In a virtual roundtable discussion, Rashaad Newsome, Shezad Dawood, and artist collective Leo Gabin discuss their respective Miami fantasies—from bikini-clad rollerbladers to 5-star artist only hotels to visions of Gianni Versace and Snoop Dogg, à la 1990. Daydreaming aside, what these artists share in common is their inclusion in the film sector at Art Basel in Miami Beach, where a program of over 70 films—by and about artists—have been organized by David Gryn, Director of London’s Artprojx. The program is framed within eight distinct screening programs, and among them, Prelude to a Syncopation highlights works that connect sound, choreography, and social media—in which Newsome, Dawood, and Leo Gabin have been included. Prior to their sector’s December 6th screening, where the artists’ films will fill a 7,000-square-foot outdoor projection wall at Miami’s Frank Gehry-designed New World Center, the artists joined in conversation with Gryn—complete with Miami fantasies, favorite artists, upcoming projects, and respective hopes for their works, soon to come to life on the fair’s biggest screen.
David Gryn: In constructing a program I often have to conjure up an imaginary and fantasy version of Miami in my head, aiming to get a sense of what works will play best in this context, echoing the sounds and visions of the city and aim to serve the artist, audience and gallery best. What is your imaginary Miami like?
Leo Gabin: Rollerblading babes in tiny bikinis on the promenade and pink Ferrari Testarossas, with In The Air Tonight by Phil Collins playing in the background.
Rashaad Newsome: It’s a free resort for artists where you stay in 5-star hotels and have a studio on the beach. You can only stay for six months though, then you have to let another artist come.
Shezad Dawood: A couple of really old and dear friends of mine used to live in Miami, so I spent quite a bit of time there in the ’90s. So although an imaginary Miami could be a Deco one, or a ’50s one, mine’s a mixture of distorted memory and fiction that is very ’90s: Think Gianni Versace and Snoop Dogg, and Catholic icons, and great car boot sales...
David Gryn: There are flavors of YouTube culture in your work. Where do you see your working fitting within and reflecting our current internet obsessed culture?
LG: Our whole practice in a way explores internet culture, but our videos communicate this probably the clearest. Most of our videos show patterns and trends in self-shot footage posted online by teenagers who use YouTube as a medium to express themselves, mostly related to music and pop culture.
RN: The internet is such an important tool used in my work and in the work of so many artists of my generation. Whether it is for inspiration, a way to connect to others to work through an idea, a place to find images, videos etc., a place to exhibit or just a way to listen to music while you work in the studio. When I think about my collage and sculptural work for instance, the internet immediately comes to mind. The pieces are made up of images of status symbols of wealth and power in popular culture today, a lot of which is pulled from the internet. Through image repetition, composition and manipulation I make them reference heraldry and play with the design formulas inherent to baroque architecture. In this instance the internet becomes a pop culture library of sorts that helps the images speak to fantasy, human impulse and a cretin global capitalistic sensibility.
SD: I’m very interested in the frequency or oscillation of information disseminated via internet platforms, that can range from surface to the very profound sometimes reflecting both qualities in the same breath and about quite complex historical narratives. I like to tap into the free-associative “nodal” quality of internet image and video generation, but apply it to very specific narratives around place and discourse. So for example, The Body Electric presents itself as a YouTube-styled pop video but it is equally a proto-totalitarian spandex anthem to the New India.
David Gryn: In selecting your work, I was thinking about its relationship to the place, the New World (symphony) Center, the art fair and the city of Miami and also how it will be viewed by an art world audience and general public alike. How do you want or hope for your work to be viewed?
LG: It will be nice for us to view the videos outdoors for the first time and as music is such an important part of our work, it’s great to have them in relation with the New World Center. Given that our videos are short and quickly recognizable because of the origin of the footage, we hope people will take the time to watch them all.
RN: My only hopes are that everyone who sees the works finds an entry point that makes them curious to want to see and know more.
SD: In as many ways as there are viewers for it, I try to make densely layered work that can simultaneously be enjoyed at a host of different levels.
David Gryn: What is your latest project?
LG: We just finished our feature film based on Harmony Korine’s ’98 novel A Crackup at the Race Riots, and our artist book titled Tallahassee published by Peres Projects.
RN: At the moment I’m editing a film I shot in my hometown New Orleans. The film documents a mass processional performance I did there in collaboration with various creative communities that have inspired my work in one way or another. The film is set to a soundtrack I created on location with the McMain High School band and ends with a coronation ceremony that mimics those associated with Mardi Gras.
SD: I’m just back from shooting Towards The Possible Film, a complex shoot in southern Morocco looking at quantum mechanics, science fiction, and radical anthropology. The film is due to be a centerpiece of my solo exhibition at Parasol Unit in London next April.
David Gryn: Which other artists do you admire and why?
RN: I really admire the way Wangechi Mutu treats the material she works with; the images are always visually complex, effortlessly refined and unmistakably hers. I also admire the way Theaster Gates conducts these performative urban interventions that walk the tightrope between social change and public sculpture with such integrity.
SD: I’m an admirer of Ana Mendieta for the visceral and playfully shamanic quality of her work, but also of filmmaker Dario Argento for his collaboration with the band Goblin on Suspiria (experimental musical scores are very key in my films). And I love the Pakistani painter Anwar Jalal Shemza, for his meditations on the quality of form and representation.
Prelude to a Syncopation will be on view at the New World Center (Soundscape Park, 500 17th Street, Miami Beach) on Friday, December 6th, from 10pm - 11pm. Learn more about Art Basel in Miami Beach films here.
Images: Leo Gabin, Hair Long, 2013, 1’53”, Peres Projects, Elizabeth Dee; Rashaad Newsome, Grand Duchess of Gainesville, 2011, 2’34”, Marlborough Gallery; Rashaad Newsome, Devices, 2011, 3’03”, Marlborough Gallery; Shezad Dawood with Mukul Deora, The Body Electric, 2008, 3’, Chemould Prescott Road.
Portrait of David courtesy of Art Basel.