One dilapidated department store. 2 floors of the strangest things you’ve ever seen. 5 days of pure creation. This was Miami’s chilling new Art Basel exhibit: Raw Popup.
Raw Popup is a group of artists who came together to revamp a 43,000 square-foot empty department store into a dystopian feast for your senses, introducing the Interactive Art Movement (IAM) to the Miami Basel scene.
“I have never been to an exhibit more whimsical and imaginative, there have been other immersive events, however Raw Popup was the most limitless of all.”Sophomore Natalie Abatemarco
Once inside the loading dock and onto the Tower of Terror-like elevator shaft, it was hard for my stomach not to do a couple of somersaults anticipating some scary drop. But, the creaky elevator safely delivered me, my two friends and about 20 other people onto the third floor and what looked like the back kitchen at the Cheesecake factory.
Sprawling and silver, the Kitchen was our first stop on the tour. It wasn’t long before, out of the corner of my eye, two spindly girls dripping head to toe in chocolate syrup and sprinkles squirmed and shrieked on top of a long metal table. Bottles of chocolate syrup, caramel sauce, ice cream cones, open frosting cans and millions of sparkly rainbow sprinkles were strewn about on the table. A crazed lady encouraged us to decorate the girls with as many toppings as we wanted – as if they weren’t sticky enough.
If these human ice cream sundaes weren’t a more perfect kickoff to the zany microcosm we had just entered, I don’t know what was. Swiping a lick of red frosting for my travels, my friends and I took off, eager to see who else we could pour chocolate syrup onto.
After exhausting the exhibits in the Kitchen, we shuffled along, following a throng of people into the Food Court. And, well, the verdict is out, time travel does exist. Folks on roller skates zipped by us, and the cosmic 60s-themed diner, complete with retro booths and an empanada counter, per Miami flair, was oh-so-enchanting.
Nervous we’d be sucked in by the promise of doughy pastries, we melted into the next room alongside the rest of Miami’s youth, donning their Basel-chic, boho-esque outfits, inspired by Raw popup’s eclectic Pinterest page.
The Store Lobby invited us to indulge in life’s most unnecessary material possessions – so in other words, Miami’s bare necessities. The Sunglass Area, brimming with backlit shelves of the edgiest of shades, culminated in a projected, fake pool scene where you could model your selections and pose with flamingo floats – can you say frat pool party?
The Retail Area is when it really started to get conceptual. I guess everyone interprets art in their own way, but as I crouched through the dark narrow corridor leading into the first room, arms of paper machete foliage brushing my arms and cheeks, I felt a certain loss of control, strikingly reminiscent of the feeling I usually get on Black Friday when the deals seem to choke you, relentlessly. And so, the mind games began.
Read Part Two of “RAW POPUP” for an insider’s look at the rest of the exhibit. ______________________________________________________________________
words & photos_isabella vaccaro