apexart has announced the four winning proposals for its Franchise Program 2015-16, which accepts ideas for group exhibitions to be presented anywhere in the world. Among this year’s winners is Mother Tongue, the curatorial duo of Tiffany Boyle & Jessica Carden, who undertook a residency at Fresh Milk in January-February 2015. The four winning proposals receive a budget and administrative support to bring their projects to life in locations outside of New York City.
Mother Tongue’s Submitted Proposal:
In July 1996, an archaeological team were called to a construction site at Pierhead docks, in Bridgetown, Barbados. Clearing the ground for the planned expansion of a shopping mall, a mass grave of human remains were uncovered. Tests concluded that the site was a burial ground for African slaves; those who had either died in the final stages of the Middle Passage, too close to shore to be thrown overboard, or those brought to Barbados for ‘seasoning’ – to be broken into the life of the plantocracy, before being moved onto other Caribbean islands. Following a deliberately short period of time for the archaeological dig, the site was covered in concrete, to be used as a car park, with no commemorations or signage to mark the importance of the area.
The hurry to cover over and conceal the site speaks of the continued dominance of the ruling classes’ economic interests over the island’s black population. As locals gathered around the archaeological dig, demands were made for libations of rum to be poured to the ghosts of the deceased and to ‘duppies,’ bad and malicious spirits. That rum was to be poured is laced with irony; since the slaves were brought across in the ships to farm the sugar from which such rum is distilled, but also because the car park is bordered by two empty customs warehouses, where rum would have previously been stored before global export.
This is not the only site of significance for the island’s slave history to be unidentified. This amnesia or selective memory is in many ways mirrored by the local art history and community; unmarked by the absence of a national art gallery and state support. Past activity, developments and successes are lost between generations, with most major Caribbean surveys taking place in the West and links between each generation broken as artists move abroad for opportunities not available on home territory. There are currently only four small and ill-equipped exhibition spaces on the island: two housed within the art college and university, the remainder commercial spaces.
The Pierhead site and old customs warehouses are today disused. This proposal is made for an exhibition and performance, to be held on the Pierhead site in 2016, the year of the fiftieth anniversary of Barbados’ independence and host nation for the second time to the Caribbean-wide annual festival, Carifesta. ‘Rum Retort’ will purposefully run parallel to these official, state-sponsored events. A large group exhibition will be housed inside one of the customs warehouses, concerned with making visible the history of Pierhead within its locality, with works from artists including Nick Whittle; Annalee Davis; Ewan Atkinson; Sheena Rose and Holly Bynoe. A patterned installation print will be commissioned from artist Mark King to be produced directly onto the concrete car park, temporarily acknowledging what lies below. For the opening and closing of the exhibition, a dance performance will be commissioned from dancer and choreographer Yanique Hume, to take place outside the warehouse, on the concrete car park surface.
Read more about the other selected projects here.
Please note: Proposals are ideas for exhibitions. No details, including artist participation, have been confirmed. The apexart Franchise Program is supported in part by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and The Foundation for Contemporary Arts.
Tiffany Boyle and Jessica Carden.
About Mother Tongue:
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.’