|Artist Misael Soto will be taking his giant beach towel to 41st Street and Miami Beach on Memorial Day.|
Eventually, they arrived.
This, I soon learned, is what Soto does. He dreams up little projects that turn things we tend to do in isolation - such as tweeting, texting, driving, listening to music or watching television - into communal events. On Memorial Day, he'll take this concept to the beach, a place where many people head with their towel, headphones and a good book to scope out their spot. People often choose that spot based on its proximity to other beachgoers, the further away the better.
|Soto took the giant towel for a trial run during Art Basel 2011.|
"The towel is for everyone to enjoy, hoping to subvert the way beach-goers claim their temporary real estate on the beach," he notes in his statement about the project. "I intend to indict and subvert typically American excess, in an attempt to not only comment on how we choose to share the wealth (or not), but to also provide a space where I create the opportunity for communal transcendence above the conditioning of capitalism."
Recently, Soto answered some questions about the event he calls Beach Towel (Memorial Day).
How did the first giant beach towel event go and what did you learn from it?
The first time, back in December during Basel went well as far as new experiments go. People were struck by all of the visual elements I had hoped they would be struck by: the size of the towel, the gesture the towel represented, the fact that I had made it for everyone and wasn't sponsored by a business or corporation ....
However, I noticed that as soon as the towel was in place, beach-goers became somewhat accustomed to its presence. They would walk around it and many became afraid to question its existence. I wanted people to feel as if it were theirs as much as mine. I hope to encourage interaction and participation even more so this time around.
Where did you do this last time and how many people came?
The first time, I placed the towel on Sixth Avenue and about 20 people interacted with the towel. The second time, I was on 19th Street with cold weather and only about 10 people came.
This being a prime spot on one of the busiest of beach days. What kind of response are you anticipating?
While I did place the towel in prime locations the first two times, they were not busy beach days and they were during the week. This time around, I'm anticipating more people around me and more forced interaction. I try not to anticipate responses as they always surprise me, but it's hard not to hope for the best.
|Snacks are welcome at Beach Towel (Memorial Day)|
Do you start off alone on your big beach towel or there's a group of you?
I need at least two friends to help me lug the monster from the car to the beach. Otherwise, I start off alone, although I tend to make a couple friends pretty quickly.
Have you thought about what you'll say if someone comes up and says "Hey, you can't take up all that space with a towel that's not even full?"
Thus far, the reaction to the towel has always been positive. The novelty and attraction to over-sized objects seems to be a universal response. That said, I have thought of how to side-step negative responses. I think I'll just offer them a beer, sunblock and a place to sit, and smile and hope for the best.
Does the event have a title or it's just called Beach Towel?
I'm calling it "Beach Towel (Memorial Day)." It is what it is.
That giant blue towel in the accompanying pics ... Is that the size of the Beach Towel that everyone will fit onto?
I hope so!
How big is it and where did you get such a giant towel?
It's approximately 56 x 29 feet. I made it. I sewed it out of over 100 yards of towel fabric.
|Soto hopes to take the towel on tour as a "roving destination."|
You mention people should bring their favorite games, drinks, instruments? What is Misael Soto bringing to the party?
I'll be doing just the same. When I think about the beach I veer towards my childhood loves: Ruffles and Cheetos, Coca-Cola and Malta. I love to toss a Frisbee around and listen to my favorite tunes on the radio. I'll bring enough to share, along with sunblock and water.
Who else is coming to the party and what kind of response are you getting so far?
Well, I posted the event on Facebook and Twitter. I've invited everyone I'm friends with on Facebook, something I've never dared to do. I'm also [discussing] it on blogs like Beached Miami (and yours!) and even non-art-world events sites such as Sweat Records' events page and Soul of Miami. I'd love to see some families and those who wouldn't typically visit a gallery come out and experience the towel.
What time can people begin arriving and how long will the party go on?
My towel and I will be there from sunrise to sunset, so around 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. People are welcome to join at any time.
Anything in particular you are missing that you would love to have someone bring ... like, I don't know, a bubble machine ... or deviled eggs?
Anything and anyone! Bring your grandma! I would love it if people brought acoustic instruments or any noise/music machines, and I'd love for artists to draw, paint, sculpt out there. Several kites flying above the towel would be quite lovely as well.
What in your mind would be the perfect outcome of this? Do you have a little dream of how it might go?
The ideal would be for friendships to be made and bonds to be formed on a greater level than any of my previous works have achieved. That and to have beach-goers feel that they're not as separated or different from each other as perhaps they felt on their way to the beach. This would be my ideal outcome. Let's hope the weather cooperates!
Soto says Beach Towel Memorial Day will also serve as a practice run for the Beach Towel Tour of the East Coast he's hoping to do this summer. He plans for the towel to become "a roving destination" and to launch a Kickstarter, a Facebook fan page and a Twitter to help transform the dream into a reality. He'll soon release a schedule of beaches he'll be visiting in August. Meanwhile you can show up 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. May 28 at 41st Street and Miami Beach and visit Misaelsoto.com.
Visit the Facebook event page for Beach Towel (Memorial Day).
Read my July 2011 story about Misael Soto's projects.