Carlota Pradera doesn’t want to touch you. She wants to dance and move in her magic pants in open spaces, jam-packed parking lots and highrise office buildings. She wants to plot our concrete landscape with her footprints and presence. She wants to dance in Publix and CVS, Morningside Park and 7-11 and engage (not enrage) the human population. She also wants to blur the line that divides public/private spaces, because in a world of ever shifting landscapes, life is just too boring with trivial divisions.
“Please Don’t Touch Me” is an evolving series of improvised, commando performances in public and private settings throughout Miami-Dade County. I hitched a ride with Pradera and photographed her first performance. First stop: Publix.
In her dog-chewed blue Nike’s, Pradera began to move stealthily around the parking lot without much fanfare. People came and went. Some stared. Most just walked on and drove off without blinking an eye—until we went inside. That’s where the fun started.
As soon as Pradera began to move down aisle 1, heads turned and eyeballs popped out. She attracted the attention of a Publix associate who began to mimic Pradera’s movements—classic life imitates art. We felt welcomed and art opened us up. Customers didn’t mind Pradera dancing around their shopping carts. However, once we got to the meat section, we got kicked out. Art got closed down.
Next: CVS. This is where a 6’6” burly CVS customer coined the name for Pradera’s series. “Please don’t touch me,” he huffed as he approached Pradera from behind. She looked a little scary, but no match for this big guy. The pharmacists seemed to enjoy Pradera though.
After CVS, we headed across the street to Morningside Park, where we were basically alone beneath the thunderous sky and monstrous banyan trees. We had an audience of four—a mom and dad with their two kids. Pradera thought she spotted a crocodile, but I assured here there were none in these parts—at least she believed me.
The most interesting part of the performance for me was when Pradera interacted with a blue goalie net. As she wove herself into the net, I got this image of a marionette strung up in three dimensions. The strings seemed to pass through her and controlled not only her movements, but her mind.
At the end of the day, I realized “Please Don’t Touch Me” and its sporadic, untamed wildness is about reaching out. It’s about taking art out of the center and bringing it to the edges and into the places we inhabit on a daily basis. In these public/private settings, art touches the community when it least expects it. Shocks and stuns them. Makes them laugh and sometimes feel uncomfortable. But this is fine because art is supposed to be dangerous. Otherwise, what’s the point?