Miami plays itself - Page 5

Art Basel, part two: Faux-favelas and real degradation
Artist Kristofer Paetau hurls at it all

The SUV pulled over and blocked traffic around 8:15 on a side street in front of the Miami Aqua art fair. Crabapple paced around the car, calling out to the crowd that this street takeover was a performance of Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School. The chauffer took pictures with his cell phone from the driver's seat, while the four dancers and the midget assumed their first pose in the street in front of the car. With an audible "whoosh!" the fire dancer whipped his flaming torches on chains through the air, inches from the audience members' faces. A crowd started to gather in a circle around the flames and the posing performers. The girls and the midget would stand absolutely still until Crabapple commanded, "Change!" and then would assume a new pose. When the notebooks were distributed through the crowd, the event at last made a bit of sense. It was actually pretty fun. My deformed stick figure drawing of the midget's rugged pout, as seen through a veil of flames, serves now to remind me of the night when the fair drew to a close. When I see it, it is as if the camera is pulling back and the credits are starting to roll.


Later that same night, I found myself at Max Fish. The fake bar had been hosting packed shows with live bands all week, and their Web site had posted notice of a Saturday-only "top-secret show tonight!" As the bar grew crowded, there was spirited debate about whether the top-secret guest would be Miami local Iggy Pop, last year's Art Basel hit No Age, or someone else. I reflected that Max Fish the art installation had reached the height of its masterful success. This crowd was drinking in a bar that wasn't even real, that wouldn't be around the very next day, waiting to see a fantasy band that existed only in their mind.

Sometime after midnight the whole scene turned back into a pumpkin for me, though, when it became clear there was not going to be a show at all. As I walked back to Wynwood, the Overtown locals were still frantically hustling the last couple of trickle-down dollars out of the art fair tourists. I thought of the staring eyes of the women in Balber's photos and wondered where they were tonight. I passed a construction site where a condo stood half-built or perhaps half-destroyed. It looked like art. Someone had nailed a "Cash For Your Warhol" sign to it.

On 22nd Street, as a stray dog trotted amiably past SWOON's still-unfinished mural, I flashed back to Crabapple's event and to the image that seemed to sum up the entire Art Basel week: four glamorous models and a rocker midget posing as if time had stopped, in front of a group of maybe 10 people trying with great concentration to draw them while they, too, were orbited by a much larger ring of perhaps 50 people taking photos of the people drawing the performers.

Half the mortgages in the state were underwater. Perhaps in a generation or two, due to rising sea levels, Miami would be too. From sandbar to paradise and back to sandbar in a century-long hallucination, a perfect work of art. What were the last words of the historians of Atlantis? I thought of Molly Crabapple's parting words to the crowd that had gathered. As the girls and the midget got back into the SUV, promptly at 8:30, she waved her arm dramatically to the crowd and said, "Now we will vanish like a puff of smoke!"

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