Last night, visitors sat by South Beach Shore Club's glowing pool in anticipation for Matthew Stone's performance piece Love Focused Like a Laser for Art Basel Miami Beach. The work, presented by The Hole and produced by Vivan Thi Tang, is billed as "a hybrid opera and art collective," a slippery description like many used to promote the events in Miami this week. But unlike the insultingly underwhelming and almost offensive performance by Vanessa Beecroft at Mana Wynwood the same night, Stone's work was a rollicking sideshow of beautiful freaks.
As the performers geared up, a person swam serenely around the pool, and we all were thinking, "this better not be it," but then gender-bending artist boychild was lifted like a sacrifice by buff men and Andre J took the stage in drag and whipped his hair in circles. What followed included smoke machines, blinking lights, masks, and even roller blades. This was a thrill ride.
During the performance, which was choreographed by Madeline Hollander, different acts took the center of the stage—Andre J chanted "God is here" at the audience, a spastic man read pages of an essay or poetry, and another man with a glowing light in his mouth twisted and bent in extreme poses. A chorus of women and men performed choreographed movements throughout, all amid the explosive music of Kelela and Zebra Katz.
For the performance, Stone worked with music director L-Vis 199, designers Hood By Air, and environmental designer AJ Gvojic of Thunder Horse Video.
The setup of the piece, segmented performances by artists who question gender dichotomies and identity representation, was as if they were acts in sideshow circus, but instead of freaks, they presented themselves as powerful, godlike beings for us to gaze on their glory. Stone decided not to shy away from the hedonistic culture and entertainment value of Miami Beach. Instead, he plays with these tropes to pull off an awe-inspiring performance—a new kind of circus.