Heading the opening of Art Basel in Miami Beach and the art week across the entire city, we interviewed Miami-based artist Agustina Woodgate. With a group show at Spinello Projects and a public installation at Collins park as part of Art Basel Cities initiative, Agustina is a major representative of the art season in Miami and the Beaches this year.
Claudia Malfitano: You were born in Argentina and now live, most of the time, in Miami. When did you first get here? How has your Argentinian upbringing influenced you as an artist?
Agustina Woodgate: I lived in Buenos Aires most of my life and completed my studies in Visual Arts at the Universidad Nacional de Arte. Argentina is my hometown and of course, it has influenced every aspect of my personality.
Living and studying in South America taught me to be resourceful with materials and conceptually rigorous with my methodology throughout the creative process. Growing up I spent a lot of time in the streets, riding bikes, jumping fences of abandon lots, riding trains and going to concerts and festivals. Spending time in public space was part of my every day and this is very present in my work today.
I arrived in Miami in 2005 and moved to Amsterdam 2 years ago, nowadays I live and work between both cities.
CM: In a wider context, what was the Miami art scene like back then? How has it changed? What is the current climate for artists living and working in the city compared to other cities you have lived in?
AW: Miami art scene has always been super tight. The creative experimentation that happens in this community is quite special. One of my favorite local events is the COLLABO Show. Established in 2005, the COLLABO is a Miami-based bi-annual artist-organized exhibition. The principle of the show is that every artist must collaborate with another pier. The show lasts only one day and happens always at a different location around the city. Miami was and still is a welcoming city, open to meeting new people and adopt ex-pats and immigrants from all corners of the world. Miami is also one of the weirdest places I have ever lived in, that’s why I always come back.
CM: The works presented in your most recent solo shows and at the Whitney Biennale tackle the ideas of power structures, time, and labour. When and why did you become so fond of these themes?
AW: Language, landscapes and specific situations often inspire my work. The way we design and name the systems that organize us often reveal hidden social structures and power hierarchies. The work presented at the Whitney Biennale, called “National Times” is an installation composed of forty analog slave clocks, operated and synchronized by a digital master clock that has unidirectional control over the slave network. I purchased these objects because of the way they are named. I was shocked to find out that this terminology is being used so freely in the technology industry. This kind of clock system is the one that we typically see in prisons, in government offices, in schools, in factories. And in fact, our cell phones are digital slaves to the master clock in Washington, DC.
I had modified every single minute hand on each slave by adding a block of sandpaper right underneath. As “National Times” progresses, the minute hand of the slave clocks will scrape away the numerals on their faces. The relationships these objects have with each other very much represent our contemporary power structures. This installation is a display of reality, nothing is made up. This is just how things work.
CM: What was it like to withdraw from the Whitney Biennial, how did it make you feel?
AW: I believe people should not be able to use art to absolve their guilt and responsibility in enabling war. We should not give permission to this.
CM: Could you tell us about your creative process and what you will present in your show at Spinello’s?
AW: At Spinello I will be presenting “The country in Flames” and installation of 14 roll-up maps that have been sanded down, scrapping away the cartographic images. The dust of these maps was collected by color and compress it into a makeup pallet. I am also part f the Art Basel Cities program presenting “The Source”, a large public installation at Collins Park composed of 4 drinking water fountains. These fountains are constructed out of Oolite, or better known as Coral Rock, which is local stone and the foundation of South Florida. The structures are very large and all the water pipes are exposed, the public must climb the monument like fountains to reach the water.
CM: My Art Guides likes to recommend to its readers unique places to visit for each destination, not necessarily connected to contemporary art. In your opinion, what are the absolutely unmissable places, landmarks and spots in Miami? And could you recommend something that shouldn’t be missed during art week?
AW: The ocean.
- Agustina Woodgate © Elliot Jimenez
- Agustina Woodgate, National Times, Installation view at The Whitney Biennial, 2019
- Agustina Woodgate, Rayula, 2014, site specific work in Buenos Aires, Courtesy of Barro
- Agustina Woodgate, Installation view, Faena Art Center Buenos Aires, 2014