Miami Basel 2015: "Dimensions" by Ryan McNamara and Dev Hynes
In 1983, for just two weeks, visitors and natives of Miami gazed upon a manmade miracle: the artists known as Christo and Jeanne-Claude wrapped each of the eleven islands in Biscayne Bay with miniskirts constructed of dollybird pink polypropylene fabric, creating one of their more successful public works, Surrounded Islands. In Joan Didion’s 1987 meditative analysis of the city, Miami, the author states that the piece “had been mentioned both by people who were knowledgeable about conceptual art and by people who had not heard and could not then recall the name of the man who had surrounded the islands. All had agreed…that this period when the pink was in the water had for many people exactly defined…Miami.”
Last evening, three decades onward, artist Ryan McNamara–who, in 2014, staged a ballet during Basel–and musician Dev Hynes–of Blood Orange, who recently collaborated with the pop star Carly Rae Jepsen—made their own indelible mark on Miami. Dimensions, a collaborative performance at the Pérez Art Museum Miami, was composed of six stages presented outside the museum, and featured the artist and the musician, as well as several other dancers and performers. Each stage was bathed in a different tone of fluorescent bright color, and each offered a performance that responded to Miami’s uniquely quixotic neighborhoods and architecture, including Opa-locka, whose Moorish architecture was reportedly inspired by One Thousand and One Nights.
Conjuring the same shade that made the Surrounded Islands so fascinating to Miami past, Dev Hynes performed a scowling guitar solo with a dancer at his feet—all while bathed in a fluorescent pink glow. Here, McNamara speaks about the inspiration for the performance.
This piece references some rather eccentrically devised architectural motifs of Miami. What pulled you to this tract of thought? What was your favorite discovery when researching these constructions?
"The museum brought us in as 'Researchers in Residence,' meaning we visited twice during the past year to further develop our thoughts on the project. Both Dev and I had only seen Miami through the lens of Basel, which is obviously very specific. We both had a sense that Miami was more multifaceted than the poolside parties pushed during the fair, so we wanted to explore that. My favorite discovery was Coral Castle, which is a bizarre complex built out of coral by one man in attempt to woo a young girl he named 'Sweet Sixteen.'"
How did you and Dev Hynes begin and negotiate the collaborative process for this piece?
"We met up a few time in the city as well and he mentioned to me that he made audio recordings of the ambient noise he encountered as he walked around the city. This relationship between sound and movement sparked the germ of an idea for me, so I went back to Dev and we developed the piece from there."
Last year during Miami Basel you staged a performance of MEEM, which was an amazing interpretation of the internet through ballet. What distinguishing features does Miami bring to your process and work, when viewing it as a platform or landscape for your performances?
"Well, there is Miami and Art Basel Miami Beach. For Art Basel Miami Beach, I like the challenge of freeing people from of their event-hopping zombie brain, if only for a brief moment. As for the city itself: it’s such a bizarre mix of influences- Cuban culture, retiring East Coasters, vacation-induced debauchery. People come here to escape. That's a good energy to harness into a piece."