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Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Fantastical Vizcaya, November 30 - December 5, 2015

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    With Fantastical Vizcaya, CAP continued its deep commitment to local arts. Ten local artists and collaborative groups were commissioned to produce performance-based works that activated the Main House and gardens for this one-night exhibition.

    Common themes trend among the projects as each uniquely explores the site’s making, which results in a collective reach into the psyches of Vizcaya’s makers. Sebastian Duncan-Portuondo, Maritza Molina, David Rohn and Danilo de la Torre all explored the subconscious impulses of Deering and his artistic director, Paul Chalfin, motivations that informed the very aesthetics of Vizcaya and therefore the setting in which we experience the exhibition. Dona Altemus, Pip Brant, Amalia Caputo and Daniel Milewski lend voices to the anonymous workers instrumental in the site’s creation, calling our attention to relegated service spaces and providing entry points into experiences of the laborers.

    Cara Despain, Alan Gutierrez and Misael Soto each adapted larger bodies of work to the site, integrating Vizcaya into their comprehensive artistic practices. Throughout the process of working with these artists, it became evident that they were collectively far more interested in the mythical than the literal, the fantastical as opposed to the tangible.

    Those behind Vizcaya’s early twentieth-century construction had a harsher reality facing them. Architect F. Burrall Hoffman expressed engineering challenges in 1918 after faults in electrical conduits arose: “with the exception of the Flagler residence at Palm Beach no such installation as this had been undertaken … on the East Coast of Florida and therefore there was no precedence on which to base our design.”

    There was indeed no precedent, and through the decisions and moments that informed the creation of Vizcaya, and those that were highlighted with Fantastical Vizcaya, a precedent was set that would serve as bedrock for the city’s boom and its transformation into the 1920s playground for the rich. On the dawn of Vizcaya’s centennial we considered the underpinnings that shaped Vizcaya and gave way to Miami’s evolution.

    Commissioned artists/collaborations and their projects for Fantastical Vizcaya were:

    Dona Altemus, Southeastern Quadrant
    Southeastern Quadrant is a participatory collaboration that, in the week preceding this installation, engaged Vizcaya visitors as co-creators in constructing a large-scale textile work assembled in the public realm. Museum visitors selected historic archival images, which they transferred onto fabric under the artist’s guidance. The artist stitched these individual fabric components together using quilting techniques. The result is a large-scale architectural collage that references the many minds and voices that participated in the manifestation of Vizcaya.

    Pip Brant, The Kunstwaffen Band
    The improvisational Kunstwaffen Band performs new compositions developed from themes of music popular in the halcyon days of Vizcaya. Utilizing traditional as well as novel instruments created from tools, the group reimagines hit tunes of the early 20th century. Band members are Cathi DeMeo Marro on alto flute, Duane Brant on tuba and sew organ, Pip Brant on euphonium and percussion and Spike Marro on percussion and serving as sound engineer. The Kuntswaffen Band, situated in the Tea House along the mangrove shore, creates a vibrant soundscape for the evening.

    Amalia Caputo, The Future House Party
    Caputo’s interest centers on the idea of a home as an organized system of its own. Presented in Vizcaya’s Serving Pantry, a space core to the functions of a house yet often relegated in terms of design, Caputo’s work includes videos, projections of animations, lights, shadows and sound. The artist explores histories and fictions derived from the museum’s archives, blueprints and photographs that convey aspects of Vizcaya’s earliest years, when it was still being envisioned and designed and before it actually existed. The Future House Party presents a mise-en-scène that represents the dream aspect of the estate, something all can relate to through our dreams of an ideal house.

    Cara Despain, Formal Mowing
    Manufacturing farm equipment, in particular harvesters, generated the wealth that enabled James Deering, Vizcaya’s owner, to conceptualize and build Vizcaya. Harvesters greatly influenced the development of the mower. The aesthetic- agricultural action in Formal Mowing therefore comes full circle, shifting the schedule of the horticulture staff to mow in the spotlight, highlighting the present-day machinery, sounds and labor that, 100 years after its founding, continue to maintain Vizcaya’s formal gardens.

    Sebastian Duncan-Portuondo with Sound and Vision, Arrangements for a Concrete Box
    This project transforms Vizcaya’s artistic director Paul Chalfin’s historic correspondence regarding Vizcaya’s interior design into a visual and spatial narrative. Duncan-Portuondo mined Vizcaya’s archives to inform each facet of the project. Throughout the week preceding the installation, visitors encountered handwritten letters placed in the Main House, which served as indicators of Vizcaya’s creative origins. The project culminates with an animated, theatrical performance in Vizcaya’s Courtyard, through a stained glass projection that visualizes Chalfin’s letters in a lyrical choreography of furnishings and interior design schemes.

    Alan Gutierrez, Untitled (scene)
    Untitled (scene) consists of a performer and a suite of production equipment, including a rain machine, theatrical lighting and a prop newspaper. For the evening, Gutierrez fulfills this singular non-narrative vignette on the grounds at Vizcaya. The artist’s initials are incorporated into the lighting design as a cast gobo, functioning as a signature of the effort in its totality, but also as an overt signifier of the artist himself. Just as a ghost requires an outfit to be seen, effort itself requires an enveloping production to be materialized. Gutierrez’s project explores the notion of Vizcaya as artifice.

    Homo-Sapiens Collaborative (David Rohn and Danilo De La Torre), Mr. Jimmy’s Rabbit Hole
    This performance reveals Vizcaya owner James Deering’s psyche during the formative years of the creation of Vizcaya. Staged throughout the gardens, Deering interacts with characters from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, including the White Rabbit, Mad Hatter and Queen of Hearts. Each encounter represents a moment of inspiration that influenced the site’s creation or a critical decision that informed Vizcaya’s aesthetics. Although Vizcaya’s artistic director Paul Chalfin is not physically represented in the project, the performance alludes to the rabbit hole that Chalfin took Deering through when he embarked on the quest to create Vizcaya.

    Daniel Milewski, Scores, Soundtracks and Serenades
    Time and history are remembered and forgotten in various ways. Facts and details are recollected with certainty and inaccuracy simultaneously. Milewski creates a fictional soundtrack inspired by those who were instrumental in the making of Vizcaya. Just as a collection of trades, skills, traditions and myths served to build Vizcaya, the process of excavating the historical collection creates new myths that bridge and widen the gap between past and present. Milewski’s performances are pre-reserved and fully booked; however, anyone who misses seeing them tonight will have another chance, as they will be part of future CAP programming.

    Maritza Molina, Sparkling Vision
    Inspired by Vizcaya owner James Deering’s spirit of creation, Sparkling Vision reflects the interplay between the real and the imagined. Molina’s performance activates the Theater Garden through whimsical forms and playful intervention, alluding to a vision of fantasy and dreams as the magic of Vizcaya materializes. This performance conveys an ethereal dreamlike state that the piece conjectures was characteristic of Deering in the years leading up to Vizcaya’s creation.

    Misael Soto, Spatial Awareness Exercises (for Vizcaya Museum and Gardens)
    Continuing his recent explorations in site-specific performances and installations that use the language found in ubiquitous actions and objects of a given time and place, Soto orchestrates performers to undertake a series of evolving actions and gestures exploring the physical, social and contextual boundaries of Vizcaya. The actions present an effort to better understand the space, the performers’ relationship to it and their relationship to each other. Simultaneously intended to enhance the experience of others by revealing truths, yet fleeting in nature, many of the gestures are hardly noticeable while others take on obsessive characteristics, becoming endurance-based tasks.