Hyperreal Life

MoCA's latest collection of installations will literally bring you to your knees

In the far rear corner of the museum the most elaborate installation of all is displayed, a large piece called Hand-Held by an artist identified only as Cooper. The area is scattered with hay, both in bales and strewn on the floor, and on the far side sits a small, battered old camper of the sort you'd hitch to the back of a car. You can approach it and peer through the windows, through which you'll see a kitchenette and a little dining area, with a solitary fork resting on the table. The words Vindico terra firma adorn one side of the camper in pale blue neon.

The piece also includes a roughly six-foot-tall dummy wearing a jumpsuit and motorcycle helmet and leaning against one wall. Finally a square crate made of light-color wood hangs from the ceiling a few feet above the floor. It wasn't until a museum guard alerted me that I realized the crate is hollow, so viewers can crawl into it from below. Inside, you can stand to watch a small video screen and listen to the low, pulsating rumble emitted from a pair of tiny speakers.

A projector runs a continuously recycling video loop in which the artist, clad in the jumpsuit and helmet, is filmed in closeup, so that we see only his relatively stationary head as the background slowly shifts. It takes a moment to realize that that background, furnished with the items outside the crate -- the camper, the hay, and other items -- is a stage set, and the video is a record of Cooper's "performance" on it. (It was an "Aha!" moment for me, occurring about the time I began to feel almost hypnotized by that rumbling hum inside the crate.)

An image from Elizabeth Withstandley's installation, 15 Years of Planning (American Style)
An image from Elizabeth Withstandley's installation, 15 Years of Planning (American Style)


On display through January 28, 305-893-6211.
Museum of Contemporary Art, Joan Lehman Building, 770 NE 125th St., North Miami

I've focused on these installations, but they're not the only things of interest in "Making Art in Miami." Elizabeth Withstandley's 15 Years of Planning (American Style), a half-dozen inkjet prints portraying people with pie on their faces, are both witty and unsettling, and some wonderfully strange pieces by Herman Bas include 18 small portraits framed and under glass and another seven life-size ones painted directly onto a stretch of museum wall, all created using different flavors of the diet product Slim-Fast, of all things.

But these mixed-media projects are easily the most provocative pieces in a pleasingly provocative show, and they mesh beautifully not only with the stated aims of this exhibition but with those of MoCA itself.

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