Art Positions – the weird name given to the cluster of shipping containers turned into temporary art galleries during Art Basel Miami Beach – is usually one of my favorite things about the fair. Incorporating an experimental lounge area/environment created by an artist, surrounded by galleries most of which I’ve never heard of, and with a DJ and film projections playing constantly, it’s a pretty cool place to hang out. It’s open til 10pm at least, and there’s a bar. Good times.
Except that this year, I don’t feel like Art Positions is really working. One part is totally out of control of the fair organizers hands – the weather, which is surprisingly chilly, doesn’t really make you want to linger outside for hours and hours. But then there are things that could have been done a lot better, like the environment I mentioned (created by Federico Diaz and E-Area), which is described in the official literature as:
“A deformed topography of polyethylene layers cut by CNC robotic technology […] blanket[s] the container courtyard. The lounge, cafe, and Art Radio broadcast booth will be transformed by undulating waves, extrusions, and futuristic furniture all awash in a bed of soothing psychedelic sound, light, and video.”
Ok, it *sounds* fucking awesome, but in practice it winds up to be more of like a melting asylum lockdown room. With about zero in the way of comfort (the “benches” such as they are, are few and far between, which means that if you want to “lounge,” you’re stuck standing; oh, and is that material flammable? what about all the Europeans and their cigarettes?) the lounge doesn’t really encourage you to stick around very much. You just sort of look at it, “get it,” and then don’t really want to touch or sit on it.
This is a shame because the containers themselves look much better than in years past. Usually I wander in and out without really understanding what on earth I’ve just seen or what the point was (unlike every square inch of the rest of ABMB, the containers usually look like they’re denying the whole reason why everyone is here: to sell artwork), but there were at least half a dozen containers I especially liked this time out. Top of the list was Newman Popiashvii Gallery, filled with colorful doodads; another gallery (which I have to go back to check the name – signage is always tricky at the containers) covered the space with tin foil. But beyond neat installation strategies, what impressed me is that there were actually objects in the containers – objects to sell of course, but also things that someone made and that I could look at. This is (again) a welcome improvement over previous years where it was completely unclear why the galleries had shelled out all that money for the space, if all they were trying to do is one-up their neighbors by showing as little art as possible.
Meanwhile, we were there in time to see Jordan Wolfson’s Dear Clem performance, which sounded so promising in the brochure (actors reading Barnett Newman’s letter to Clement Greenberg, just perfect for us art nerds) but wound up being a weirdly one-note, pathetic-aesthetic apology for ever having been an art nerd. The artist read – totally deadpan and in a monotone voice – a written statement about how he *wasn’t* going to do the performance that was publicized, while two actors made strangely choreographed movements (flapping their arms, falling on their knees, etc). It was super art-school-y; the friend we were visiting with said, “I feel like if I spend one more minute talking about this…” and then his voice trailed off and we all gave up. Right, exactly.