Argentinian hotelier Alan Faena has caused quite a stir among Miami Beach’s social and cultural elite. In the past year since the launch of his eponymous hotel he’s made the rounds at various openings and galas, courting the movers and shakers of the local art world. Together with his wife and close collaborator, Ximena Caminos, the pair launched the Faena District to coincide with Art Basel Miami Beach in December, 2016. Located on Collins Avenue, just a block away from his much-buzzed hotel, the district is comprised of several buildings (Faena Forum, Faena Park, and Faena Bazaar) that collectively house the North American wing of Faena Art, a non-profit institution that supports and mentors emerging and mid-career artists. Founded in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and helmed by Caminos, Faena Art was established to serve as a cultural bridge between North and South America. Their most recent project played host to the 15th annual “Biennale of Moving Images,” an “un-curated” exhibition comprising video, installation, and performance pieces.
Originally created for The Centre d’Art Contemporain Geneve, the show traveled from Switzerland to the sands of Miami Beach for a festive local debut. Of the 28 pieces in the show, seven were specifically selected for venues at Faena Bazaar and Park. Located in vacant storefronts, unused garages, and courtyards these pieces appropriate unconventional spaces for site-specific installations. The remaining batch of films will be shown at special screenings at the hotel and bazaar through the end of the month.
“I like to say that we [Faena Art] are like the Jenny Holzer of Miami,” Caminos quipped at the show’s opening. “We always like to do things from a slightly different point of view than the rest of the local art world.”
Different points of view certainly abound at the exhibit. Under the artistic director of Andrea Bellini, the Biennale brings together a mix of work that operates at the intersections of film, visual art, and performance. Within this context artists are asked to push the boundaries of their traditional disciplines expanding the definitions of new media in an art context.
“Everything in art has been done already,” explained Caminos with a passionate élan. “What interest me is work that exist at the border of different media. It’s the intersections that push art forward in a new direction.”
Unlike most established festivals the “Biennale of Moving Images” features commissioned pieces produced with no specific curatorial theme. Bellini, in collaboration with Cecilia Alemani, Caroline Bourgeois and Elvira Dyangani Ose, approached artists that peaked their interest and provided them carte blanche to create commissioned pieces for the exhibit. Yet despite the absence of direction certain distinct motifs give way through the eclectic mix of films: femininity in a contemporary political culture, gender fluidity, and the increasingly precarious state of socio-political and environmental structures on a global scale.
In Red Gold, Karimah Ashadu presents a short, experimental narrative on the economic and social context of palm oil production in Nigeria. For the British filmmaker the piece is not only a meditation on her Nigerian roots, but serves as both a celebration and an indictment of the country’s working-class values and political realties.
Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz’s Silent takes a more tongue in cheek tack on gender. The film opens with a reinterpretation of John Cage’s 1952 score 4’33’’, where performers are instructed to not play their instruments for the duration of the piece. Musician Aerea Negrot then performs a song filled with explicit lyrics directed to “Mr. President” in a public square that was also used as a refugee camp between 2012—2014 in the heart of Berlin. For Boudry and Lorenz the piece sums up over a decade of collaborative work revisiting films and audio materials from the past and giving them new life in a queer context.
Wu Tsang mixes magical realism, kung fu, and historical movie genres in her short film Duilian. Set in the present, the narrative centers on the relationship between Chinese revolutionary poet Qiu Jin and calligrapher Wu Zhiying. At the crux of the story is how history is both constructed and decoded by “reading between the lines” of official records.
In addition to those singled out above, the Biennale includes installations by an impressive roster of talent, including Salome Lamas, Brian Bress, Emily Wardill, along with special screenings of films by Yuri Ancarani, Bertille Bak, Massimo D’Anolfi, Alessio Di Zio, Bodil Furu, Jenna Hasse, Emilie Jouvet, Paris Kain, Evangelia Kranioti, Julian Mayer, Boris Mitic, and Kerry Tribe.
Navigating the show’s crowded opening was a who’s who of the South Florida art world. Iranian-American photographer Iran Issa-Khan, collector Kathryn Mikesell, and others, mixed and mingled as they traversed the Faena Bazaar and Park’s narrow corridors and stairways to view the various installations in their entirety. For a split second on that breezy Miami Beach evening, it seemed that the Faena’s dream of creating bridge between North and South America, and even beyond, was slowly starting to take shape.
“The Biennale of Moving Images” at Faena District is on view through April 30, 2017; open daily from 3- 6 PM. For more information regarding specific screenings visit www.faenaart.com