A woman with her faced covered in a burka printed with the American flag sings the Woody Guthrie ditty, "This Land Is Your Land." The words "kill me" are scrawled on her naked stomach. As she sings, she rips off the burka and slithers into a cage on the floor.
This is Miami artist Belaxis Buil performing as part of a preview of the Miami Performance International Festival.
Known as M/P' 12, the festival will host over 50 international and local performance artists for a four-day showcase this weekend.
The festival, founded by Edge Zones Gallery's Charo Oquet, runs Thursday through Sunday with free artist talks, workshops, video screenings, poetry readings, and live performances at the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens and in the Design District. See the full schedule of events here.
HuffPost Miami spoke with Thom Wheeler Castillo who assisted Oquet in organizing the inaugural M/P 12.
Any hesitation about holding M/P' 12 in late summer when Miami is "dead"?
There is still lots of activity; it's just without all the migratory birds. And opening at the end of July has been well received by so many people, I think we are fulfilling a need.
Who are some of the stand-out artists who will be performing?
There are many strategies and frameworks being brought under the umbrella of the festival. This reflects our interest in bringing a broad survey together for an intense cultural manifestation and to create an atmosphere where the audience can contrast and compare and ask questions. The floor is the stage so everyone's on it. Some artists have years of performance in their practice, some are just getting started. But it's all good work and from people we believe in.
I am extremely thrilled to be working with Belaxis Buil. By the end of the festival, she will have performed 3 times for the fest. She is based out of South Florida. Her performance on Sunday at the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens is not to be missed.
I am also looking forward to Alexia Miranda's performance. She is a multi-disciplinary artist from El Salvador and her work is potent. She is also hosting a kids' performance workshop at the gardens on Sunday and we'll be showing two of her video performances in our projection room.
David Prusko, a Brooklyn-based artist, will be performing “Exist Stance” throughout the city. Its a community-based art performance and experiment; he will pose the question: Can artists support themselves purely through creating art that the community deems valuable by selling, bartering, trade or through charitable giving? We've been documenting what he's been doing on our Facebook community page.
Also not to be missed: Eduardo Oramas, Eliu Almonte, Misael Soto, a panel discussion with Amanda Sanfilippo on performance in Miami, and Charo Oquet has a few things up her sleeves.
Is there a performance art festival in another city that served as a model for M/P'12?
Absolutely! I lived in Portland, Or for many years. PICA (Portland Institute for Contemporary Art) throws a festival called TBA (Time-Based Art) that is having its 10th anniversary this year in September.
I had the chance to see a lot of performance art/video/installations over the history of the festival. The college I graduated from (Pacific Northwest College of Art) also has a tight relationship with PICA. Every fall during the first week back to school, it's your homework is to attend as much of the festival as you can. And I did. I also volunteered with PICA and assisted artists and performers with their pieces. That's why I know first hand the possibilities of such a cultural manifestation happening in a community.
What do you think of Miami's local performance art talent?
Well we have quite a few participating in the festival, more than half of the participants call Miami home. So I think it's great that we can create a platform for everyone to bond and create an interest in their different practices. We are already sketching next year's festival and are getting more artists excited to participate. I think we have solid talent here and I'm glad the festival can nurture that, even if it's just for a few weeks.
What's your response to those who believe that performance art is merely spectacle and not really "art" at all?
Well spectacle is a very important theme in contemporary art so performance art is doing its job and reflecting a mirror at culture. But I welcome the skepticism and I say bring it to the festival, let's expose ourselves and how we really feel and have that conversation. Come to the space in the morning and listen to our artist chats, or come to our workshops. It's all free by the way. Let's unpack those beliefs.