In colloquial terms, “uncanny” usually means an extremely close likeness, but Sigmund Freud defined the uncanny as something weirdly and nearly familiar—not wholly recognizable. This incongruence induces a sense of cognitive dissonance, a liminal space that’ll make you feel both drawn to and repulsed by the subject. Removing the element of existential disgust, these installations brought me to the realm of the uncanny: momentarily removed from reality, but starkly aware of the fact that although I felt transported, I was standing in the middle of an art trade show. Many of the works here use immersion to explore sexuality, identity, and the relationship of the body to nature, the city, or technology. Temporary escapism, the kind that ultimately brings you back to reality, can be fun.
Alberto Biagetti and Laura Baldassari’s NO SEX in Miami at Patricia Findlay, Design Miami
Design studio Atelier Biagetti transformed Patricia Findlay’s booth into a lush analyst’s office. The wallpaper features a shimmery print of two lovers, recalling Greek mythology; the details on the flesh-colored chaise lounge look, suspiciously, like nipples. Two blonde twins, DesignByMiami, “analyze” guests. They hold up Rorschach blots and I let my subconscious talk: “A moon. An orange. A butterfly in a womb.” They give me an eye exam, pointing to letters on a mirrored eye chart that spells out NO SEX, and ask me to name a word that begins with each letter. “Olive. Sensuous. Everyone.” Twin #2 sits next to me and whispers “Follow your dreams” in my ear. Perhaps she says the same thing to everybody, but I hope not.
Maggie Lee, Real Fine Arts, Art Basel Miami Beach
In Maggie Lee's installation, a teenage girl’s bedroom is sacred—a temple to house her while she freaks out about her impending womanhood. Lee’s linoleum-floored bedroom installation is tongue-in-cheek, tender, and confessional. A cardboard heart reading “FUCK THIS GOVERNMENT” hangs from the ceiling, dolls stare at you from a fish tank, a tab of acid rests on stuffed seal’s tongue, evoking memories of eating psilocybin mushrooms and falling asleep next to stuffed animals at 16. There’s a small TV, Daughter TV, screening the sequel to Lee’s documentary, Mommy, an ode to the artist’s mother following her unexpected death. In this sequel, Lee visits her estranged father in Taiwan. The humor found in the spaces of growth can be painful and beautiful.
Taro Izumi at Take Ninagawa, Art Basel Miami Beach
Taro Izumi’s Fish Bone as Slang (In Search of a Cat) is a large-scale video projection of the artist climbing onto and jumping off various items. There is a smaller installation nearby, called The Allure of the Whale that Winks with Its Fin; both are from the ongoing-since-2010 Fish-Bone-Hanger series. After filming himself standing and jumping throughout a cityscape, he replays it through a TV monitor surrounded by objects like hammers, plastic bottles, and a saw—which make the video itself look like these objects are part of the narrative. This gets filmed and projected by yet another camera; you watch the camera-within-a-camera-within-a-camera, distorted by the imagery of bottles and hardware. Meanwhile, Izumi plays with the notion of space and how we ought to use it.
Rives Wiley at Hamiltonian Gallery, SATELLITE Art Show
Another dream-within-a-dream, Rives Wiley’s DIY Laser Eye Surgery installation is a diorama—built right into the wall— inspired by YouTube tutorials. It depicts a tutorial for DIY Lasik surgery complete with color-changing eyedroppers, the person watching the video, and the space between the two of them. The video itself is made to look like a YouTube clip, with a red time-ticker carried along by pulleys. Then, we pull back —the diorama has a distorted slant— to the viewer, whose giant head is turned away from us. The lens glare of the camera hangs in the form of resin sculptures. It was hard not to step inside this dream world.
Streetscapes at Plusdesign Gallery, Design Miami/
Part Cartagena, part Paris, part jungle, the hybrid city in this Plusdesign Gallery booth blasts loud bass and features Lucas Muñoz’s fish-tailed skateboards. You can trace the history of civilization in the objects here, from the bottom of the sea to the grit of the street.
Jerry Meyer at Denise Bibro Fine Art, CONTEXT Art Miami
Jerry Meyer has worked at the Psychiatry Department at the Yale School of Medicine for decades. His installation, My Great-Grandfather’s Attempts to Turn Sexual Energy into Electricity to Power Small Machinery Based on the Principles of Sigmund Freud and Nikola Tesla, invites viewers to step inside an office containing ephemera from a study conducted by Meyer’s fictional relative, Harris Claster, who attempted to turn men and women’s (but mostly women's) sexual energy and anxiety into electricity. Schmaltzy music fills the room, while apparatuses chart the anatomy of a woman’s orgasm and rate the level of her desire. A man elbowed me: “Funny, right?” It’s a humorous way to reveal that sad truth: to men, there’s nothing more uncanny than the female body, which might explain why they’ve tried to distill it into coded terminology for centuries.
Signe Pierce at Castor Gallery, SATELLITE Art Show
Signe Pierce’s neon-strobed dream scenes look pretty—it’s hard for something that pink and sensuous not to—but they’re testimonies to feminine empowerment. Pierce creates the world in which she occupies, claiming ownership of her own body, her own space. In Castor Gallery’s room at SATELLITE, dried palm fronds frame a silky, glowing bedroom, adorned with vintage girly mags, roses, and donuts. It’s a place for its creator, and you get to take part in, too.
Tropical Lounge at &gallery, SATELLITE Art Show
One of a few locals at SATELLITE, &gallery represented Miami’s inherent dreaminess, with a lightbox by Nice ‘n’ Easy that looked like the view from a tropical window, prints by Miami native Maggie Dunlap, and a glowing duo of video suites by Willie Avendano. Avendano coded an algorithm to determine the randomness of the videos' components, which screen different parts of a dream sequence. They depict, at once, the chaotic and unreliable nature of romantic memory. Projected onto a billowy curtain, the scenes drift away from you, then back again.