Miami Art Basel: David Normal’s Futuristic Installations

Documentary and Interview by Julia Schroeder

In December of 2023, I brought artwork to Art Basel Miami for the first time. It did not go unnoticed! Art historian and videomaker, Julia Schroeder, spotted it and approached me about doing a short video about my work. Over the Spring of 2024, we conducted a number of interviews and sifted through project documentation and last Friday, June 21st, the finished video popped up on the web.

It focuses on my adventure of bringing the Kittolith to Miami Art Week and displaying it in The Maze installation at Hotel Faena’s beachfront. Full story here.

Kittoliths grow up to be Catoliths

Refurbished Catoliths with new bases and “KISS” (Kittolith Interactive Sound System) adapted to the Catolith

It’s only natural that cats should have kittens, and plastic cat statues should therefore have their progeny too. The Coven of Catoliths gave birth to a Litter of Kittoliths.

After 5 years of design and production I feel that the Catolith is at last nearing its potential. The newly refurbished Catoliths that were just installed at KALW with their LiDAR based interactivity, battery operation, independent control via Raspberry Pi computer, and lighter more mobile wooden base actually exceed what I imagined for this artwork 5 years ago.

Below is a table showing the progression of techniques from one iteration of Cathenge to the next.

The Vision of Cathenge

From the beginning, the vision of Cathenge and of the Catolith Cat Statue has been exceedingly difficult to realize because it combines lighting effects and interactivity in very specific ways and is dependent on the large format 3D printing to achieve. However, each installation of Cathenge succeeded in communicating this vision in different ways, but never completely to my satisfaction, and that’s why I have continued working on the project.

The goal has been to express the concept of “Holofelinity: Universal Cat Consciousness”. Holofelinity is the magical power of the Ancient Lyran Space Cats to manifest their minds over matter and to transform themselves into any shape. This is expressed in the artwork as “Harmonic Purring” (AKA; “Purrbration of Holofelinity”), an evocation of the capacity of the Space Cats to purr their visions into material form.

Ancient Lyran Space Cat materialized as Bastet idol levitating pyramid using chromatic spectra of the Purrbration of Holofelinity.

The Kittolith

In order to reach this goal, it was instrumental to create a smaller version of the Catolith, the “Kittolith”:

The Kittolith at Miami Art Week

Because the Kittolith presents as a single statue instead of a circle of statues (as in Cathenge) it has been necessary to condense the interactive harmonic purring system into one sculpture. This has been done using LiDAR. People interact with the LiDAR beam extending from the collar of the Kittolith and trigger different frequencies (“Solfeggio Tones”). The infographic below shows how the Kittolith works with the use of Solfeggio sound healing tones:

From Kittolith to Catolith

The “Kittolith Interactive Sound System” (KISS) was adapted for use in the Catolith. The photo gallery below documents our process of creating the New Catolith. Essential to this process was the design and construction of a new wooden base for the Catolith.

CAD drawing of wooden Catolith base

This new, lighter base not only facilitates a wider range of possibilities of exhibitions because of its much reduced weight (compared to the previous concrete bases), but also resolves acoustic issues since the wooden base acts as a ported speaker cabinet for the subwoofer installed in the base. Below is a gallery of photos of the new Catolith and its new base under construction:

Art Basel Kittolith Adventure: The Cat and The Maze!

David Normal with “Lunita” The Kittolith at Miami Beach, Miami ArtWeek 2023 (Photo: Julia Sinelnikova)
“Cathenge Cat Temple” by David Normal at Patricia’s Green Park, Hayes Valley, San Francisco 2022-24

Over the past few years, I’ve been very busy with installations of Cathenge, my 3D printed, Space Cat Temple that has appeared at Burning Man and been an SF Arts Commission public installation. For many years, Art Basel has snuck up on the calendar and happened without me attending and I’ve felt left out.  Finally, in 2023, the stars aligned – I was ready with the newly designed “Kittolith” to go to Art Basel!  The Kittolith is a smaller version (6’ tall) of the iconic Catolith (think Monolith of 2001 in the shape of a cat!) Cat Statue of Cathenge. The Kittolith can be disassembled into parts and fit into a couple of suitcases and taken on an airplane.   And so I did just that!  I packed the Kittolith up and reassembled it in my hotel room in Miami Beach and brought the Kittolith around to Miami ArtWeek (colloquially known as “Art Basel” for it’s eponymous lead art fair)!

Kittolith in pieces packed in a suitcase ready to fly to Miami!

I was so busy preparing the Kittolith, a 3D printed interactive sound-light sculpture, that I did not have time to plan in any detail for a tour of Miami ArtWeek’s many art fairs, venues, and events.  One thing that caught my attention immediately though, and completely captured my imagination, was “The Maze” on Miami Beach. It sounded great to me, and like the perfect place to display the Kittolith. This site-specific installation was a large maze designed using AI and built right on the beach in front of Hotel Faena by Chilean artist, Sebastian Errazuriz.  I had never heard of Errazuriz nor of Hotel Faena, but I knew intuitively that I wanted to bring my Kittolith to the center of The Maze.  That became my central goal and my only tangible objective for my adventure of bringing the Kittolith to Art Basel.

“The Maze” by Sebastian Errazuriz at Hotel Faena, Miami Beach 2023 (Photo: Faena Art)

In art terminology, an “intervention” is where one artist presents a work or a performance in another artist’s creation and context.  Surprise performance art pieces at art openings are examples of “intervention”.  Advanced by the Dadaists and the Situationists, intervention is more of a conceptual tactic than a specific artistic technique.  Famously, in 2019, artist David Datuna “intervened” on artist Maurizio Cattelan’s, “Comedian”, (the notorious $120k-banana-duct-taped-to-the-wall), and peeled and ate that banana – perfect!  Many interventions, like the aforementioned, have the quality of a prank (or – as the case may be – a prank upon a prank). However, bringing the Kittolith to the center of the maze was not a prank – it was a quest – a quest for an aesthetic truth.

Holofelinity in my Hotel Corridor, Miami Beach 2023

The Kittolith symbolizes the Power of Holofelinity (Universal Cat Consciousness – an intrinsic concept of the Cathenge Mythos).  Holofelinity is the divine feline power of mind over matter.  The ancient Lyran Space Cats built their Love Planet of Lemewria using their minds to profoundly manipulate matter into the forms of their imagination.  The Kittolith at the center of the maze is like the mind at the center of matter radiating the forms of desire into labyrinthine manifestations of reality.  Bringing the Kittolith to the heart of the maze was as much a ritual drama of mythic symbols transcending time as it was a specific artistic intervention in the thick of Art Basel 2023.

Julia Sinelnikova with the Kittolith Lunita inside The Maze by Sebastian Errazuriz

It’s said that when things are meant to happen, that the right people will appear at the right time to make it happen.  My friends, Dale Posner and Julia Sinelnikova, were the right people at the right time to encourage me and support me in this adventure. Both Dale and Julia are Art Basel veterans.  Dale was showing me around one night when we ran into Julia on Collins Ave. in South Beach.  Julia “Oracle” Sinelnikova is a sculptor from NYC, who was one of the original inspirations to Cathenge in 2018.  Julia agreed to help me bring the Kittolith to the heart of The Maze on Sunday evening.  I had brought the Kittolith into the lobby of Hotel Faena the preceding Saturday evening where the cat statue was enthusiastically welcomed by everyone around.  Hotel Faena staff and security had no objection to the Kittolith’s presence, and the following Sunday evening Julia, myself, and the Kittolith were again welcomed at Hotel Faena and allowed to bring the statue into the maze just before closing time on its final night.

Model and Fitness Guru, Amy Rodriguez, meets the Kittolith in The Maze.

Once we were inside The Maze, people were thrilled.  I don’t think anyone visiting The Maze had any idea that the Kittolith was not a part of the official plan.  People completely assumed the cat statue belonged there and they were eager to take their pictures with the Kittolith.  The cat fit in The Maze perfectly.  At one point the she ran out of batteries, but Julia happened to have a big powerbrick all charged up and we turned the cat right back on.  You can see how beautiful the Kittolith was in the center of Sebastian Errazuriz’s glorious “Maze” on the beach before Hotel Faena.  It was a great moment – one of those moments of fulfillment when you know that you’ve succeeded.

The Kittolith Lunita at the Heart of The Maze, Miami Beach 2023

Like I said, I had never heard of Hotel Faena before going to Art Basel last year.  I didn’t realize The Maze had anything to do with a hotel.  Hotel Faena was an extremely pleasant surprise to me.  I loved the lobby with its lavish murals full of alchemical heraldry, Damien Hirst’s golden mammoth, and the overall ambience that was so opulent and glamorous and yet so totally welcoming and friendly.  My friend Dale let me know that Hotel Faena awards a “Faena Prize” for artworks to be presented on the beach, and after I had brought the Kittolith to the heart of The Maze I was sure that I should apply for the Faena Prize in hopes of bringing the entire Cathenge Cat Temple to Miami Beach in the future.

The Kittolith Lunita admires Damien Hirst’s Mammoth in the Lobby of the Hotel Faena Miami Beach

I know that even if The Maze had existed totally independent of a sponsoring entity such as Hotel Faena, I would have brought the Kittolith to The Maze and been satisfied with that in and of itself, but ultimately it was more consequential than I had even expected because the photos taken of the Kittolith at Sebastian Errazuriz’s Maze in front of the hotel are an effective proof of concept for Cathenge on Miami Beach.  These photos, which have illustrated this story, will be part of the proposal to be submitted for the Hotel Faena Art Prize.

Cats using their Purring Power of Holofelinity to levitate stones into place at a neolithic site on the Isle of Cat, a self-governing British Cat Dependency located in the Irish Sea.

This adventure of bringing the Kittolith to The Maze at Art Basel is an object lesson in Holofelinity which shows the power of imagination and desire to manifest reality.  The Maze and Cathenge share in common technologically advanced methods of creation (The Maze was AI generated and Cathenge was 3D printed). They are interactive and immersive art environments.  As Art Basel expands in popularity it attracts a much wider demographic than just art collectors, and many visitors seek pure aesthetic experience rather than collecting art.  Interactive artworks that immerse the audience completely will gain in importance, and Faena Art is at the curatorial forefront of this trend.  As new forms of technology continue to expand artistic possibilities, the Cat in the Maze is a harbinger of greater things to come!