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Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Vizcaya-fy or Bust! December 6, 2014

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    Vizcaya-fy or Bust! presented seven projects by local artists commissioned through Vizcaya Museum and Gardens’ Contemporary Arts Program (CAP). Each artist created site-specific work that was on view throughout Vizcaya’s Main House and gardens for a one-night event on December 6, 2014, during Art Basel Miami Beach. More than 1200 guests attended the event.

    The artists were asked to make projects that explored the concept of taking artistic liberty that is so integral to Vizcaya, and specifically to investigate the ideas of appropriation and adaptation in the context of the estate. Vizcaya is self-made, aspirational and brings together many borrowed and retrofitted parts in a way that, while unique to the estate, is also quintessentially American. It was in this spirit of creative eclecticism—one in which the past is both revered territory and fertile ground—that the artists approached their work.

    In addition to the commissioned artists, student projects were also on view, the result of a new academic initiative called CAP Lab, launched by Vizcaya in 2014. In its first year, the museum partnered with the College of Architecture + the Arts at Florida International University. CAP Lab challenged MFA candidates to create site-specific, collaborative projects.

    The Vizcaya-fy or Bust! projects collectively entered into Vizcaya's appropriated history, albeit for one fleeting night. Vizcaya-fy or Bust! celebrated the idiosyncrasies that make the estate singularly itself, fundamentally American, essentially Miami and simply otherworldly.

    Commissioned artists and their projects for Vizcaya-Fy or Bust! were:

    Felecia Chizuko Carlisle, Columns of Air
    Inspired by Pythagoras and his metaphor of “columns of air” for the vibrations of musical strings, an eclectic soundscape performed by the artist projected into the gardens. Amplified piano strings were activated from within one of Vizcaya’s domed gazebos. The strings were played along with the distorted sounds of Vizcaya’s nearby fountain, interpreting the natural interactions of air and water and engaging the site.

    Adler Guerrier, Untitled (wonder attested by labor waged at the behest of patronage)
    Guerrier's project explored the mythological origins of two of Vizcaya's 18th-century statues, Nereus, god of the sea, and Hercules, the hero. Through sound and sculpture, the artist indicated the statues’ identities and, by extension, their sense of place at Vizcaya. Exploring the statues’ current locations in the context of the gardens, a new narrative was woven into the site, entangling yet connecting the ideologies of the ancient Greeks and Romans with the pursuits of members of America’s Gilded Age society.

    Brookhart Jonquil, Andromeda’s Kiss
    Anchored by the compass inlaid on Vizcaya’s East Terrace, this work reimagined the armillary sphere—the iconic Renaissance model of the solar system. Jonquil blurred the boundaries between a human scale in place and time and an infinite universe, alluding to the future collision of the Andromeda galaxy and the Milky Way. A precise physical framework built by the laws of science to contain overlapping clouds of meteorites drew viewers’ attention to an elegant harmony. Through the lens of the cosmos, the artist encouraged the audience to consider Vizcaya as a prototype. What will be Vizcaya’s legacy?

    Jillian Mayer, Digital Rendering to Appear Here
    In place of Vizcaya’s Prudencia (an 18th-century sculpture temporarily removed from the gardens for conservation), Mayer’s large, freestanding metal sculpture raised issues of place, authenticity and apathy. The sensory, physical experience of the gardens shifted to expectations of a future virtual encounter. Are viewers willing to accept a digital substitute?

    Emmett Moore, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
    The tiles from Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1920s Ennis House, inspired by Mayan temples—much as the Italian Renaissance informed Vizcaya—were appropriated for Moore’s sculptures in Vizcaya’s gardens. The Ennis House, which drew comparisons to Vizcaya upon completion, was a strong presence in the dystopian 1982 film Blade Runner, giving rise to the notion of architecture as film set. In Moore’s piece, the borrowing from multiple sources evident in both homes was reflected in a blurring of time and place that was oddly contemporary.

    Christina Pettersson, Sweet Nepenthe, you are my medicine for sorrow
    What did the early days of Vizcaya look like? How did Deering’s arrival unfold? This performance was staged in a tent inspired by those of early Florida camp settings. The themes explored derived from Vizcaya’s unique blending of myth with European and American influences and the home’s setting in an untamed Miami. The characters portrayed were Deering, his architects, and members of Vizcaya’s construction crew. As the narrative unfolded in silhouette and Deering’s dreams flickered on screen, he maneuvered between the old world and the industrial future.

    Magnus Sigurdarson, Rotating Renaissance Man
    Rotating Renaissance Man was informed by the 18th-century sculpture collection found in Vizcaya’s gardens. Sigurdarson performed as one of Vizcaya’s statues. He was painted white and adorned with Miami’s lush vegetation while singing and humming elevator music, accompanied by the museum’s resonant organ. Choreographed by Domingo Castillo, this Renaissance man situated himself between the ornamental and the mundane.

    The students who participated in CAP Lab were: Colette Alhabahbeh-Mello, Mariele Capssa, Javier Cuarezma, Danielle Damas, Isis Ellis, Diana Garcia, Hazel Gil, Victor Golden, Roma James, Meg Kaplan-Noch, Joe Lockem, Susan Maas, Daniel Marosi, Guido Mena, Kim Moore, Christopher Rodriguez and Brittni Winkler.