SITE:LAB // place as piece
By a long shot, SiTE:LAB at ArtPrize this year was the best part of my weekend. This says even more that it was one of the very last venues I visited (the line was incredible on Saturday and by Sunday afternoon it had thankfully thinned) so I had been to dozens of venues already, viewed hundreds of works of art, spoken to a few artists, and was running pretty much on coffee and, well, coffee. Strange Attractors, the exhibition curated by Paul Amenta at the old Monroe Hotel won the jury prize for best venue, and it was no wonder why.
Thirteen artists on three floors of this gutted, maze-like, historic building came together to present a labyrinthine space that addressed the architecture and the environment with incredible variety. My favorite pieces in the exhibition were split between two -- Hubert Dobler's Roundabout2 which featured a loud film loop of two motorcycles latched together, gunning around in an endless circle of burning rubber and resonating engine revving throughout the basement and through to the upper floors depending on where you were standing. It mesmerized and adrenalized simultaneously by cutting in and out of slow motion and calling attention to the viewer's emotional and visceral reaction to the way the machines were apparently abandoned and allowed to operate unrestrained.
The other piece was a multimedia installation by Miami-based TM Sisters entitled Join Me in a Land That Knows No End, or The Golden Room(see video below).It connected the historic function of the hotel's dining room with projections of a roller derby team and members of New York-based punk band The Unstoppable Death Machine over a psychedelic striped floor, reflected in the building's historic mirrors, onto and around an upside-down palm tree.
It became clear as I walked through the space that very little of it had been left alone, even if it appeared that way. The building had been utilized in its particular state of decay and transition, moving from the past into the present, and through a mixture of historical photographs of the hotel in its heyday to contemporary photographs of the ruined state of it, as a visitor I was able to experience this transition myself. If there was currently no art in a particular space, there might have been. Performances that had been documented earlier were screened on televisions throughout the space, such as Graem Whyte's "The Garden of Future Dreams" and "respirador (breather)" by Dance in the Attic, which won the jury award for best time-based artwork. The line between what was art and what was site was blurred, and the longer I spent there, the less sure I was about the distinction between the two, or if there was one at all.
More information on previous SiTE:LAB projects and more about this year's ArtPrize can be found at their website, new.site-lab.org.