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I know nothing about modern art. My visual sensibility ends in the time of Man Ray, that straddling of eras between the bio-centric and the wholly industrial. Charlie Chaplin. That time between when men were the instruments of war and the time when machines took that job and all the others anyone still talks about.
This retardation is not so bad though with my connection to modern music. I have a pretty good sense of it, and tend to favor the jazz-rooted, improvisational avant-garde over the avant-garde constructions of what can be said to be coming generally, I said generally, from the modern Euros.
Nevertheless, Brook Dorsch was opening his new Emerson Dorsch gallery in Wynwood, that area of obsolete textile and shoe factories being taken over by the new Creative Class, or rather by artists who will provide the suitable ambience for the Creative Class once the conditions are just right. Dorsch and his gallery had just been the focal point for an article in Atlantic Cities, a web publishing division of Richard Florida’s urban planning venture centered around this meme of the “creative class”. The author, Alesh Houdek, tells the story of respectable art gallery pioneers disgusted with Miami’s drunken party animals who have followed the scent of alcohol and hipness to Wynwood’s art walk event. “Bristling at their own success” was the title. This is a problem because R. Florida’s Creative Class needs a proper setting for creating wealth, a setting which needs to be more like a sedate café than a wasted rave. But I digress.
Anyway, a friend of a friend, Rene Barge, had a sound installation as part of the opening so I decided to go. Being weary of the 50 mile drive to Miami, I set off on TriRail for the gallery. TriRail to MetroRail to the #2 MetroBus; no problem really when you’re tired of driving.
The Emerson Dorsch Gallery is a well done factory conversion in the style of modern galleries. Everything is hard and white; hard floors and hard angles of the hard walls and ceiling. Every sound ricochets a hundred times before its energy fades, like light in a house of mirrors.
I arrived early, before the art lovers, who were also mostly angular and white; early enough to be able to hear Rene’s work reverberate through the gallery, as it was designed to do. The stereo piece was made of material sounds captured with contact mics and processed through computer modules to produce a field of static sound overlaid with longer waves that, maybe through phase interactions, oscillated over the static wall. It was one of those architectural pieces, à la Alvin Lucier or David Dunn – with whom Barge is a collaborator – which does not call attention to the composition, composer, instrument or auditor, but rather is designed to give information about the space it is in, much as a bat navigates a cave. It works well in the empty gallery, but is impossible once the chattering gallerists arrive in numbers, who are of course all chatting and not listening. We are a species of chatterers, not listeners, as the Buddha suggested.
The installation of Barge’s instrument is one of the few things in the gallery not hard, angular and/or white. Two arcs of bent plywood with belts of red fabric serve as bells or cones for what appear to be bass or sub-woofer drivers (without their normal cones) which act as the speakers for the ipod containing Barge’s materials-derived music. This is the installation, architectural enough to engage the visitors (briefly) as they go about their visit. Of course they care nothing about the sound; it’s not really necessary.
The other major work in the gallery is that of Brookhart Jonquil, of which I can say little other than my direct observation. Besides, the installation entitled “In a Perfect World” has a printed program of explanation far more in depth than I would ever attempt, and which I have not read. The pieces are large constructions of steel frames holding angled, irregular rectangle sheets of mirror which extend outward from a central, flat white surface of a simple two dimensional geometric shape; oval, rectangle or triangle. Each assembly is traversed by arching and curved steel rods which continue through the mirror walls to the frame, or to the gallery wall itself to which the whole assembly is mounted with industrial hardware. Viewed straight on the pieces gave me the feeling of portals into which the viewer could be drawn and travel through to the white space beyond, where perhaps this perfect world exists. Viewed from an off center angle however, the mirrors produce the illusion of intersecting planes of separate universes. The flat white surface in the center of the structure becomes in appearance a three dimensional object; cube, sphere, or pyramid. The structure becomes an illustration of advanced cosmology, multiple universe theory, intersecting planes of space-time.
After a while the gallery filled with gallery-goers and the reverb of their unstoppable conversations. Needing to catch the last Tri-Rail north lest I spend the night wandering the foreign streets of Hialeah, I said good bye to my friends Gustavo and Claudia, who arrived late. I walked across to the bus stop at NW 2nd Ave and 25th St., past the Creative Class Café (not its real name) to wait on the corner for the next southbound #2 bus. Two white women passed by, talking about someone else who was an asshole. A car blocked the street briefly, the backed up car horns sounded, the finger got flipped. A collar-less dog darted through traffic to come smell the grass near the sidewalk. Two young black boys on bicycles, possibly adventuring up from Overtown with nothing better to do on Friday night, wove up the street studying the Creative Class conquistadors.
The bus arrived. It is a moving box full of tired but jovial workers, all Black and Brown and fleshy. There is absolutely nothing hard, white or angular anywhere. But two young white girls do sit in the very back corner, which, post Rosa Parks, is where white folks tend to go when in a bus full of black people, generally speaking. In every bus in Miami-Dade County, there is a seat in the very front dedicated with a plaque to Rosa Parks. I like to sit across from that seat to see who sits there. These are the workers and the descendants of the workers who used to tend the machines in those factories that once made shirts and shoes, but now make artistic ambience. Those machines moved far away, beyond the range of the municipal bus, where the space and the attendants who feed them leather and fabric are cheaper. These are the workers who constitute what Richard Florida calls the Service Class, but I call them The Servants just for the effect. And besides, a servant is at least human, whereas a class is a mental category. Somebody’s category.
It took me less than 5 minutes to go from the one universe of the gallery to the other universe of the bus. Perhaps, if I can find a perspective that is somewhat off-center, I can see how these universes intersect. Right now though, I can not.
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