Bringing together the long-standing Lynn and Louis Wolfson II Florida Moving Archive Images at Miami-Dade College and newcomers Obsolete Media Miami (OMM) was an ingenious way for HistoryMiami to present their current exhibition MemoryLab which ends its run on Sunday, April 16.
Rene Ramos, archives director at Miami-Dade College and Mike Knoll, vice president of curatorial affairs at HistoryMiami, conceptualized the show, then approached OMM to curate the show.
“They were very gracious to ask our studio project to curate,” said Barron Sherer, principal along with Kevin Arrow of OMM, an experimental media project. “We did not have a lot of time and wanted to stay flexible and open. That's why we call it ‘MemoryLab,’ think of the show as a memory incubator.”
Right after Thanksgiving, when OMM were asked to curate, they began the process of compiling a wish list of artists with ties to Miami and a deep interest and respect for history. The artist pool included emerging and well-established artists who reside in Florida, New York, California and Washington. They all quickly said yes and their work began.
“This was a short turn-around time for the artists to create since the show was set to open March 9,” said Sherer. “So in January, the artists delved into and activated holdings of both HistoryMiami and the Lynn and Louis Wolfson II Florida Moving Image Archives.”
They used research and investigative methods to work on projects that were developed as concepts, that look simultaneously backwards, forwards and inwards at individual and collective memory.
That’s when access to the more than 35,000 hours of video on historic Miami and 23 million feet of film also depicting the city’s history, became invaluable to the artists. The 16 artists also utilized HistoryMiami’s vast collection of historic Miami archives.
"I Am Miami," by John William Bailly, the first piece in MemoryLab.
The installations are meant to strike a chord with visitors and inspire them to examine each one carefully. It begins with the initial one “I Am Miami” by John William Bailly, featuring portraits of 13 of Miami’s biggest influencers and is an evolving piece, with photos added to it throughout the run of the show.
Then there’s “Lil’ Haiti Extension” by Clifton Childree, a multi-media piece that incorporates 16mm film, bleach and paint on canvas, railroad foundations from the Florida Overseas Highway and found objects from his Little Haiti neighborhood, set in a themed amusement park ride façade.
Like those two installations described above, the other 14 incorporate historic images, video, film and audio from the archives along with interactive elements, to create an area that jogs the viewer’s memory.
“Lil’ Haiti Extension” by Clifton Childree
“I think the history museum’s audience is ready for that. A contemporary spin on that old adage ‘building new structures with old bricks.’ It’s also a fresh approach to the public display of history, making it a bit less institutional and more intuitive,” said Sherer.
The seamless collaborative process between the many groups involved was instrumental in bringing the exhibition to life. The unlimited access to HistoryMiami’s archives for research, re-purposing and remixing, as well as to the Wolfson Archives for research and use of moving image materials, with no traditional research and licensing fees, helped the artists swiftly complete their installations.
“The opportunity was a tremendous extrapolation of our little studio project’s core mission: ‘reaching an engaged public with audiovisual presentations, lectures, performances, collaborations and workshops that showcase obsolete media materials in new contexts,’” said Sherer.
Visit HistoryMiami before April 16, when MemoryLab ends, http://www.historymiami.org/exhibition/memorylab/