The brand new Satellite Show legitimized artists and musicians of the more unconventional sort this Art Basel week. It reached its funny fingers all through the North Beach neighborhood, not quite used to the bizarre noise that comes along with innovative art gatherings. Taking place at a variety of quirky locations like the SurfMed Pharmacy on Collins Ave., Ocean Terrace Hotel, an Indian Creek parking garage, Deauville Beach Resort, and the North Beach Bandshell, this art fair isn't about making paper, but rather about showcasing the odd and sometimes wonderful world of emerging avant-guarde artists.
There are others dealing in this realm, like local Jellyfish Brothers, AudioJunkie's Greg and Eddy Alvarez, who put on hella weird shows year round. Their D I S T R A C T I O N 5 brought wild and fascinating performances to local venues including their actual own home last week. But while they're homegrown, Satellite is more of a New Yorker's project that works in partnership with artists, galleries, and collectives from around the world and Miami, as well as groups like Miami Project and Art on Paper (both housed at the Deauville). It was conceived by Select Art Fair director, artist Brian Whiteley, and appears focused on activating underused or unusual spaces with unwieldy performances and works of art.
Each night last week, Satellite turned the attention of fair-goers from the art on the walls to performance art, interactive installations, and musical shows. Popular New York promoter Todd P has a crew of sonic curators hard at work at his Trans-Pecos performance space in Queens. Those tastemakers, along with Zs tenor saxophonist and composer Sam Hillmer, put together a very complex and mixed bag of sound art and mostly experimental music.
Hillmer met Whiteley when he did the musical programming for the Select Art Fair last spring. “My role here at Satellite has been to bring musical content that contextualizes the unconventional nature of the fair,” he explains. “We try to bring things that are at once heavy on content and quality, while also being a festive celebratory environment. I also sought to connect current practice embodied by a fair like Satellite to the past.” He did this by including a poolside Ghostface Killah show at the Deauville last Saturday evening and other legends, like improv punk jazz musician James Chance, as well as those newer to the scene, like the Fade to Mind record label and two-piece psych dance act Prince Rama.
“I was looking for artists who are exciting and engaging to watch, who also have a high skill level, and who bring craft and tight concept to the stage,” Hillmer muses. “People want to feel like they are where it's at, so you have to bring things that work as a party and at the same time you don't want to skimp on content.”
When we caught up with Miami filmmaker Brian Deutzman, it was outside the SurfMed Pharmacy on Saturday night where dancehall record label Mixpak was presenting music by its founder, producer Dre Skull, The Large, Jubilee, and Wildlife!. His film, The Inheritance, was showing on loop alongside six others by South Floridians from noon to 8 p.m. at that location. Deutzman himself attended film school at the University of South Florida but just started making films in earnest last year. His short was commissioned by the Miami-bred Borscht Film Festival, but hadn't been completed in time for their annual event.
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Satellite had an open call for video art through documenters of the Miami scene, Tropicult, so he submitted his all-Hebrew film. "It was something they were looking for thematically... They're talking about the sustainability of Miami generally and political corruption, and the film is about an old deteriorating hotel that's haunted. The ghosts who occupy the hotel are victims of political corruption taking place in the 1970s." He used a composite of historical Miami and Broward hotels to create this mythological one. The North Beach location of the fair was totally fitting for his film – it’s a Jewish neighborhood with well-preserved historical structures after all.
Deutzman says the success of a fair like Satellite comes from the fact that it isn't a marketplace like Art Basel Miami Beach. "I think a lot of the work being shown is intrinsically nonsalable. There's an interactive element to it, there's a video or performance element to it," he observes, "It's for early career artists to not have to negotiate that financial territory is elevating what is able to be shown there and how much the organizers can focus on actually running the event they want to run."
He feels fortunate to have The Inheritance shown in a setting like Satellite alongside other exploratory works. "It's always good to have this kind of platform for this kind of video project, because it is more of an experimental work and if you show it in the context of a film festival — particularly a U.S. film festival — people are preparing for a different kind of experience, They're preparing for a very structured, narrative, high production film and a lot of these things get marginalized. But in the context of an art fair, you can actually get the right audience to connect with your film."
At the Pharmacy on Saturday night, there was an element of "the crazy kids are coming from Brooklyn to visit bubbie at her beach apartment." Though we'd missed an earlier performance, it seemed like everything and everyone in the giant space was making art with their bodies or lights or just sitting on the floor smelling like ganga. Folks came dressed in their finest granny nighties, there were crust punk types, fuccbois, noise scene kids, and a lot of what we'd like to call "extremecore" party people. They weren't just dressed to impress, but dressed to be seared in your mind for an eternity. Likewise, at the Ocean Terrace Hotel, Baltimore's Open Space curated the Stupid Bar where absurd costumes and nearly naked were the desired attire and madness was what was on the menu.
Though there was one work at the Pharmacy which quite possibly included video instructions on how to make an actual shit stew (check out Alex Bag's Diarrhea Surprise at ICA Miami for a point in this stinky direction), there were other elements like intricate wall drawings, clever DJs, and just the spectacle of it all that made it worth a visit. Satellite was a cool kids party. For the first time, the pretension of the art scene was brought down to its most deserving, creative, and uninhibited level in the confines of a structured art fair that was interested in showcasing the more pioneering, original faces, works, and sounds of art.