Founded in 2018 in collaboration with the City of Miami Beach, the Department of Reflection (DoR) is an organization that acts as a foil of municipal entities to produce creative moments of exchange between the municipality and its residents.
Misael Soto (they/them) is the founder and sole director of the department. Soto is a South Florida-based artist originally from Puerto Rico. They studied art history and later began their art practice, which was influenced by their interest in “the language and hierarchies of space, systems, and infrastructure.”
The DoR was created as an answer to the City of Miami Beach after Soto was invited to respond creatively to some of the local issues the city faces due to the climate crisis.
“How can art help us to better understand and cope with the effects of climate change, colonialism, white supremacy, and unchecked capitalist extraction? I believe an embodied process such as that presented by DoR can help,” says Soto.
The Department’s mission is to facilitate internal and external moments of municipal inquiry and exchange.
“We achieve this via the direct foiling of institutions entrusted to take action, thus creating opportunities for deliberate and purposeful inaction or reflection,” says Soto.
“Our goals are twofold: to create moments of reflection while reflecting the host municipality or institution back to itself.”
The DoR has previously collaborated with MDPL, which hosted the department at its Art Deco Museum.
The Department invites citizens to participate and become a part of its next major deconstructive infrastructure project, a conceptual artwork called Bridge Deconstruction.
This research-based, context and site-specific collaborative endeavor uses bridges and related infrastructure as vehicles for individual and communal ideation, storytelling, and creative expression.
The project will be conducted in three phases over the course of 2023. Its first phase, which ran from January to April, took place within FIU’s history department.
The next phase of the project kicks off this Friday, June 23rd, with a participatory town hall meeting at The Wolfsonian-FIU. Its final phase will run from November 2023 to January 2024.
Free and open to the public, the gathering will be led by Soto, who will share findings from the project’s Special Commission on Bridges, lead a group workshop, and introduce presentations by its Special Historical Officers: Philip Cardella, Riley Ford, Juan Lopez, and Susana Perez. The event will also welcome participants to contribute their own ideas about the project.
Bridge Deconstruction is directly inspired by The Wolfsonian-FIU’s collection, particularly its Bridge Tender House (aka the Josephine Baker Pavilion), a launchpad from which a public installation and collaborative programming will take place.
This free event is organized with the Department of Reflection and The Wolfsonian Public Humanities Lab, and sponsored by the Mellon Foundation and the Extreme Events Institute.