Artist Malcolm Lauredo Is Miami’s Unconventional Historian

Malcolm Lauredo
Artist Malcolm Lauredo in his studio at the Bakehouse Art Complex (all images courtesy the artist)

MIAMI — A visit to Malcolm Lauredo’s studio at the Bakehouse Art Complex in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood is like stumbling into a wormhole. It might be physically impossible to traverse the time-space continuum and see into a community’s past or future, but Lauredo’s latest project, Miami’s Greater Bureau of Time Tourism (MGBTT), captures the freneticism of whirling through the perpetually spinning wheels of time. Upon entering the 38-year-old artist studio complex, Lauredo launches into a monologue highlighting the building’s history as a bread factory with the whimsy of Willy Wonka.

“The blades of time spin, they don’t stop,” says Lauredo as he powers on a proto air conditioning fan dating back to the building’s 1920s creation. “But at Miami’s Greater Bureau of Time Tourism, time has stopped.” Inside the studio, visitors encounter ambient underwater music, AI-generated videos of Miami playing on loop, and relics of the city’s cultural and geographic landscape.

In an interview with Hyperallergic, Lauredo said he wants to remind us that we’ll be underwater one day. History, after all, has the power to tell us something about the future.

Lauredo has been a local Miami historian since 2014, a few years after he moved back to the city in 2011 after studying in Gainesville. He lived in a punk house east of Biscayne Boulevard in the rapidly gentrifying Edgewater. One day, he was driving past Flagler Street while listening to tropicalia music when suddenly he realized that all of the newly developed buildings surrounding him had not been there five years prior. 

“It got me thinking: What happened?” Lauredo said.

Still from Malcolm Lauredo’s time-lapse video “Unabridged” (2023)

He became obsessed with Miami history, eager to tap into the wealth of untold stories of Indigenous and settler origin. Since then, he has worked as a historian for the Coral Gables Museum, an exhibition designer for the Seminole Tribe of Florida, and a research fellow at Vizcaya Museum. In August, he was invited to tell Bakehouse’s own story as a refuge for displaced artists during an early wave of gentrification in Coconut Grove while simultaneously offering free history reports to the greater Miami community and trying to reimagine the role of the historian. 

“I felt like Miami’s history is so attacked,” said Lauredo. “There’s so many routes that have not been explored and that’s because the economy doesn’t allow for people to be able to do that.” 

For Lauredo, history has always been married to the arts. He takes inspiration from the time of  the bard, when history was poetry, and its performance was intrinsic to integrating the information. The nature of historic interpretation, Lauredo says, implies a myth of objectivity,  assuming a textbook author as an unbiased narrator. “We look at these sources and we piece together these narratives with our ideologies, our worldviews, and you can’t get away from it,” Lauredo said.

Still from a video produced by Malcolm Lauredo for the Miami’s Greater Bureau of Time Tourism project

As Florida politicians seek to erase Black, Brown, and LGBTQ+ narratives from classrooms, it is essential to understand that not all histories are interpreted equally and not all get to live on. Lauredo’s MGBTT is a testament to the value of record-keeping in the midst of this erasure

Lauredo is learning to master what he calls “the proverbial parlor trick” to get people’s attention  in Miami, where historic landmarks and even ancient Indigenous ruins are sidelined for development. These include a performance of a lyrical monologue in which he highlights the Bakehouse’s history as a bread factory, slamming a 100-year-old Florida history book on the floor and bringing out a fire-engine red dial phone to announce the launch of the “MGBTT Hotline” — which anyone can call into with a history question or to request a report on anything Miami-related. 

“Art historically has played a large role in our understanding of history,” said Lauredo. “There are no photographs of the Columbian mammoths. There’s no photographs of the Tequesta who lived here for 10,000 years. That’s where artists come in, being able to interpret the past and being able to make it something visual.”

A mural by Miami artist Purvis Young on the the east-facing wall of Bakehouse Art Complex, where Lauredo’s studio is housed. The work was made between 1998 and 2003 and is one of three surviving murals by the artist. (photo Alexandra Martinez/Hyperallergic)

Lauredo says the Bureau was founded in the year 2896, a thousand years after Miami’s inception. Part of the department’s lore is that Lauredo was kidnapped and taken to 2896 to give glass-bottom boat tours of a sunken downtown Miami by the Chamber of Commerce. In the future, nobody remembers Miami’s past, but time-traveling technology has allowed people to arrive in the present day and try to undo the damage of forgetting what their predecessors wrought. The idea is a counterpoint to the city’s governmental agencies, inspired by misael soto’s 2018 project “Department of Reflection,” which similarly subverts the municipal entity and reinserts local citizens and artists in the conversation of solution-finding.

The Bureau headquarters feature hundreds of books about Miami, a slab of oolitic rock (Miami’s geological foundation), and a trophy from Lauredo’s own favorite Miami historian, Arva Moore Parks, which he got from an estate sale just three months ago after her passing. All books are available for Bakehouse artists to check out under one condition: They have to annotate them.

“Take them off the pedestal,” Lauredo said. “They are objects meant to be interacted with.”

For one of his time-lapse videos, Lauredo directed the AI to create an image that showed “knocking on the colored door of time.” The result, which he said made him weep, features a young person knocking at a door in constant flux. Intercut with Miami’s changing landscape, from saw palmetto trees to glitzy high rises, the video captures the nostalgic pain of living in the tropics, where there seems to be overwhelming amnesia and what will remain is only whatever record we are able to keep of it. During a recent durational performance, the artist lectured about Miami’s history even when there were no visitors in his studio. He said he is most intrigued by these moments of solitude, wondering out loud: “If somebody’s not around to hear the history, does it exist?”

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