Global Positioning Systems is the second iteration of Pérez Art Museum Miami’s Overview Galleries, in which selections from PAMM’s permanent collection are displayed alongside loans from important private collections. Consisting of six interrelated parts (titled History Painting, Visual Memory, The Uses of History, Urban Imaginaries, The Contested Present, and Forms of Commemoration), this thematic group presentation explores the intersection between globalization and history. Since the late 1980s, the political and economic forces unleashed at the close of the Cold War have combined with dramatic advances in transportation and digital communications to create an unprecedented degree of interdependency among the nations of the world. As the networks of individuals, institutions, and markets that constitute the international system of art-making and distribution have expanded to include voices from disparate regions and contexts, the field has become a mirror for the cultural effects of this heightened state of global integration. One of the most important of these cultural effects has been the destabilization of any singular understandings of time and world history. The idea that the past may bear different meanings depending on one's geographic and cultural standpoint has never seemed more incontrovertible. Global Positioning Systems explores this issue by bringing together the productions of an international and intergenerational array of artists who engage diverse histories while raising questions about how the past is recorded and remembered.
Global Positioning Systems bears specific resonances with Miami. As a result of its proximity to Latin America and the Caribbean, Miami's trajectory has been inextricably tied to historical developments unfolding in the countries that constitute these regions. Moreover, in recent years, Miami has been locked in a cycle of striking growth, which has come hand in hand with rapid transformations of its urban landscape and social makeup. It is a city poised at multiple geographic and temporal thresholds, a condition from which it draws much of its dynamism and potential.
The history of painting provides a repertoire of styles that contemporary artists may choose from freely. The works in this gallery reference an assortment of approaches to the medium associated with various eras and schools—from 19th-century European realism and romanticism to 20th-century North American Abstract Expressionism and Pan American geometric abstraction. In decoupling styles from their historical and geographic contexts, these artists expose the attitudes and ideologies that underlie them. Some artists have adopted historical styles in order to question the fundamental notion of objective, historical truth, while others have done so as a way to address contemporary issues related to race, national identity, and gender.
Forms of Commemoration
The imperative to commit important events to cultural memory and the impulse to honor individuals who have passed away constitute some of the most deeply ingrained functions of art making. Artworks have the power to unite large numbers of people around the goal of ensuring that their subjects are never forgotten; at the same time, they can serve as tools for mourning, facilitating attempts to move forward while maintaining a sense of connection with those whom we have lost. This gallery includes works by artists who either adopt artistic formats associated with traditional memorial practices or propose new approaches to the time-honored rituals of devotion and commemoration.
Contemporary artists frequently appropriate images associated with the popular media of the past, imbuing them with new meanings that resonate with present-day realities. The objects in this space share a vintage look, incorporating source material dating from around the middle of the 20th century, an era that coincided with or immediately preceded the formative childhood years of many of their makers. These works reinforce our awareness of how strongly images from popular culture are imprinted on our remembrances of a given time and place. The broader implication is that memory is subject to culturally contingent moods, attitudes, and ideologies that are in constant flux.
The Contested Present
This gallery brings together artworks that focus on urgent, present-day tensions and struggles unfolding throughout the world, particularly as a function of incompatible economic interests. It is often these antagonisms that define a given era, dictating how it is remembered by future generations. The works reference zones of conflict, from the Middle East to Africa and Southeast Asia, while touching on the tendency toward exploitation inherent to the relationships between developed and developing countries. These objects are unified by an implicit belief in art’s potential to serve as a loudspeaker for political protest against oppressive or exploitative forces, as a means of bearing witness to and resisting injustices, and as an agent of social change.
The Uses of History
The works in this gallery interrogate the relationship between the historical record and social power structures. They remind us that communal recollections of the past can be manipulated and used to obscure realities that are inconvenient to those who occupy a place of authority. Many artists implicate corporate media in this kind of manipulation, while others use the platform for public discourse provided by their work to put forward radical alternatives to mainstream accounts, resuscitating histories that have been forgotten or intentionally buried. Artists have also targeted more deeply enmeshed narratives—including those found in biblical history, those embodied in the iconic artifacts of the past, and those codified by cultural institutions such as art and history museums.
Artists have frequently used imaginary representations of cities to critique aspects of society and to propose alternative ways of living. The literary and artistic genre of science fiction abounds with utopian and dystopian visualizations of urban landscapes in which the problems of contemporary life are either resolved or magnified. Some of the artists included in this gallery envision futuristic urban settings in order to articulate anxieties about present-day society in light of technological change, environmental degradation, or political turmoil. Other artists take a different approach to the theme of imagined cities, addressing the impulse to generate urban identities conducive to commercial interests such as tourism and development. Still others give physical form to features of the city that are normally invisible or easy to overlook.