“I was really learning Miami at that time,” says Daniela Luna of our first encounter, “Trying things and wondering what to do. In theory, I understood; but really… to be honest I was a bit lost.” As one who leans keenly toward inquiry, Luna is using her latest project, LEAD Miami, as a platform for discovery and is asking the question, “What does it mean to be in Miami?”
An acronym for Laboratory of Experiential Analysis and Design, LEAD is focused on an examination of Miami as a burgeoning center of art and culture, a city whose identity is still being formed. With this in mind, LEAD programming is developed through a process of community-based consensus. The idea being that it is far more productive to enable people to connect, collaborate and create than to focus on what is missing from the cultural landscape. Each experience then becomes an experiment that allows for understanding Miami and its citizens better. The data collected is used to engineer actions accordingly, and in this way Luna is continuously refining and redefining LEAD’s role by building upon the desires of the community.
Analysis is the central point for LEAD as a brand; but this earnest curiosity was not always present in Luna. Originally from Buenos Aires, she landed in Miami following a year of introspection in China and a brief stint in the film industry in Los Angeles. From the start, Miami presented a bit of a conundrum for the artist. Luna wrestled with the city and its often-confounding arrangement of culture and attitudes. Its unpredictability left Luna feeling frustrated and unfulfilled.
As a result, Luna began the process of analyzing the expectations she was holding onto and how they informed the blame she’d ascribed to Miami itself, and the elements that weren’t serving her. That inward journey would lead to “The Meaning Machine,” the first show to come out of the LEAD laboratory.
Housed at the Dot Fiftyone Gallery in Wynwood, the project was a calculated criticism of the human proclivity to assign meaning to every fragment of frivolity that enters our lives. Luna surrendered herself before an audience, to a series of experiments and inquiries designed to expose her own vulnerabilities, and how they were reflected in her view of the city.
“The more I let it be and interact with the city, the more I see its beauty. Instead of deciding what Miami is, I stopped being that “Meaning Machine.” I have to let Miami tell me,” Luna states.
“The Meaning Machine” was not the first time Luna has plunged into an introspective journey and surfaced with a new persona and a mission to match. She first embodied what the New York Times would call an “outspoken mastermind” with the rise of APPETITE Gallery in her home country of Argentina as a direct response to the dire economic climate of her native country. Assembling the resources at hand, Luna and her group of artists worked to cultivate a thriving artistic community and prove that a collaborative force could be just as useful in effecting change as capitalistic efforts. The result was a shrewd, irreverent, punk explosion that ushered a wave of art and artists into the San Telmo neighborhood of Buenos Aires.
“I wanted to be the bomb that shakes everything loose,” she says referencing Hiroshima Mon Amour, a film that’s inspired much of Luna’s approach to life. With her efforts at LEAD Miami, it appears that Luna has again become that bomb, shaking loose the stagnation that plagued her a year ago. As the architect behind LEAD, this “Miami Curator” is taking on the town with drive and intensity; bringing together a myriad of disciplines in pursuit of a more cohesive and exciting Miami.
LEAD Miami programming presently includes a film and discussion series, featuring films that highlight the difficulty of the human experience; a bimonthly brunch for women who are using their creative talents to affect social change; meet ups to promote collaboration amongst the Miami tech-startup community; upcoming panel discussions with Miami’s IIIPoints Festival; as well as a LEAD run festival titled “I’m not leaving Miami”, geared toward addressing the issue of seasonal brain drain in Miami and calling attention to the fact the Miami is interesting all year long.
“Maybe we can’t change the world completely but we can change our corner of it,” says Luna. “By energizing the version of the city that others and I believe in, we are all leading Miami into a compelling identity of its own design.
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