. The functionality of the house as a house comes second to it functioning as a stage where images are created. Due to the sheer amount of images that are generated through the house and its positioned branding of the image, the City of Miami starts to pivot towards the lifestyle, colors, and aesthetics laid out by the house and the images of its use. That to this day continues informing a “luxurious” understanding of the city, as per Pitbull and Chris Brown’s “Fun” music video.
This is the grounding logic we wanted to work through with the exhibition as a whole. Instead of bringing in archival material, the logic is re-performed and our study of the house gets incorporated into the exhibition design and promotional apparatus of the exhibition.
Enrique Castro-Cid, Installation view of An Image at ArtCenter/South Florida. Photo: Zack Balber
AP: You mention that the exhibition is “an inherent political project” that looks at “image in relation to power structures and pseudo-agency” referencing a “history of anxiety,” then tie these themes to the image of Miami as “colonial fantasies of Latin America” in your press release. Further to that, you assert that “images are coded by different cosmologies in order to reconfigure the politics of visibility and presence.” I’m curious to know how or where these different cosmologies exist and am also interested in your thoughts related to these aspects of your statement.
NZ: Alan Poma’s La Victoria Sobre el Sol [Victory Over the Sun], which is the multi-media opera we are presenting at the conclusion of the exhibition that re-appropriates the Russian futurist play by the same name, is a good example of what we mean by the way in which different cosmologies code images. The play translates the opera both visually and linguistically to incorporate both Andean visions of the last moments of the solar system -- a story that has its origins in pre-columbian cultures. This incorporation is not in effect to translate the story, but to reclaim and decolonize the notion of futurity as a narrative that is strictly european in origin and in doing so re-situates the way in which that narrative has a presence, and is made visible; and that is inherently a political act.
It’s great that you picked up on the “colonial fantasies.” This was a slight jab at the idea that Miami is the “gateway to the Americas” or the “capital of Latin America.” This is language that has been disseminated by economic and tourist development boards in an effort to really sell Miami as that; but for us that idea pointed to a kind of colonial fantasy that doesn’t play out through the dispossession of land or the acquisition of it for a nation state, but through a more pervasive form of economic colonialism. One key example that Domingo and I are always talking about is NAP of The Americas. This data site located just north of downtown Miami is where a large amount of internet traffic from the Americas is funneled through. So if you send an email, say, from Brazil to Chile, there’s a chance it has to travel up here before reaching its destination. This subtle crossing of territories says more about Miami as a gateway and capital and the power structures that support and propel this vision forward than palm trees and sunsets do.
Installation view of An Image at ArtCenter/South Florida. Photo: Zack Balber
AP: What makes Miami unique in relation to other “art worlds”?
DC: Miami is just another node within the larger network of Contemporary Art. A place of constant contestation, natural disasters, racial inequality, financial inequality, constant land (re)development, and the ecological harmony of the Everglades are a few things of many that constantly rub up against each other and have to be constantly negotiated. The politics of the image become almost obvious if we start thinking about the way that art has always been instrumentalized within the creation and development of this city’s imagery. When used with this kind of awareness and agency images and art can be used as a great vehicle where one can act and possibly change the course or at least the conversation towards more radicalized and empowered futures.
AP: What are your top Miami picks for Art Basel week?
(Image to top: Installation view of An Image at ArtCenter/South Florida. Harun Farocki and Alan Gutierrez. Photos: Zack Balber. All images courtesy of ArtCenter/South Florida)
Tags: ArtCenter/South Florida Miami Beach An Image Natalia Zuluaga Domingo Castillo