Foul Language

Andrew Durbin at the 13th Art Basel Miami Beach

Left: Wayne Coyne and Miley Cyrus. (Photo: David Velasco) Right: Artist Jacolby Satterwhite. (Photo: Andrew Durbin)

“THIS IS A PLACE where I bet you thought you could escape me,” Miley Cyrus shouted to her audience at Jeffrey Deitch’s Wednesday night party at the Raleigh. She lit up a joint and passed it around the crowd.

“Well, I’m here.”

Forty-five minutes and six covers later she launched into “Love Money Party,” an ABMB anthem if there ever was one and the only original Cyrus recording she sang all night. A rocket launched wads of fake bills with her face printed on them into the audience, while a giant penis and the Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne danced around her. (“It’s southern outsider art,” Deitch claimed in an offhand interview. “Very close to Mike Kelley.”) “I’m over it,” said a friend, disappearing into the crowd, opening Instagram on his phone.

So much of Art Basel now filters through @artbasel, with Instagram and Twitter commingling with the fair booths, VIP lounges, dinners—partygoers, artists, and curators rapidly posting and liking and quickly deleting images and faulty précis of works of art, celebrities, and #artselfies. The hashtag #ABMB had 32,521 posts as of this writing. I mostly resisted the urge to upload my pics to the big feed, even though the wheedling mirrored works at many booths begged for it.

Left: Timur Si-Qin at Société's booth at Art Basel Miami Beach. (Photo: David Velasco) Right: Artists Sam Pulitzer and Marie Karlberg. (Photo: Andrew Durbin)

I dodged the mirrors but clung to surfaces at ABMB’s Nova section. At 47 Canal, Ajay Kurian’s pensive toad dangled off a trashcan surrounded by Michele Abeles’s malfunctioning photos of paradise. At Société, Timur Si-Qin did his best Bernadette Corporation drag, hiring Preston Chaunsumlit to produce Abercrombie-esque tableaux. At Buchholz (still fresh, if not in Nova), I messaged Richard Hawkins a snapshot I took of one of his paintings, attended by a few 👊👊👊👊. “Buy it,” he joked, recommending I track down one of the fair’s ubiquitous sugar daddies.

Ubering between the fairs scattered across Miami Beach, I feared most the traffic and the pervasive, networky conversations of undisguised ambition. I found release in the inspired/rehearsed jargon of collectors, dealers, artists. At Wednesday’s Horse Meat Disco—a party imported from London—I was told that “to sell your work, it really has to shine,” and for a moment the Miami miasma was such that I didn’t see the tautology. “What is your role in the Whitney conversation?” a woman asked me at the Whitney’s Thursday dinner at the Fishbar at the Loews. “I write about art,” I said. She smiled politely, then asked about “the good parties.” I recommended that she check out Twist, South Beach’s gay multiplex.

Left: 2 Live Crew performs at the Edition. (Photo: World Red Eye). Right: Artist Zak Kitnick. (Photo: Andrew Durbin)

Along with everyone else at #ABMB I returned to the basement at the Edition Hotel Friday night for Gavin Brown and Herald St.’s party, where Martin Creed, Yo Majesty, and 2 Live Crew played to a packed room. Like more than a few attendees, both Creed and 2 Live Crew seemed sleepy and uncomfortable in the dim spotlight. Creed concluded his short set with “Fuck Off,” screaming its repetitious and singular lyric like he were performing an exorcism. I got it, and fucked off to the neighboring bowling alley, where Absolut hosted a party that quite literally no one attended except artists Marie Karlberg and Sam Pulitzer and myself. It was like our own private Interior Illusions Lounge. We played until Brown’s party spilled over and fantastically dressed ice skaters circled the tiny adjacent rink, metaphorizing the circuitous logic of entertainment.

I thought about all those likes circling on Instagram and how the feed kept forcing this surreal juxtaposition or slippery continuum of parties and protests. I thought of the viral treatment of Deitch’s surreal juxtaposition or slippery continuum of Mike and Miley. While I shuttled between the must-attend parties and the barely-attended parties, while friends marched in Miami and New York, I kept thinking about Foul Perfection (2002): “Official art culture is much more effective in its control of history than Republican strategists,” Cyrus writes—or was it Kelley?—“for it knows that the best way to treat contradictory material is not to rail against it, but simply to pretend it didn’t happen.” What didn’t happen at #ABMB seemed to happen pretty much everywhere else; good thing we were all too busy pretending to notice.