Leandro Erlich to create colossal traffic jam in sand along the Miami Beach shoreline

Leandro Erlich to create colossal traffic jam in sand along the Miami Beach shoreline

The Argentinian artist will unveil a surreal site-specific installation on the beachfront at Lincoln Road during Miami Art Week

‘Cars have been a symbol of autonomy and freedom, but we are not necessarily moving forward when we drive,’ reflects Leandro Erlich on his newest artwork, Order of Importance, commissioned by the City of Miami Beach and due to be realised in time for Miami Art Week next month. The Argentinian artist will bring Miami Beach to a standstill with a colossal installation that recasts the modern traffic jam as 66 life-sized sculptures of cars and trucks in sand (albeit not entirely so, as Erlich looked for the most sustainable and ethical way to produce the intervention).

The largest work produced by Erlich to date is a timely and poignant reflection on the current climate crisis. Climate change is first addressed where it’s most easily perceived. Miami is a front-row witness to climate change,’ says the artist. ‘The environment is offering us plenty of information.’ Taking shape on the beachfront at Lincoln Road, a short walk from the Miami Beach Convention Center, the installation continues Erlich’s preoccupation with the natural world.

‘Reflecting on the dynamism of traffic itself, perhaps the most interesting question would be, “Quo vadis?” I would extend this question not only to the individual driver but to human society and our ambitions,’ says Erlich, who is based between Montevideo and Buenos Aires – the latter notorious for its choking traffic. ‘We persevere in the production of an industrial reality despite the disruption it unleashes on the natural order of this world.’

Rendering of Leandro Erlich traffic jam installation on Miami Beach
Aerial view of Leandro Erlich traffic jam installation on Miami Beach

Erlich’s first major work on climate was Maison Fond (2015), a permanent installation created for Paris in the context of the Climate Change Summit. Pulled by the Roots, a temporary work with a similar theme, was exhibited that same year in Karlsruhe, Germany, and more recently in Beijing at CAFAM a few month ago. The artist’s interest in the intersection between the ‘human-made world and the climate crisis’ dates back to 2008, when Erlich participated in the first edition of Prospect New Orleans, as part of an artistic response to Hurricane Katrina.

The project has been curated by Ximena Caminos, who met Erlich in 1992 when she produced his first exhibition at Centro Cultural Recoleta in Buenos Aires. The pair joined forces again in 1999, after Caminos commissioned his seminal Swimming Pool for the Venice Biennale. Of this latest public art project, they are optimistic that site-specific interventions like Erlich’s beachfront backup can have a powerful influence on communities. ‘Order of Importance, like an image from a contemporary Pompeii, or a future relic, alludes to our fragile position in the large universal canvas,’ Caminos says.

‘Public art has the power to become part of the complex ecosystems of cities and can be utilised to establish a dialogue, which anticipates and welcomes rapid change,’ adds Caminos. ‘More than ever we’re relying on our cities to be at the forefront of social innovation, and the City of Miami Beach, with its inclusive and innovative spirit, is playing a strong leadership role in commissioning public art, which addresses these important conversations.’

Life in the slow lane is all-too-familiar for US commuters: the average American spends 17,600 minutes (around 293 hours) behind the wheel per year, according to the most recent findings from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s American Driving Survey. ‘The beach has been a symbol of leisure and prosperity for so many years, and in particular for Miami,’ says Erlich. ‘But now there is a frontline feeling about the beach. It has become a different kind of stage.’ §

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