Artists Ayesha Singh and Misael Soto bring Provisional Obstruction to Art Basel, Miami

In a chat with STIR, Singh talks about the collaborative public-art installation that employs temporary structures like scaffolding and images on the facades of the buildings in Miami.

by Rahul Kumar Dec 04, 2019

I got introduced to the practice of Ayesha Singh at her recently concluded show at Gallery Shrine Empire in New Delhi. The most intriguing was her hybrid-drawing series in iron, depicting architectural silhouette of monuments. It is interesting that she uses iron in the form of scaffoldings, and continues to play with architecture as a subject, but adds the layer of transience in her ongoing project at Miami (USA), on the sidelines of Art Basel.

“The public installation will deviate passers-by viewpoints and divert foot traffic along the sidewalk, becoming the catalyst for a conversation on shared ideas of stability birthed from objects that connote impermanence,” she explains.

STIR interviews Ayesha Singh about this installation and collaborative format of working with Misael Soto.

The installation at Lemon City Pharmacy, Little Haiti, Miami | Provisional Obstruction | Ayesha Singh | Misael Soto | STIRworld
The installation at Lemon City Pharmacy, Little Haiti, Miami Image Credit: Ayesha Singh and Misael Soto

Rahul Kumar (RK): Please elaborate how the work conceptually reflects on ‘projecting the past onto the present while simultaneously weaving the present into the future’?

Ayesha Singh (AS): The work is a scaffolding and image project. Scaffolding, very much like what one would see here, is a familiar object worldwide. In Miami its presence can signify unfamiliar and contentious change. In Little Haiti specifically, it’s a signifier of rapid development led in part by climate change and rising sea levels, large portions of undeveloped land, and relatively low property values. Oftentimes banners cover scaffolding at building sites to conceal the transformation, advertise development, and promote what is ‘next’. For those living in and around development, these large-scale advertisements often obscure the present with images of the future. 

The scaffolding portion of the installation is purposefully dysfunctional and exaggerated, and the banners that hang from it mimic those at a construction site. The installation is used to obstruct, fragment, frame, and recontextualise the building behind it. Scaffolding is installed along and beyond the building’s facade, resembling its shape as it partially enters its backyard. Both spaces have been bought by a developer with plans to demolish and rebuild new structures. The banners hang in ways that reveal what currently exists. They display historic imagery of the building in 1948 on the present structure, and another mirror image of the same building photographed just a few weeks ago, installed on the empty plot beside the building which holds space for future possibilities.

02 mins watch Experiential installation at Miami, US | Provisional Obstruction| Ayesha Singh | Misael Soto | STIRworld
Experiential installation at Miami, US Video Credit: Courtesy of Ayesha Singh and Misael Soto

RK:  What is the intended outcome of this public-art project? 

AS: With the present installation in Little Haiti and the previous work in Pilsen, the work hopes to engage a public audience, community and art audience through the work and programming as space for conversation. In Miami, for our opening we had Jean Cidelca (local tour guide from La Perle De Miami) who helped contextualise the work and building through a 1.5-hour walking tour of the place that the Lemon Pharmacy building is situated on. Other upcoming programming include an informal conversation in the form of a picnic at the site, that we will be hosting this Saturday. With the building slated for demolition, re-build and incorporation into a forthcoming development, attendees will engage in dialogue about this collaborative work and our process; the building and its relation to the project; and the selection of the site in Little Haiti including interactions with prior landowners, present developers, and community members.

To push this dialogue further, we are planning a Basel week activation on December 7, 2019, and have invited Denver-based Jaimie Henthorn to present ‘Cadet Chapel’, an immersive film project that explores the relationship between the militarised body and a modernist architecture icon. As with Provisional Obstruction, Henthorn’s project examines moments when architecture presents us with a reflection. A newly commissioned score by electronic musician Kate Simko will play a key role within the work, reflecting the visual patterns and rhythms sonically.

Installation by the night | Provisional Obstruction | Ayesha Singh | Misael Soto | STIRworld
Installation by the night Image Credit: Ayesha Singh and Misael Soto

RK: Is this the first time you have collaborated with another artist? It can be a double-edged sword, emotions and egos clashing, mismatched values and ethics. Please share your experience on how you both worked to ensure a successful completion of the project.

AS: My work with Misael at Pilsen (Chicago) in 2017 was the first time I had collaborated with another artist. I later worked on collaborations with Cat Bluemke and Elisabeth Jordie Williams who is a political scientist.

Misael and I work in a very 50/50 way, the scaffolding is usually dysfunctional and the form of it is something Misael comes up with and we discuss; same with the images, and their weaving and form is something I work on, both Misael and I discuss its content and install it together. With both projects Misael has organised the scaffolding and I do the images; the programming, invites and written text is something we work on together.

Collaboration is and has been essential for Misael’s practice from the beginning; they are usually one-offs or incorporated into Misael’s practice. Our work together is the first time a collaboration has turned into a series of work. It is conceptualised and co-authored with critical inputs from both of us.

Artists Misael Soto and Ayesha Singh | Provisional Obstruction | STIRworld
Artists Misael Soto and Ayesha Singh Image Credit: Ayesha Singh and Misael Soto

Art Basel will take place in Miami from December 05-December 08, 2019.

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About Author

Rahul Kumar

Rahul Kumar

Having switched from corporate consulting after almost twenty years, Rahul now practices as a ceramic artist. Besides exhibiting in shows, he also teaches and curates programmes. His passion for arts has led him to write regularly for various leading journals, and with STIR, his roles extends to that of putting together the arts section.

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