Our entrance may be closed at USFCAM, but behind the not-currently-revolving door we are in full swing putting together our latest exhibition, In Residence.
What is In Residence?
In Residence brings together the work of four Miami-based artists [Felecia Chizuko Carlisle, Naomi Fisher, Christy Gast, and Samantha Salzinger] who focus their artistic inquiries on the contested space between the natural and the built environment. [ more here ] To give you a taste for the work and method of these Florida artists, we’ll give you a brief rundown here on the blog by talking a little about each artist in upcoming posts. We’ll start with more about performance artist Christy Gast.
Christy Gast | Conflating the Landscape
Christy Gast’s work deals with how we understand the past, especially how contemporary thought tries to update our knowledge of previous iterations of specific environments. Her video piece, Herbert Hoover Dyke, 2010, features a lone tuxedo-wearing androgynous tap-dancing character along Florida’s Herbert Hoover Dike.
With its vaudevillian reference, the character reflects a time when the common wisdom was that mankind could – and should – harness and control our natural resources. A belief which has changed to a large degree today, as environmentalists now work diligently to try and preserve and protect natural environments. There is a greater sense that we are a part of nature. That we do better to live and work with it than we do when to try and enforce our human will upon it. Take our case in point, the Herbert Hoover Dike, the subject of Gast’s installation piece you’ll see at USFCAM.
Construction of the Herbert Hoover Dike began in 1932 after earthen berns failed to hold back the storm surge from hurricanes along the Atlantic coast in 1926 and 1928. The structure was intended to prevent water overflowing from Lake Okeechobee into the surrounding suburban and agricultural lands.
However, according to Martin County Emergency Services, “There is significant probability of failure due to the construction methods used…the current structural condition of the dike calls into question the adequacy of the dike to withstand extreme wind and rainfall conditions.” The dike’s structural inadequacy could put the lives of 500 local people in jeopardy near the lake in the event of a category 5 hurricane.
Time and quality of materials have obviously played a major part in the deteriorating structural condition of the dike. Now the question remains, should the dike be rebuilt, or should there be a focus on preservation of the natural state of the environment? The latter causing displacement of many residents, the former being costly and somewhat out of step with the evolution of thought on the matter. To some, the dike remains a tremendous example of American ingenuity and domination over a dangerous landscape. To others, it exemplifies poor planning and disastrous water management.
Herbert Hoover Dyke is a 53-minute video work that is projected on a concrete structure, reminiscent of the Hoover dike, and includes additional sculptures representing natural elements that might be found around Lake Okeechobee.
More about Christy Gast:
Sculptor and video artist Christy Gast is known for conflating the landscape and the body (often her own) through folk performance conventions. She employs a variety of media including tap dancing, embroidery, a cappella song, and broadcast technologies, producing videos and installations that explore the cultural history of landscape. Her work has been exhibited at museums and galleries internationally, including MoMA/P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, Artist’s Space, and Harris Lieberman Gallery in New York; Miami Art Museum, the de la Cruz Collection, Gallery Diet, and the bass museum of art in Miami; Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions and High Desert Test Sites in California, Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, and Centro Cultural Matucana 100 in Santiago, Chile.
Bouns: Watch this short interview with Gast on a previous video installation entitled “Batty Cave.”
Save the Date
The exhibition opens Monday, June 4th. We’ll have a panel discussion – moderated by curator Jane Simon – and our reception party that Friday, June 8th (details here). Stop by USFCAM any time next week to see the show! And visit on Friday for beverages and good company!