“You’re sick of displacing the historically disenfranchised. Endless Everglades,” says a spokesman over soft, corporate muzak. He’s standing in front of the abandoned Aerojet facility in the Florida Everglades, a concrete complex overrun by trees and tall grass. Framed by a wall of graffiti, Carlos Rigau sports a black suit, long slicked-back hair, a mustache and goatee. He’s reminding you of the guilt you feel for being a gentrifier, and he’s offering a creative solution.
Although the video could be mistaken for a real estate advertisement, Rigau made it during a recent stint at AIRIE (Artists in Residence in Everglades), which he used as an incubator for his Endless Everglades concept: a live-work space for creatives in the swamp. Part performance, part legitimate business model, the property development company’s goal is to “develop rural areas by remodeling abandoned buildings for maximum connectivity,” thereby allowing artists and creative disruptors the chance to live a truly sustainable, guilt-free lifestyle. The goal of Endless Everglades is also, he added, “to surpass its margins and turn a healthy profit.”
A painter, sculptor, performance artist, gallerist, and creative entrepreneur, Rigau is a first-generation Cuban from Little Havana, Miami. For ten years, he has probed the role of artists in neoliberal urban development, from “Pump It Up,” a manic motivational video for painters, and “Basement Deals,” in which Rigau sold paintings out of his basement in Bushwick using a green screen as a gallery space. When I met him in his new Chinatown gallery and event rental space, respectively titled Constance and Eternal Revelation, he gave me the full pitch: “The guilt of living and working in the urban setting has worn on creatives. The income one must earn to live in an urban setting is not sustainable. In the near future, vendors will be able to offer drone deliveries anywhere at any time. Endless Everglades.” Rigau poured me another shot of Evan Williams as he told the story of his stay in the River of Grass. Veering from the tone of company spokesman to longtime friend, Rigau discussed the horrors of displacement by the new economy, which he, as an artist, is inevitably a part of.
published in GARAGE, March 2018