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Photo: PAMM.
The exhibit delves into the indigenous history of the region. Photo: PAMM.

Patchwork Falls to Unite Native and Latin American Art in South Florida

PAMM hosts The Swaying Motion on the Bank of the River Falls. It is Chilean artist Felipe Mujica's first major exhibition in the U.S.

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In the legends of the Miccosukee cosmology, a tribe from the Lower Creek region, their ancestors "fell" from the sky into a lake in northern Florida. 

In the 16th century, the Spanish persuaded some of their people to move to Spanish Florida and occupy land where other tribes had previously lived — in the 1500s there had been a Creek struggle for colonial supremacy on the southern frontier.

The Miccosukees, who had already been on hunting and fishing expeditions and were familiar with the area, moved to escape white encroachment and new settlements were established, where they engaged in trade, crafts and medicine. 

Over the centuries, however, they continued to fight settlers and slave traders and joined with other Creek clans to fight in successive Seminole Wars until they finally settled in the Everglades in the mid-19th century.

As the years passed and they faced harsh assimilation, the Miccosukee Indian Village was created in South Florida, in the heart of the Everglades, where the Miccosukee maintain their own laws, medicine and culture. 

All this is a long introduction to the long history of this ancient tribe whose origins are lost in myth but whose existence and capacity for survival and struggle for self-determination are real.

Something that the Chilean artist Felipe Mujica was able to capture in Felipe Mujica: The Swaying Motion on the Bank of the River Falls, the first major exhibition of the Latin American artist in the United States that will open at the Pérez Art Museum Miami on 20 May.

An installation of more than 20 fabric panels or "curtains" that interact with the space and dialogue with the Patchwork tradition of the Miccosukee tribe, with whom Mujica has been collaborating for years, and especially with the native artisan Khadijah Cypress. 

The exhibition is inspired by the rich ecological and cultural diversity of South Florida and especially by the work of Cypress, founder of the Miccosukee Creativity Center, a community center that promotes traditional crafts and offers a space for its members to learn to make patchwork, beadwork or basketry. 

In addition, the designs created by Cypress for Mujica's fabric panels incorporate motifs, symbols and patterns from the natural world of South Florida and Miccosukee traditions. 

"We are delighted to present Felipe Mujica's work, particularly the way his collaborations build relationships and dialogue with other communities," said PAMM associate curator Jennifer Inacio. "This site-specific installation not only showcases Mujica's interest in geometric abstraction and the abstract designs of the surrounding Miccosukee, but also bridges the gap between contemporary art and traditions. I hope this provides an opportunity for our audiences to reflect and educate themselves about the traditions and culture of the Miccosukee Tribe, our respected neighbours, while navigating Mujica's abstractions."

One of the particularities of the installation is the placement of the works, which requires visitors to move through the space as air slowly sways the curtains, producing a global movement in the work in which the viewer also becomes a co-participant. There will also be interactive elements, according to the museum. 

In short, an exhibition that refers both to adaptation as well as exploration and transformation and that aims to foster a connection with the indigenous communities of South Florida. 

"This group of curtains at PAMM adds a new dimension to my work, as well as serving as a platform for the study and promotion of Native American culture. I am excited to see this combination, because although it is done in a minimal and abstract way, the Miccosukee Patchwork technique is placed in a completely new context, on a different scale, in dialogue with the architecture, the space, the viewer, the elements, and also in dialogue with the forms and colors while simultaneously maintaining its traditional character," stated Felipe Mujica. 

The Chilean also pointed out that each curtain will have its own name: Great Storm, Fire, Snakeskin, Steps, Worm, Turtle, Frog, Bird, Diamond, Man on Horseback, Pyramid, Illumination, etc. 

PAMM will also hold a series of events on Miccosukee culture and traditions that will shed light on these early inhabitants of Florida and also on the water and the Everglades ecosystem, which is very present in the cosmogony of the tribe.

About the artist

Felipe Mujica (1974, Santiago, Chile) studied art at the Universidad Católica de Chile. After art school he co-founded the artist-run space Galería Chilena (with Joe Villablanca and Diego Fernández), which operated from 1997 to 2005, first as a nomadic, commercial art gallery and then as a collaborative art project, a curatorial 'experiment'. 

In early 2000, Mujica moved to New York, where he currently lives and works. 

Parallel to his own work, Mujica has organized and produced numerous collaborative projects, including books and exhibitions.

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