Miami Artist Antonia Wright Is In Pain, and She Wants You to See It
March 19, 2014 | by Kaitlyn Mitchell | Pursuits
The subject of a new Spinello Projects exhibit, Wright's uncomfortable performance art often sees her bloodied and crying.
A still from Be, Wright's recent video that comments on bee colonies as a metaphor for human society. (image via)
Miami's Antonia Wright is willing to endure pain for artistic gain. The multi-media performance artist and poet has gone to such extremes as covering herself in bees, breathlessly puffing a cigar to the point of nausea, and rolling around naked on a grimy, jagged South Beach street.
This Thursday, Spinello Projects will present a sizable exhibit, "You Make Me Sick: I Love You" (through May 3), of Wright's work over the past ten years; the show will swallow up the entire Spinello Projects space, as well as two adjacent galleries.
A still from Wright's 14-minute You Make Me Sick video about Fidel Castro. (image via)
The exhibit takes its name from Wright's 2008 video performance piece, You Make Me Sick, in which she tearfully tries to smoke an entire cigar without taking a breath as a metaphor for Fidel Castro’s cruel regime over Cuba. The video is an excruciating fourteen and a half minutes long; the viewer first encounters Wright looking straight into the camera with a chilling confidence. After many coughing fits, she acknowledges the impossibility of the task as she literally gets sick and leaves the camera frame twice to puke audibly before the self-inflicted torture ends.
"Much of the work is political in inspiration and the actions need to mirror the intensity of what I am trying to convey," says Wright. On using video as a canvas and her body as a paintbrush, she explains, "I use my body as a tool to create these visual metaphors. The viewer will co-create the meaning of the work based off their experience."
Wright, crying in public as part of Are You Ok?. (image via)
Not all of of Wright's pieces are this cringe-worthy, but they do have a tendency to make the viewer highly uncomfortable. "I hope to make people feel. In all the works I fight against apathy—for myself and the viewer. I think apathy is the worst emotion," she says.
In 2009's Are You OK? the 35-year-old artist "makes people feel" by crying in public and waiting for someone to take notice. It’s a relief to see that a young woman walks up and hugs Wright only 38 seconds into one of the films in the Miami/New York series.
A still from Deep Water Horizon, shot in South Beach at 2 a.m. (image via)
More recently, in 2011, Spinello was inspired by her desire to personally experience the 2010 BP oil spill's affect on marine wildlife, as well as citizens affected by cluster bombs in Laos, Vietnam and Afghanistan. For Deep Water Horizon, she had someone film her rolling naked through puddles in the dirtiest South Beach alley she could find. Wright sustained multiple cuts and gashes all over her body, a black eye, and a concussion from the experience. But it's all in a day's work. "When I make the work, I don't think about how to inflict pain upon myself. I think about the aesthetic of the visual and then I do whatever it takes to achieve that," she says.
See more of Wright's work, including Miami-specific pieces like Suddenly We Jumped: Breaking the Glass Ceiling, wherein Wright used her body to shatter a sheath of glass during Art Basel Miami Beach, on Vimeo, or at this Thursday's opening. (6-10 p.m.) 2930 N.W. 7th Ave., Miami