Fresh Milk welcomes Mother Tongue to the Platform

Fresh Milk is pleased to start the new year by welcoming Tiffany Boyle & Jessica Carden of the Mother Tongue curatorial project as our first international residents for 2015. They will be on the platform from January 26 – February 20. Read more below:

A Thousand of Him, Scattered: Relative Newcomers in Diaspora, Stills: Scotland's Centre for Photography | April - July 2014 | Yael Bartana | Richard Fung | Kiluanji Kia Henda | Bouchra Khalili | Maud Sulter | Milja Viita. Group Exhibition with accompanying events programme and publication in partnership with TrAIN: Transnational Research Centre for Art, Identity and Nation [UAL].

A Thousand of Him, Scattered: Relative Newcomers in Diaspora, Stills: Scotland’s Centre for Photography.

Mother Tongue  focuses on specific issues that are of ongoing significance for their research into northern Scandinavia and West African cultures. Although they have some knowledge of the Caribbean through the work of writers, diasporic artists and having exhibited work with connections to the region in the past, this exploratory research and writing residency with Fresh Milk will be their first visit to Barbados and the wider Caribbean.

During their stay, they will conduct a range of studio visits, archival research, meetings, interviews, etc, as initial groundwork, and as a way of grasping and getting to terms with a locale very different to their home territory of Scotland.

Previous residencies undertaken by Mother Tongue have proven to be equally intensive and productive periods of research, which have led to a number of subsequent projects. Their time at Fresh Milk will allow for the building of long term links and relationships with artists, writers, thinkers and institutions in Barbados, creating the potential for further collaborations regionally and internationally.

About Mother Tongue:

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Tiffany Boyle (left) and Jessica Carden (right)

Mother Tongue is a research-led curatorial project formed by Tiffany Boyle and Jessica Carden, in response to individual periods of investigation in northern Scandinavia and West Africa. Our practice in exhibition-making intersects with research interests – including, but not limited to – (post)colonialism, language, heritage, ethnicity, whiteness, indigenousness, migration, movement, sexuality, and technology.

Since 2009, we have produced exhibitions, film programmes, discursive events, essays and publications in partnership with organisations such as the CCA: Centre for Contemporary Art Glasgow; Stills: Scotland’s Centre for Photography; Transmission Gallery; Africa-in-Motion Film Festival; Malmö Konsthall; and Konsthall C Stockholm, and undertaken residencies with HIAP in Helsinki, the Nordic Africa Institute in Uppsala, and CreativeLab at CCA Glasgow. ­Mother Tongue participated on the 2011/12 CuratorLab programme at Konstfack, and we are currently both undertaking individual PhD’s – Tiffany at Birkbeck and Jessica at TrAIN: Research Centre for Transnational Art, Identity and Nation, University of the Arts London. In 2015, Mother Tongue will continue to collaborate with Variant magazine, Framework Scotland and the Creative Futures Institute at UWS on the ongoing discussion series, ‘Curating Europes’ Futures.’

FRESH MILK XVII Review

Kwame Slusher, writer and current team leader of Fresh Milk Books, shares a review of our final event for 2014, FRESH MILK XVII which took place on December 19. The event featured presentations by resident artists, overviews of past and upcoming projects & activities, and a potluck celebration dinner to close out our year. 

All photography by Dondré Trotman.

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…so we jewel the edges of his body

With shattered bottles, then bear him
to the foot of the casuarinas in order that his born
silhouette may freely flash and prance—

– Christian Campbell
Goodmans Bay II

The game described in Campbell’s poem, which he read at the event FRESH MILK XVII that took place on December 19, 2014, is known as Moon Shine Baby/Dolly—a traditional game played by children in the Caribbean and West Africa. One person is chosen or chooses to be the ‘baby/dolly’ and they lie down on the ground, while the other children outline the ‘baby/dolly’ with limestone and broken shards of glass. When the other children are finished, ‘baby/dolly’ gets up and their silhouette of found things would glitter in the moonlight. The game in Campbell’s poem is reminiscent of the Ancient Greek girl that wanted to preserve the memory of her lover who, after a time, had to return to his homeland. As the story goes, she made her lover stand still while she traced the outline of his shadow, then later, got her father to fill it in with clay. Inadvertently, like the game in Campbell’s poem, she not only created a space to remember someone by, but where something new can be developed.

FRESH MILK XVII was not just a space for the latest two resident artists to formally present on their work and experiences, but also an opportunity for members of the Fresh Milk platform to recount recent activities and to look to the future. In the wake of not having a National Art Gallery, Fresh Milk’s director Annalee Davis stated in her opening remarks that “…we live in an era necessarily of self-organization. Civil society must self-organize and build the spaces we want and need for ourselves.” Like the gathered bits of limestone and glass on the beach and the outline of the lost lover, Fresh Milk is  attempting to reimagine a historical space that fosters creativity.

The first presenter, Barbadian arts writer Natalie McGuire, spoke about the Transoceanic Visual Exchange, which is a project Fresh Milk is working on in conjunction with two other art communities: RM in New Zealand and Video Art Network (VAN) Lagos in Nigeria. McGuire said that the project was about upending traditional notions of geo-political space and cultural exchanges. The project is looking for submissions from filmmakers, video artists or artists that work between these spaces—those whose works don’t quite qualify to be shown in a gallery or in a cinema —to go about creating a digital sphere where these cultural exchanges can take place.

Barbadian visual artist and writer Katherine Kennedy then spoke about her experiences at Akadamie Schloss Solitude in Germany, where she had been selected to participate in the ResSupport Fellowship Programme offered by Res Artis on behalf of Fresh Milk from September 1st to December 1st. In her presentation, Kennedy looked at the different connections and encounters that she made with a diverse cross-section of people from around the world. In addition to the interconnection of ideas in a single space, she said that it was good to be able to find the familiar in an unfamiliar environment. She spoke about attending the opening of an exhibition in Memmingen, which focused on carnival, and seeing the work of Trinidadian visual artists Marlon Griffith and Barbadian visual artist Ewan Atkinson. Kennedy pointed out that what was interesting about the exhibition is while the theme was carnival, it was looking at both European and Caribbean depictions instead of just focusing on one locale.

In the second half of the evening, the two artists in residence – Toronto-Based, Bajan-Jamaican industrial designer and visual artist Kara Springer and Toronto-based, Trinidadian-Bahamian poet and cultural critic Christian Campbell – presented their work and what they had accomplished during the residency. Kara talked about her project, Repositioned Objects, which involved the building of 4x4x4ft wooden structures that create tension between the controlled and the uncontrollable. Kara, with the assistance of Christian, went around different points of the island installing the cubes and photographing them. In some cases the structures were left overnight, and in others she only had a short time to construct, photograph and break the structures back down again. What she did not expect was to not only have to deal with destructive natural elements, but also with people who went out of their way to destroy her structures. She was forced to then contend with the intersection of creation and destruction; the difficulty of trying to create order in a chaotic environment.

The final address was given by Christian Campbell, who began by speaking a little about the workshop he led titled ‘The Art of the Essay/The Essay on Art’. The workshop focused on ekphrasis, which has traditionally been a creatively written description on a visual work of art, however for the purposes of the workshop the definition was expanded to include any art form responding to another. Christian’s presentation, unlike the others, was really a series of readings. The first was Martin Carter’s Till I Collect to commemorate the 17th anniversary of Martin Carter’s death, which would have been on the second and last day of the critical writing workshops, held on December 13th. He also read Till I Collect because the last two lines of the poem, “till I collect my scattered skeleton/till I collect…” seemed to correlate with Jean Michel Basquiat’s X-Ray-like self portrait. Campbell read what he considered the ‘most important’ thing that he achieved during the residency, an essay on Jean Michel Basquiat, before adding to the selection with three poems from his own collection ‘Running the Dusk’: Goodmans Bay II, Curry Powder and Iguana. The last poem he read was one of his newer pieces, Names.

In his piece on Basquiat, Campbell read that the Haitian-American artist tried to collect everything, “…the way the Caribbean is the cross-cultural crossroads for the whole damn world”. In many ways that represents what art communities such as Fresh Milk, RM and VAN Lagos are and try to be with projects like the Transoceanic Visual Exchange; to create spaces with what is there, so that something new can develop. This makes it possible for artists like Katherine to go to places like Akadamie Schloss Solitude to work with and connect with other artists from all over the world.

After the presentations were over, and the rain that threatened to drown them had petered out, everyone gathered on the veranda to partake in the Christmas Potluck; to create a new space filled with the holiday spirit and hope for the New Year.

Kara Springer’s Residency – Final Blog Post

One of Fresh Milk’s resident artists from December, 2014, Barbadian-born, Toronto-based industrial designer and visual artist Kara Springer, shares her final blog post reflecting on her residency and the different ways reorienting herself in Barbados has forced her to consider her practice:

Slide 14 - Foul Bay

Back in cold Toronto now, it’s bittersweet to reflect on our time in Barbados.  It was both nourishing and profoundly productive to have the freedom as well as all of the constraints of our experience there.  The constraint of too little time, of learning and relearning the landscape, of moving ourselves and these project materials around, of building under the hot hot sun.  In the end it was the uncontrollable elements that became the most interesting part of the experience, and of the work itself.

Six 4 x 4 x 4 ft structures, set in the East coast seascape were violently destroyed overnight (by unknown human hands, a truck). Bound and let float in the sea, another form was taken down by the waves, the pieces violently ripped apart, scattered in the ocean, and then re-collected, reassembled again on the beach.  There was something satisfying in connecting the human destruction to that of the sea. It reminded me that we’re built this way – to both build and destroy, to come apart.  It was helpful too in offering new directions for me and for my work.

The last images are from our last night at Fresh Milk.  The structure is made from those re-collected pieces – with not quite enough time, and not quite enough materials (useless screws, too damaged to be reused), the structure couldn’t quite stand on the uneven ground of this former plantation, now dairy farm and gathering place for artists. Christian steps in so I can at least capture an image of what it might have been. And then as it caves in on itself, I find this other more interesting form, that pushes against my compulsion to be precise and orderly in my making. This residency was in many ways a collection of happy accidents – wrong turns that opened up new and unexpected paths, and constraints that pushed me to think in new ways about freedom.

FRESH MILK XVII Video

Check out our video from FRESH MILK XVII, which took place on December 19, 2014 at The Fresh Milk Art Platform, Barbados.

FRESH MILK XVII was our last public event for 2014, and featured visual artist Kara Springer and poet / critical writer Christian Campbell speaking about their residency experiences, Katherine Kennedy sharing news about her three month fellowship at Akadamie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Germany and Natalie McGuire addressing TVE – a Transoceanic Visual Exchange between Barbados, Nigeria and New Zealand.

Thanks to Sammy Davis for shooting and editing this video!

Season’s Greetings from FRESH MILK: 2014 in Review

FM christmas greeting v2 test

The FRESH MILK Team has grown in strength and numbers in 2014 – we would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank all of our contributors, volunteers, artists and many fantastic supporters for all you have so generously given this year. We are truly blessed.

We look forward to engaging with you all in the coming year, and will continue to do our best to give back to our community by creating more points of opportunity and encounter for creatives in Barbados, the Caribbean and further afield.

As ever, we give you all our deepest gratitude and warmest wishes for the season, and invite you to take a look at…

2014 in review

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Christian Campbell’s First Blog Post: Begin Again

One of Fresh Milk’s current resident artists, Toronto based, Trinidadian-Bahamian writer Christian Campbell, shares his first blog post about what he has been working on during his time in Barbados. Read more from Christian below:

It feels like either we just got here yesterday or we’ve been here for six months. But it’s neither—time is a good Anansi like that. Or maybe not Anansi, but something more sinister. A real thief of too-much, this mythical creature called “time.” Time has been the big subject of all I’ve been working on here—revising a book project, putting the finishing touches on another, working on new essays, new poems.  The pain of time, the problem of beauty, the problem of representation itself. I’m also developing a crick in my neck from listening to D’Angelo’s new genius joint—his first album in 14 years. Or maybe is just chikungunya.

In addition to being a trusty assistant for Kara’s Repositioned Objects installations, I had the pleasure of teaching two workshops at Fresh Milk on “The Art of the Essay/The Essay on Art.”  I always try to cultivate a kind of community of ideas when I teach. But this was different; we had that and something else. After all, this wasn’t a classroom—it was a dairy farm, in the open air, with life happening regardless. So whether or not the cows, roosters, key lime-coloured lizards, secretish rats, vicious mosquitoes and welcome committee of dogs were also doing the writing exercises, I can’t be too sure. But some of them were certainly participating in the discussion.

My workshoppers were very timid at first, terrified even, and then, gradually, open, courageous, brilliant and deeply honest. We were working on the “essay,” which means “to try,” but we were also working on transgression, “creolization” (of forms), translation, and, as always, freedom.  I challenged them in big ways to completely re-think “criticism” and they responded by testing their own limits, taking risks and beginning to slay the demon of doubt.  Most of them (maybe all) are millenials—anxious, lost, savvy, luminous and seriously talented. I’m very inspired by Tristan Alleyne, Khalid Batson, Kaz Fields, Versia Harris, Amanda Haynes, Katherine Kennedy, and Kwame Slusher.

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We landed in Barbados just before Independence Day and I could see my students (and myself) very clearly as the afterlives of Independence—its gains and its many, many failures. They were pretty clear about the ways they don’t fit into prevailing paradigms in “Caribbean” literature and culture. Teaching them also forced me to confront my own doubts and fears, my own need to be far more courageous. All of them are all over social media and tech-savvy. I’ve been thinking about the ways I’m a bit old-fashioned about my relationship to technology as an artist and critic.

On December 13, partly inspired by my students, I initiated what I’m tentatively calling “The Martin Carter 70 Project.” December 13 was the 17th Anniversary of the death of Martin Carter (7 June 1927-13 December 1997), one of my great, guiding spirits. I decided that, beginning with December 13, I would record a poem by Martin Carter every day for the next 70 days, one day for each year of life Carter spent on earth. Here is the first recording, “This is the Dark Time, My Love”:

I see this project as a way to honour Carter through “Shango Electric” (to reference David Rudder), new technology; to be possessed by his words; to test my endurance and commitment; to create a ritual of renewal. After my first post, I learned that I should record on garageband for better sound, then upload to soundcloud and finally upload to my Facebook page. Each recording archives my thanks to him and the ghost of his voice through mine, as well as the traces of my life at a given time—the hoarseness of my voice in the morning, the tiredness of my voice at night, the vocalizing choices I make in relation to the text, the sounds of the world all around me. My poem-choices spring from a range of urges, sometimes to comment anew on the events of the globe and sometimes to comment on my interior.

Gratitude to D’Angelo, my students and Martin Carter for reminding me that you can always begin again.

‘At the Side of Something’ at River Bay

'At the Side of Something' by Versia Harris

Fresh Milk  and Adopt A Stop continue the Fresh Stops collaborative project this month with Versia Harris‘ piece titled ‘At the Side of Something‘. In an attempt to bring art into the public space, six artists were commissioned to produce original artwork for benches that will appear at varied locations around the island. ‘At the Side of Something‘ by Versia Harris has been installed at River Bay St. Lucy. Thank you to Adopt A Stop for partnering with us to produce this beautiful bench!

The other participating artists  include Evan AveryMatthew ClarkeMark King,  Simone Padmore and Ronald Williams. This project creates visibility for the work of emerging creatives, allowing the public to encounter and interact with their pieces in everyday life, generating interest and inviting dialogue  about their practices.

At the Side of Something

 ‘At the Side of Something’ attempts to embody a moment of solitude; a figure stands alone and somewhat out of place in a large forested area with only his reflection for company. It aims to capture the feeling of being alone while surrounded by so much.

Versia Harris. Photograph by Omar Kuwas.

Versia Harris. Photograph by Omar Kuwas.

Artist Versia Harris lives and works in the country of her birth, Barbados. She received her BFA in Studio Art in 2012 and was awarded The Lesley’s Legacy Foundation Award, an annual prize given to the top graduate. She participated in her first residency with Projects and Space in 2011 and has since completed a residency with another  local organization called Fresh Milk, followed by a residency at the Vermont Studio Center, and residencies at the Instituto Buena Bista, Curacao and Alice Yard, Trinidad in late 2013. In 2014, Versia’s work was featured in the IV Moscow International Biennial for Young Art themed ‘A Time for Dreams’. She was also apart of the follow up exhibition ‘MOMENTUM_InsideOut screening of ‘A Time For Dreams’, Berlin. Her animation ‘They Say You Can Dream a Thing More Than Once’ was awarded ‘Best New Media Film’ at the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival, 2014. Versia tackles perceptions of fantasy in contrast to the reality of her invented characters.

About Adopt A Stop:

The Adopt A Stop project provides socially beneficial advertising in the form of bus shelters, benches and outdoor fitness stations at prime sites around Barbados. They embrace solar lighting, local materials and tropical design in keeping with their goal of environmental sustainability.

The Caribbean Digital: Fresh Art/Spaces

If you missed Fresh Milk‘s contribution to The Caribbean Digital conference, a Small Axe event that took place on December 4-5, 2014, you can watch the presentation archived online at Livestream.com, and read the transcription of the paper ‘Fresh Art/Spaces’ presented by Annalee Davis, Amanda Haynes and Yasmine Espert here:

Click here to watch the archived video presentation

Click here to watch the archived video presentation of Fresh Art/Spaces

Fresh Milk is an artist-led initiative based in Barbados that operates locally, regionally and internationally. It uses a model of social practice to engage with artists collectively, stimulating and fostering individual aesthetic practices, critical thinking and community bonding. When we speak about social practice we refer to the social engagement between people as an art in and of itself. In the spirit of social practice, Fresh Milk hosts “IRL/in real life” events at our working studio, and maintains a digital presence on WordPress, Tumblr, Twitter, Skype and Facebook.

We’ve built digital platforms to meet specific, immediate, and ongoing needs.

Fresh Milk’s most visible project to date is our freely accessible, interactive online map delineating the Caribbean’s brick-and-mortar art spaces from the nineteenth century till now. When sharing the updated map in April, the post reached 10,940 people on Facebook in 24 hours, and was reshared on Facebook by others from our website 684 times. This map is a work in progress and addresses the lack of available information about Barbadian and Caribbean arts at the formal, informal and educational levels. The map is not only a pivotal information hub and educational tool, but a place to witness Edouard Glissant’s poetics of relation manifest across linguistic spaces and epistemic virtues. Fresh Milk sees this as a collectively owned resource where we all become responsible in keeping it current. Suggestions for additions of new and emerging spaces are accepted through our multiple social media outlets. The map reinforces that the art world we see and experience in the Caribbean is a polyphonic arena with multiple centres, undoing the hegemonic discourse that places major metropolitan centers in the north at the pinnacle of artistic production.

Fresh Milk operates out of a dairy farm on the site of a former plantation. I am inspired by the scientific process of phytoremediation which refers to the capacity of some plants’ root systems to absorb toxins from a polluted field and restore harmony to the soil. Similarly, through programming and building relationships, Fresh Milk works to alter the very chemistry of our own soil stained by the traumatic legacy of our colonial history. Located on a former plantation that was once closed, Fresh Milk is now open, a site that was once exclusive is now inclusive, and what was a place of trauma is moving toward a place of nurturing.

walkers dairy

Although we work to shift the ground we  operate on, we are aware that the history of Walkers Dairy as a former sugarcane plantation where Fresh Milk is based continues to influence the ways in which some interact with or understand our social practice. Matters of privilege inherent to the plantation economy in some ways reflect our concerns about in/accessibility in the digital realm. For example, who regulates the internet and its protocols? How can non-profit organizations like Fresh Milk use digital platforms to meet the needs of artists in the Caribbean/diaspora?

As we draw lines from one human being to another in real life and on line, Fresh Milk’s programming reinforces Glissant’s poetics of relations, becoming sensitive to and sometimes unlearning the linguistic, racial, classed, and gendered boundaries that have historically separated us. A counterpoint to the master narrative, the network weaves new affinities, confirming multiple states of emergence while employing infinite possibilities of connection even from within the plantation as a network in a continual state of emergence.

While operating out of a very small island has its limitations, the digital platform has become a catalyst, allowing us to participate in communities beyond the limitations of our physical space. Access to the Internet as a creative commons space is opening fields of possibilities which elicit serendipitous encounters continually transforming into tangible relationships and projects.

Amanda Haynes is joining me today to speak about the Colleen Lewis Reading Room and her role in the birth of Fresh Milk Books. We are not unaware of the history of plantations outfitted with bars serving rum rather than outfitting libraries providing books. And although I am sure your NY audience might appreciate some good Bajan rum to warm yourselves with this evening, I’d like to hand over to Amanda who will speak with you all, not about rum, but about the ‘spirit’ of reading.

Fresh Milk Books came into existence to activate the Colleen Lewis Reading Room set up to keep the memory of the art historian, Colleen Lewis, alive. The reading room is free and open to the public.

In an age where most of our ideas about the world are shaped by the media we consume, our ability to read images and decode the ideas they represent is vital. Though the dominant collective of our mediated online and offline communications is the marketplace, and ideas transmitted through them, FMBs similarly demonstrates the creative potential allowed by virtual geographies. As an expanded critical space, Fresh Milk Books is reimagining who and what we consider art/spaces/identity to be.

Since the soft launch of the Fresh Milk Books experiment in May 2014, Glissant’s rhizome has been flickering through the ‘tags’ and ‘likes’ of its Tumblr and Facebook. The digital nature of Fresh Milk Books is very much like our Caribbean; a space of relations, diversity, linkages and cross-fertilisation. Our review series #CCF Weekly encourages short, collaborative, multi-media responses to diverse texts in Fresh Milk’s on-site reading room. This initiative propels literacy beyond its linguistic application, to an awareness of the trans-media literacy that digital spaces demand. The connections this online initiative has unveiled in its seven months of existence is proving that the geography of online spaces has radical potential to foster a community of spirit—and a tangible Diaspora. The less optimistic realities of this digital geographic arena will be discussed later in this paper.

Fresh Milk Books

While visitors to the FMBs site are from every age group, the target audience is in the 18-24 age range. CCF Review contributors have included recent literature and arts students, educators and publishers. We’ve even received publications from a wide variety of international donors. Most recently, we received a journal from a Mexican poet and editor living and working in Palestine. He heard about FMBs through the Cyprus Dossier and sent a copy of his London-published journal, Dolce Stil Criollo to us.

The success of this on-going experiment that is FMBs is best seen in the steady, diverse and always personal nature of book donations we have received since the initiative was officially launched in May 2014. The response to our email circulated Summer Wish list, which focused on growing our Caribbean History/Theory collection, allowed us to secure over 80% of the texts requested.

We are mapping connections with anyone who ‘identifies’ with the cause–FMB’s identifiers include ‘#creative’, ‘#Caribbean’, ‘#reader’, ‘#human’, subverting polemic notions of identities circulated by popular media. We are living connections. Like any other social network, FMBs activities are driven, mapped and remembered by the Big Data of the internet. The notion of apparent agency afforded by digital publishing raises critical questions about the intangible economics of e-governance, regulation and digital cultural production.

Yet, the internet’s existence as a tangible, global and personal space presents radical potential to connect and engage ‘Caribbeans’ – wherever we are, whoever we are- and wider audiences. It is also vital to note that the digital is just a tool.Through the digital space of FMBs we are channeling our social connections and relationships into socially productive, communal activities within the ‘real’/physical world. This complimentary use of ‘borderless’ digital space and ‘on-the-ground’ work symbolises how we should be thinking about sustainable development today. Increasingly, millennials are identifying more as digital citizens first, and citizens of a nation second. The digital is no longer just a convenient method of mapping, anticipating and participating in social change, it is a necessary one.

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Fresh Milk works with partners to create exhibiting, professional development and residency opportunities for artists to show their work to wider audiences, increasing their visibility and allowing them to make valuable connections, enriching their practices and continually expanding the local space. We have had residency applications from places that we can only reach through the internet – Russia, Poland, Afghanistan. At this time, I’d like to share examples of three digitally born projects- one local, one regional and one international.

Fresh Stops is a collaborative partnership with the local initiative Adopt A Stop, a Barbadian company that builds benches for bus stops and bus shelters, to bring art into the public space. The collaboration began in an informal chat on Facebook between me and Barney Gibbs, the owner of Adopt A Stop. We have commissioned six young Barbadian artists to produce original artwork for benches which have been popping up around the island from October.

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An example of a regional project born online is the Caribbean Linked Artist Residency Program – it is a crucial space for building awareness across disparate creative communities of the Caribbean by finding ways to connect young and emerging artists with each other in Aruba.

This residency exposes Dutch Antillean, Anglophone, Francophone and Hispanic artists to each other through the residency programme and is a collaboration between Ateliers ‘89, ARC magazine and Fresh Milk, currently funded by Stitching DOEN and the Mondriaan Fund.

Fresh Milk participated in an international digitally born project during the summer of 2014 called International Artist Initiated (IAI) coordinated by the Glasgow based artist led network – the David Dale Gallery and Studios. The project coincided with the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. David Dale learned of Fresh Milk through their online research. The project acted as a catalyst for discussion and collaboration between six Commonwealth based artist initiated projects including Fillip from Canada, Cyprus Dossier from Cyprus, Clark House Initiative from India, RM from New Zealand and Video Art Network Lagos from Nigeria.

The IAI project has since led to a co-curated artistic exchange currently in development between three of the spaces – Fresh Milk, RM and Video Network Lagos. Transoceanic Visual Exchange or TVE will select video shorts and feature films for an online exhibition of works from the Caribbean, Polynesia and Africa. As a web-based project, it stretches beyond fixed geo-political frameworks, allowing non-traditional relationships to mature, in this case between Barbados, New Zealand and Nigeria.

TVE flyer Final

While proud of our accomplishments and aware of the potent possibilities provided by the digital archipelagos, we are somewhat cynical of the notion of a pure emancipatory digital infrastructure. We must remain cognisant of the need to protect our material, ideas and futures as collectives of artists. Part of our social practice means being responsible about and open to discussing some of the darker realities associated with trusting and functioning in the online space.

While motivated by the digital iteration of Glissant’s poetics of relations and sprawling rhizomatics floating in the air, we consider what it means to have complete faith in something we cannot see or fully understand. The active participants maintaining FM’s online platforms are trying to understand what makes this whole thing work – it’s an ongoing learning process and there is so much that we are not aware of.

On one hand, corporations “allow” us to create projects and communicate fluidly while on the other, companies are not always fully transparent with their users. Governance of the internet is a new and evolving political issue. It is important for us to be aware of the back end so that the potential we so readily embrace and rely on, on a daily basis, does not become a replica of the way some physical spaces and tangible assets have become inaccessible.

CONCLUSION

We close with some questions to be considered:

How do we define an online commons and what is at stake for the individual in the common virtual space?

What entities fund the sites we use on a daily basis and rely on, and what are the ethical implications of these partnerships that may be invisible to us users?

Why is it so important to think in the collective zone instead of the individual?

Why is the digital platform so important to the younger artists and to artistic practice in the Caribbean?

While we continue to make Glissant inspired connections through online platforms, we need to remember that it is our work as creatives that drive some of these engines and be aware of the economics and social engineering behind the engines.

We are witnessing a collective engagement among a community of artists advancing against the failure of national projects like the brick-and-mortar national gallery, which has not yet manifested in Barbados to serve a younger generation of artists.

The internet, as a proactive space, allows us a different perspective on our own cultural environment. Traveling to the moon allowed human beings access to the first image of the pale blue planet seen from afar, spawning the birth of our environmental movement. Similarly, the internet allows us different perspectives on the world in which we live and work. It facilitates increasingly daring digitally born cultural projects that foster human connection, thereby altering the very chemistry of our own soil, bit by bit.

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WINDOW HORSES: Interview with Ann Marie Fleming and Sandra Oh

While in residence as a ResSupport Fellow at Akademie Schloss Solitude, Katherine Kennedy interviewed former fellow of the Akademie, Ann Marie Fleming, and actress Sandra Oh about their upcoming feature length animation WINDOW HORSES. Created by Fleming and starring/co-produced by Oh, the story follows Rosie Ming – a Canadian poet of Chinese and Persian heritage – as she journeys to Iran to take part in a poetry festival. This culturally rich film celebrates the beauty of diversity, and how it can be used to bring people together and affirm communities that are often under-represented.

WINDOW HORSES is seeking support through an Indiegogo campaign, which runs until December 20, 2014. Click here to donate to this worthwhile project.

Katherine Kennedy: WINDOW HORSES was originally conceptualized during your fellowship at Akademie Schloss Solitude. What did this residency do for your creative process, and how did your stay inspire the story?

Ann Marie Fleming: When I was in Solitude, it was a difficult time for me. I felt very isolated. I was one of the only residents not to be living in Europe, and would find myself alone for days at a time in the winter. I was there as a filmmaker, but I was in the writer’s wing – I met an exiled poet from China, a film festival director who had parents from different countries that both spoke different languages, another poet who would only speak his own language; and here I was, trying desperately to learn German. I truly understood how much language is culture. It was also in Germany that I was introduced to the poetry of Rumi through adaptations by the American poet Coleman Barks.

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As an immigrant to Canada, I had always felt like an outsider, but when I lived in Germany, I felt truly Canadian for the first time. Suffice to say, why people leave and why people come was heavy on my mind. [The founding director of Akademie Schloss Solitude] Herr Joly, himself, spoke of the Jewish diaspora in Germany growing, especially through the arrival of Russian, Ukrainian or Belorussian Jews. Around the time of my fellowship, there was also discussion surrounding the returning of the German Jewish diaspora. This idea of belonging had an impact on me, and I actually base a character in WINDOW HORSES on Herr Joly.

I have been working with these same themes for almost two decades since then. I did two installations in Solitude about the unspoken stories of women, particularly mixed race immigrants, and about the metaphysics of Sufi poetry juxataposed against the rituals of womanhood: woman as daughter, lover, bride, wife, ex-wife and mother. That being said, the original script forWINDOW HORSES was conceived as a live action film: a father-son relationship(!) about the German diaspora, particularly to North America after the Second World War, and the alienation of families.

I wrote the song WINDOW HORSES while at Solitude – it is in the book I also wrote during my fellowship, Breathless: the book of Anne, which is about my oldest friend who had killed herself. I performed it with my guitar out by the horses one magical candlelit night. I wish I had a picture. I spent a lot of time looking out the window at those horses. Literally.

K.K.: In addition to the intersection of cultures, Solitude can foster openness to collaboration and working with kindred spirits, even beyond the fellowship period. Can you and Sandra please tell me how you came to work together, and for Sandra, what about this particular project struck a chord with you?

A.M.F.: I first met Sandra back in the early/mid 90’s, when we were supposed to make a feature film together, Dog Days, which was a kind of ghost story about a Chinese immigrant family in the wilds of British Columbia… coincidentally, with a missing father and a dead mother. That project fell through, and I was invited to attend Akademie Schloss Solitude. It’s what I did instead of the feature, I guess. Sandra and I kept in contact over the years, but she went on to a very successful and busy career in the U.S. and, after many years of development, I reached out recently to see if she was available and interested in playing the role of Rosie Ming, and she said yes. More than that, she loved the project and wanted to come on board as a producer.

Sandra Oh: There are several reasons why I fell in love with this project – firstly, I’ve known Ann Marie for years now, and we’ve been trying to work together off and on for all that time. I love [Ann Marie’s avatar] Stickgirl and all she represents, and to voice her in such a heartfelt and deep emotional story was something I knew I had to do. WINDOW HORSES hits all the things that are important to me – it’s pro girl, pro tolerance, pro diversity and PRO ART!

K.K.: The style and animation that we have seen so far is fantastic, and I think Stickgirl is perfectly positioned as the leading lady because she has the ability to be autobiographical yet universal through her simplicity and charm. Tell me more about how Ann Marie, Sandra and Stickgirl as creator, actress and avatar will bring the film’s protagonist Rosie Ming to life.

A.M.F.: It’s a big step for me. Stickgirl (who plays Rosie Ming) has been my avatar since the 80’s and she has always had my voice. So giving her to Sandra to play is an act of trust and respect. It’s like a Bunraku, really, there are three people bringing Rosie Ming to life… me, through my words and original character, Kevin Langdale through his drawings, and Sandra Oh through her voice.

K.K.: Something else I find compelling and relatable about WINDOW HORSES is that the narrative transcends specific cultures. For example, I don’t have personal ties to China, Canada or Iran, but as a multi-racial woman from the Caribbean – an intrinsically hybrid and culturally complex region – the protagonist Rosie Ming’s journey of discovery, exchange and understanding still resounds with me. Can you both share your thoughts about the cathartic effect a film like this could have across the world’s many cultures and diasporas?

A.M.F.: Omigod, Katherine. This is exactly what you are supposed to take from the story. In its specificity is its universality. This is a story that takes place in Iran, and is steeped in that culture, but is about everybody’s stories.

S.O.: My nieces are mixed race, and it’s very important to me that they see themselves represented in this society. It cannot be understated how important it is for people who do not see themselves reflected, either at all or negatively on a regular basis, to know that there is a place for them to exist, truthfully and in a whole, complex way.

A.M.F.: WINDOW HORSES speaks from the place of all people: immigrants, people who are of mixed heritage, people who know nothing about their culture, people who have never left their village and are deeply embedded in their histories. It’s about what we share, and how important it IS to share. It’s about listening to each other’s stories. In WINDOW HORSES, it is poetry that bridges those gaps between generations and cultures. It is the same moon in the Tang Dynasty poem Quiet Night Thought by Li Bai that we see when we look up at the sky and miss our own home.

K.K.: “Distances and differences keep us apart, and we forget to remind each other of our own stories.”

This is a line from the beautiful graphic memoir The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam, an epic, cross-cultural tale you unearthed about your great-grandfather. This statement stood out to me in relation to WINDOW HORSES because of the emphasis on hearing the stories of others, and using memories and experiences as cultural unifiers rather than dividers. The Indiegogo campaign offers forums for us to share our stories, poetry and music, creating a sense of community among those invested in the project. How has the public reaction been to this participatory approach?

A.M.F.: The most amazing thing about the Indiegogo campaign has been the response we have received from the public… all over the world. They say exactly what you say…that the story IS them, or the story TOUCHES them. And there have been people who just want to support us, who have been doing outreach in their communities, trying to spread the word, looking forward to the film. It’s amazing. Of course, we still are trying to raise more money, that’s the goal, but we’ve been rewarded in so many ways. There is another line fromThe Magical Life of Long Tack Sam which is continued in WINDOW HORSES: “history is relatives.” You know that it’s true.

Support the WINDOW HORSES campaign on Indiegogo here. Read the original post on the Akademie Schloss Solitude Blog.

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Fresh Stops: Versia Harris Up Next!

Versia Harris Up Next

Fresh Milk  and Adopt A Stop continue the Fresh Stops collaborative project this month with Versia Harris‘ piece titled ‘At the Side of Something‘. In an attempt to bring art into the public space, six artists were commissioned to produce original artwork for benches that will appear at varied locations around the island.  ‘At the Side of Something‘ by Versia Harris will soon be revealed at a location near you.

The other participating artists include Evan Avery, Matthew Clarke, Mark  King,  Simone Padmore and Ronald Williams. This project creates visibility for the work of emerging creatives, allowing the public to encounter and interact with their pieces in everyday life, generating interest and inviting dialogue  about their practices.

At the Side of Something.

 ‘At the Side of Something’ attempts to embody a moment of solitude; a figure stands alone and somewhat out of place in a large forested area with only his reflection for company. It aims to capture the feeling of being alone while surrounded by so much.

Versia Harris

Photograph by Omar Kuwas

Photograph by Omar Kuwas

Artist Versia Harris lives and works in the country of her birth, Barbados. She received her BFA in Studio Art in 2012 and was awarded The Lesley’s Legacy Foundation Award, an annual prize given to the top graduate. She participated in her first residency with Projects and Space in 2011 and has since completed a residency with another  local organization called Fresh Milk, followed by a residency at the Vermont Studio Center, and residencies at the Instituto Buena Bista, Curacao and Alice Yard, Trinidad in late 2013. In 2014, Versia’s work was featured in the IV Moscow International Biennial for Young Art themed ‘A Time for Dreams’. She was also apart of the follow up exhibition ‘MOMENTUM_InsideOut screening of ‘A Time For Dreams’, Berlin. Her animation ‘They Say You Can Dream a Thing More Than Once’ was awarded ‘Best New Media Film’ at the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival, 2014. Versia tackles perceptions of fantasy in contrast to the reality of her invented characters.

About Adopt A Stop:

The Adopt A Stop project provides socially beneficial advertising in the form of bus shelters, benches and outdoor fitness stations at prime sites around Barbados. They embrace solar lighting, local materials and tropical design in keeping with their goal of environmental sustainability.