Cherise Ward’s Residency – Week 1 Report

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“A Journey of the Imagination”

Before starting the residency, I attended a talk at Fresh Milk by three artists who spoke about their residency experiences. After hearing these, I was determined to start the residency (my first) with a clear mind and willingness to embrace new ideas.

Day one of the ‘My Time’ residency started with a talk with Annalee, where we discussed my intentions for how I will spend my time, and emphasised the importance of experimenting and exploring ideas over the necessity of producing finished work. I had a tour of the facilities, and then I took some time to explore the expansive grounds. Fresh Milk has a lot of space to explore: cows, chickens, the sounds of birds, breeze, plants, trees, flowers, and a swing. It was very easy to feel relaxed, and with a clear mind, I was excited to get started.

On that first day, Annalee recommended a few books for me to look through. One of them, The Art of James Christensen: A Journey of the Imagination perfectly summed up my intentions for how I will spend my time during the four weeks at Fresh Milk.

My plans for this residency included developing ideas for a story, and using this as the main inspiration for sculptural explorations. Week one of the residency was spent fleshing out the pages of the story. The idea was inspired by a fairytale I read for a class a number of years ago, called ‘The Doll in the Grass.” In this story, the doll falls into the water, and when she is brought to the surface, she has been transformed into a real girl. My story follows the adventures of this doll. Throughout her adventures, she is deep in thought. She laments about being made of wood, wanting to fall in love, wondering if she can without a real heart that beats, and finally, wishing she was a real girl. She is so caught up in her own thoughts that she does not realize that she is being followed by a real boy.  The story reflects the importance of being present in your life, as there is a lot you can miss out on when you are caught up on what was, or what you wish could be. (This story has a happy ending).

The imagery of the story is very much influenced by Fresh Milk’s surroundings. My work in general is inspired by nature, and there was so much to be inspired by. I decided to make the grounds of Fresh Milk her environment in the story. So this is where much of her journey takes place.

For the illustrations, I used acrylic ink on watercolour paper. This story, and these illustrations, will be the inspiration for the sculptures/puppets/toys I will work on/experiment with/explore in the coming weeks.

Follow Cherise on Tumblr for updates on her residency & practice.

FRESH MILK XIV: Versia Harris’ Presentation

Versia Harris giving her presentation. Photo by Dondré Trotman.

Versia Harris giving her presentation. Photo by Dondré Trotman.

Fresh Milk invites you to view this two-part video documentation of a presentation by Versia Harris, who spoke about the value of artist residencies at our public event FRESH MILK XIV, which took place March 20, 2014.

About Versia:

Versia Harris is a Barbadian artist living and working in Weston, St. James. She graduated from the Barbados Community College with a BFA in the Studio Art programme in 2012, with an award from The Leslie’s Legacy Foundation. She participated in her first local residency with Projects and Space in 2011. Within the past year she has completed four residencies, beginning with a local residency at Fresh Milk, followed by her first international residency at the Vermont Studio Center, and two regional residencies at the Instituto Buena Bista, Curacao and Alice Yard, Trinidad in late 2013. In her work, Versia tackles perceptions of fantasy in contrast to the reality of her original character. She uses Adobe Photoshop to manipulate her pen drawings to create the animations.

Take a look at the videos below:

FRESH MILK XIV: Nick Whittle’s Presentation

British-Barbadian artist Nick Whittle delivering his presentation. Photo by Dondré Trotman.

Nick Whittle giving his presentation. Photograph by Dondré Trotman.

Fresh Milk invites you to view this two-part video documentation of a presentation by Nick Whittle, who spoke about the value of artist residencies at our public event FRESH MILK XIV, which took place March 20, 2014.

About Nick:

Nick Whittle is a Barbadian/British artist. His work is that of a diarist: regardless of scale or medium his practice explores geographical and historical encounters. Through a stream of consciousness process, he reveals feelings of alienation and connectedness. Much of his work is inspired by what was once described as “an ongoing interest in the narrow strip of land between high and low water.” His practice is interdisciplinary and encompasses sculpture, poetry, video, installation, painting and printmaking. He has recently concluded a residency program at the Instituto Buena Bista in Curaçao.

Take a look at the videos below:

The Fact of Blackness – #CCF

Black Skin, White Masks by Frantz Fanon (1952). Photograph by Dondré Trotman.

Black Skin, White Masks by Frantz Fanon (1952). Photograph by Dondré Trotman.

“Who am I?/ I am a black man, of that I’m sure. / I am a black man…I’m sure. After all, the colour of my skin proves that fact. / So I am a black man, but I’m not sure of much more” states Franz Fanon, a leading black intellectual of the 20th century. What I liked about Fanon’s essay “The Fact of Blackness” was his autobiographical address of the ‘black identity issue’- a topic that is still a major refrain of popular culture.

The above excerpt is from Ronald Williams’ review of Fanon’s essay ‘The Fact of Blackness’, which is the first piece to be featured on our newly launched Fresh Milk Books Tumblr, the online space inviting interaction with our collection in the Colleen Lewis Reading Room.

For new Critical. Creative. Fresh reviews every week, look out for our #CCF Tuesdays and see the good reads we have available at Fresh Milk!

FRESH Volunteers & the launch of Fresh Milk Books

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Fresh Milk is happy to announce that we have recently taken on three volunteers – Versia Harris, Ronald Williams, and Amanda Domalene Haynes – as part of a programme we are developing to activate and cultivate interest in the Colleen Lewis Reading Room (CLRR), while giving young creatives the opportunity to gain work experience with a relevant organization, promoting critical thinking and artistic production.

One of the major projects our volunteers will be initiating is our new online space for the interactive exploration of the CLRR, Fresh Milk Books. This Tumblr site will exemplify our motto – Critical. Creative. Fresh. – and act as a hub of activity to raise awareness of our enthralling, diverse and ever expanding collection, becoming a space to have fun with the knowledge and pleasure that reading – whether literary, visual, or otherwise – can ignite.

Photograph by Dondré Trotman.

Photograph by Dondré Trotman.

In addition to re-blogging engaging content, each Tuesday one of our contributors will create a short response to a good read from the CLRR. These responses can be written, visual, audio, video – the only requirement for #CCF Tuesdays is that the text and its accompanying submission be Critical. Creative. Fresh.

The experimental approach to Fresh Milk Books reflects on another facet of the FRESH Volunteer programme; stimulating creative production. As well as the pieces generated around the material in the CLRR, we also want to give the volunteering artists and writers involved time and workspace to focus on their own arts practices in a supportive environment with their peers. We encourage Versia, Ronald and Amanda to use part of their time on the platform to transfer knowledge and skills to one another, bounce ideas, collaborate, and view this as an informal but focused chance to incorporate meaningful exchanges and working sessions alongside their volunteering duties.

About our Volunteers:

Versia Harris. Photograph by Omar Kuwas.

Photograph by Omar Kuwas.

Versia Harris

Versia Harris is a Barbadian artist living and working in Weston, St. James. She graduated from the Barbados Community College with a BFA in the Studio Art programme in 2012, with an award from The Leslie’s Legacy Foundation. She participated in her first local residency with Projects and Space in 2011. Within the past year she has completed four residencies, beginning with a local residency at Fresh Milk, followed by her first international residency at the Vermont Studio Center, and two regional residencies at the Instituto Buena Bista, Curacao and Alice Yard, Trinidad in late 2013. In her work, Versia tackles perceptions of fantasy in contrast to the reality of her original character. She uses Adobe Photoshop to manipulate her pen drawings to create the animations.

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Ronald Williams

Born in Bridgetown, Barbados in 1990, multimedia artist Ronald Williams developed an interest in art from a very young age.  His art education in the Barbados Community College’s Fine Arts program forced him to view art as a powerful cog in society. Currently, Williams’ work focuses on race and sociology, investigating how sports and the black athlete fit into popular culture. Ronald manipulates popular imagery to compose computer generated images, using digital collage to speak about a multiplicity of issues, i.e. society’s perceptions, stereotypes, fantasies and various nuances about the black athlete.

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Amanda Domalene Haynes

Amanda Domalene is a creative writer, editor and emerging e-book publisher. She graduated from the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus in 2013 with a BA in Literatures in English (First Class Hons.). Amanda has had diverse experience with publishing companies, adopting the capacities of content co-ordinator, public relations & sales executive as well as writing and editing. Her postgraduate research interests include media literacy and popular culture, especially in relation to the socioeconomic development of the Caribbean region.

FRESH MILK XIV: Mark King’s Presentation

Mark King giving his presentation. Photo by Dondré Trotman.

Mark King giving his presentation. Photo by Dondré Trotman.

Fresh Milk invites you to view this two-part video documentation of a presentation by Mark King, who spoke about the value of artist residencies at our public event FRESH MILK XIV, which took place March 20, 2014.

About Mark:

Mark King is a multidisciplinary Barbadian visual artist who explores archetypes and social norms. Interested in notions of topography and megalography, Mark makes coded, often satirical work, that highlight social phenomena. The son of a former diplomat, Mark has called several places home. Growing up in The Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, and the United States has left Mark with a unique perspective that directly influences his artistic practice.

Mark holds a Masters of Fine Arts degree in Photography from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, California. In 2011 the Lucie Foundation handpicked Mark for their apprenticeship program. During the same year he participated in a screen-printing residency at the Frans Masereel Centrum in Kasterlee, Belgium. In 2012 he took part in an artist residency at Alice Yard in Port of Spain, Trinidad. In 2013, he participated in two residencies; Fresh Milk in Saint George, Barbados, and most recently Ateliers ’89 in Aruba for the Mondriaan Foundation’s Caribbean Linked ll. Last year he released his first monograph Plastic through MOSSLESS publishing at The Newsstand in New York. Plastic has gone on to The 2013 New York Art Book Fair at MoMA PS1, The 8Ball Zine Fair, the 2013 I Never Read Art Book Fair in Basel, Switzerland, and The 2014 LA Art Book Fair in the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA.

Take a look at the videos below:

FRESH MILK XIV: Tobias Ostrander’s Presentation

Chief curator at the Pérez Art Museum Miami, Tobias Ostrander, giving his presentation. Photo by Dondré Trotman.

Chief curator at the Pérez Art Museum Miami, Tobias Ostrander, giving his presentation. Photo by Dondré Trotman.

Fresh Milk invites you to view this four part documentation of the presentation by Chief Curator at the Pérez Art Museum Miami, Tobias Ostrander, who spoke at our public event FRESH MILK XIV, which took place March 20, 2014.

Tobias addressed the new Miami museum’s design, current and upcoming exhibitions, and research and programming related to the Caribbean, including the upcoming presentation of the exhibition “Caribbean: Crossroads of the World.”

Tobias also discussed his interests in developing future collaborations with art institutions across the Caribbean region as part of his thinking on a “Strategic Regionalism” which seeks to create increased dialogue between the Southern United States, Caribbean basin and Central and South America.

Take a look at the videos below:

Profile: Fresh Milk, Barbados – by Mariam Zulfiqar

Mariam Zulfiqar interviews Fresh Milk’s founding director Annalee Davis, getting some insight on the motivation behind the organization, some of its current and upcoming activities, challenges around its sustainability and the vision for Fresh Milk’s future. Read more below:

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The Fresh Milk Studio. Photograph by Mark King.

Annalee Davis’ practice deals with a number of social issues around race, identity and migration. Her artworks have been exhibited nationally and internationally in group shows and Biennials.

The artist started Fresh Milk in 2011, the only contemporary art organisation in Barbados. The organisation offers a platform for international dialogue between artists, curators and writers working in the field of contemporary art and collaborates with organisations across the globe to provide national and international residencies for artists and curators.

Offering a Library in the form of the Colleen Lewis Reading Room, a project space for artists and curators, and a programme of screenings and talks, Fresh Milk provides a platform for critical discourse to expand and support contemporary art production in Barbados.

I spoke to Annalee Davis during my two-month curatorial residency in Barbados about Fresh Milk and the challenges faced by artists in Barbados and the wider Caribbean.

45_The Fresh Milk Studio - Photo by Annalee Davis, 2012

The Fresh Milk Studio Space. Photograph by Annalee Davis.

MZ: What made you decide to start Fresh Milk and what type of space were you hoping to create?

AD: I’ve been teaching since the early 90s at Barbados Community College (BCC), off and on, for about 10 years. When I returned to Barbados from Trinidad a few years ago I realised that the attrition rate for our students was almost 100%, meaning that within a year of graduating almost none of the graduates were making art. There were no formal spaces for artists and as a result graduates were starting to find other jobs and their practice was dwindling.  I felt that a support mechanism was needed to allow them to continue making work.  I also felt that expanding the critical arena in Barbados was important and wanted to contribute to this.

The notion of creating a nurturing space was important. Given the traumatic history of the Caribbean, it’s not a region that necessarily connotes being nurtured. So I often think of Fresh Milk as both a nurturing environment and an act of resistance.  Offering a space that is safe for people to experiment and innovate, and to gather, talk, think and make, is an act of resistance.  So that’s the impetus out of which it came.

MZ: It’s interesting that you use the word nurturing because in my discussions with artists, one of the areas we discussed is their frustration in the lack of structural support for the arts in Barbados.  Does Fresh Milk receive any support, financial or otherwise, on a Government or official level?

AD: Fresh Milk received small grants from the Maria Holder Memorial Trust, and the Art and Sport Promotion Fund which falls under the Ministry of Finance. This allowed us to hire an assistant for a couple of days a week and host four local residencies.  We are currently in conversation with the Ministry of Culture and the Art and Sport Fund to see whether we can request a yearlong subvention. We are also keen to develop relationships with the National Cultural Foundation. We have had support from the US Embassy in terms of bringing in two artists from the US in support of their residency on the platform, contributing to the expansion of the reading room, and ascribing a Dewey decimal system to the collection so it can function more professionally.  We are trying to develop partnerships across a number of different sectors to contribute to sustainability in the arts.

We’ve been able to demonstrate some measure of success by putting a real dent into that attrition rate as we work with at least 50% of recent graduates. So if the state continues its funding of the BFA programme, Fresh Milk offers the type of support necessary post graduation. In that respect it becomes a partnership where collaborators are working towards similar goals.

Photo by Dondré Trotman.

Photo by Dondré Trotman.

MZ: In terms of global partnerships with contemporary art organisations and practitioners, who are you working with?

AD: The Barbados Government hosted a symposium in April called e-Create, inviting people from the visual arts and music industries in Brazil to Barbados.  Fresh Milk presented a platform of young artists to the delegates and that started a relationship with Videobrasil, a 30-year-old institution in Sao Paulo founded by Solange Farkas. My trip to Brazil cemented a relationship with Casa Tomada, an informal network in Sao Paulo similar to Fresh Milk. We are in conversation with a curator at the Perez Art Museum in Miami  (PAMM) regarding collaborative programming.  We have been invited by an artist-run space in Glasgow, The David Dale Gallery to present a project in July 2014. Glasgow is hosting the 2014 Commonwealth Games and the Gallery has invited six informal spaces from Cyprus, Nigeria, New Zealand, India, Canada and Barbados to collaborate.

We also have a very close relationship with ARC Magazine, a significant publication showcasing the work of Caribbean practitioners in the region and the diaspora. We work together to create opportunities for creatives and generate awareness of their practice.  It’s all really happened because of the Internet! That’s how we are beginning to foster relationships with entities in the Dutch Caribbean including the IBB in Curaçao and Ateliers‘89 in Aruba.

From left to right: Alison Sealy-Smith (NCF), Katherine Kennedy (Fresh Milk), Thereza Farkas (Videobrasil), Diandra Martins (Casa Tomada), Flora Leite (Brazilian artist), Tainá Azeredo (Casa Tomada), Andrea Wells (NCF), Shanika Grimes (Barbadian artist) in Sao Paulo for the 'fresh casa' project - Photo by Simone Codrington

From left to right: Alison Sealy-Smith (NCF), Katherine Kennedy (Fresh Milk), Thereza Farkas (Videobrasil), Diandra Martins (Casa Tomada), Flora Leite (Brazilian artist), Tainá Azeredo (Casa Tomada), Andrea Wells (NCF), Shanika Grimes (Barbadian artist) in Sao Paulo for the ‘fresh casa’ project – Photo by Simone Codrington

MZ: Fresh Milk’s location on a dairy farm is quite unusual.  Can you tell me about how the space was created?

AD: It actually was my studio – I built it 7 years ago at my house located on a dairy farm dating back to the mid 1600s. I decided, stupidly, to marginalise myself outside of my own studio and use that as a space for Fresh Milk. The name obviously connects to our location on a dairy farm and the notion of Fresh Milk supporting young practitioners with fresh ideas, fresh work, fresh thinking, fresh collaborations. It is also connected to the idea of women turning their blood into milk to nurture their young. At first I felt concerned that the location was rural and not centrally located, but what I’ve since learned is when resident artists come, they exhale, absorb the environment – and feel ‘ahhh’….it’s a moment of calm. Located under a grove of mahogany trees surrounded by grass and cows, the quiet space allows focus and inspires reflection.

MZ: You also provide a reading room, named after Colleen Lewis.  Can you tell me how the reading room came around?

AD: Colleen was my best friend who succumbed to breast cancer in September of 2006.  She was a collector and an art history graduate. She had a library that she gave to me, and I wanted to keep her memory alive. She was an extraordinarily generous person, and I wanted to find a way to build on her collection and make it publicly available.  Now I want to expand, acquiring publications that are not available at BCC or the University of the West Indies.  We are filling a void by offering publications related to critical thinking and contemporary practice.

We also want a younger audience. We would like to work with art teachers at secondary schools to integrate critical discourse into their curriculum.  Students at that level have to do research papers and we want to offer our reading room and work with students and teachers, in support of their work.  We welcome workshops and events that involve sharing the books, talking about artists and inciting inspiration.

The Colleen Lewis Reading Room. Photo by Annalee Davis.

The Colleen Lewis Reading Room. Photo by Annalee Davis.

MZ: So, in a sense the reading room offers a platform for skills’ development for young people, where they see the work of emerging artists like Sheena Rose on your wall, who is now doing residencies worldwide.  So you’re trying to create that bridge between school and BFA, and BFA level onwards.

AD: Right.  And also challenge what they would normally see. Some years ago when I was teaching, my students were talking about Braque and Picasso as though this was current. The documents we select for the reading room reflect the most contemporary, cutting edge art production. Students should be exposed to current practices all over the world today, from Europe or North America, to Africa, Asia and Australia.

MZ: How big is your team?

AD: It’s very small. Katherine Kennedy is my dream assistant! We also have a board that meets periodically consisting of Ewan Atkinson, Simone Mangal, Yasmine Espert, Holly Bynoe and Natalie McGuire. We also have volunteers:  Kriston Chen, Dondré Trotman, Sammy Davis, Alicia Alleyne and Versia Harris.

MZ: What are the challenges that artists from Barbados are currently facing nationally and internationally?

AD: I think issues around sustainability. It seems as though it’s paramount in everyone’s mind. We don’t have a fully developed creative industry including formal arts institutions, museums, galleries, auction houses, biennials, prizes, fairs, collectors, curators, historians and dealers.  Artists often multi-task by writing, documenting, promoting and creating opportunities.  It’s the challenge of functioning outside of a developed creative economy.  Also, trying to create visibility around your work can be tough, which is why the Internet has changed so much for a lot of us by providing visibility.

MZ: Fresh Milk is very active online, how useful has an online presence been for you?

AD: It changed everything.  It’s made so much more possible.  My most common meetings are on Skype with people all over the world.  Fresh Milk is being approached for all kinds of projects as a result of our online presence.

Alberta Whittle, performance still from 'Hustle de Money a performance by Bertie aka Big Red aka General outta Glitter Zone', 2012. Photo by Dondré Trotman.

Alberta Whittle, performance still from ‘Hustle de Money a performance by Bertie aka Big Red aka General outta Glitter Zone’, 2012. Photo by Dondré Trotman.

MZ: Who are the artists that you have hosted at Fresh Milk?

AD: This year we had Mark King who generally works in photography but started the residency breaking out of that and doing drawings that were influenced by Origami, working with algorithms and fractals inspired by the North American ‘banking bubble’ and financial crisis. He started doing some really interesting work and experimented for the duration of the residency. We want to encourage resident artists to step outside oftheir comfort zone and not be pressured to have a final product at the end, to really challenge their practice. Prior to that we had Versia Harris, an animation artist, followed by a playwright Matthew Kupakwashe Murrell. We’ve had two Canadian artists, Conan Masterson and Marla Botterill, who worked collaboratively making puppets and video shorts.  Malaika Brooks-Smith-Lowe, a photographer and video maker from Grenada worked with local actress Varia Williams to produce an experimental four-minute video short.  Alberta Whittle was here for two months last November/December and she worked with traditional fete or party posters that you would see in the urban landscape, produced her own posters and closed with a performance work.

We have also supported off site projects including Fresh Performance with NY based Damali Abrams who has produced six videos linking Caribbean based and NY based performance artists speaking about their practices as well as Caribbean Linked II- a project in collaboration with ARC Inc., Ateleirs ’89 in Aruba which saw ten artists from the region spend two weeks in Aruba on a residency project.

MZ: How have people responded to Fresh Milk?

AD: For the first event, I imagined we would get an audience of 10 or 20 people. Over 100 people came – I didn’t know most of them. A lot of young people were interested to see what was happening. I think the time is right, there has been a lot of interest and we are being observed with great interest globally through our online presence.

Audience at Fresh Milk X - Photo by Dondré Trotman

Audience at Fresh Milk X – Photo by Dondré Trotman

MZ: How has running this organisation affected your practice?

AD: That’s funny! What practice?  I’ve done a couple of pieces in the last 2 years and I’ve just spent the last 6 weeks trying to get back into the studio.  It’s slowed down my own production, but it’s been absolutely fantastic and completely worth it. I felt really isolated and I wanted to have a more rigorous and stimulating environment to work in.

MZ: And a DIY approach has made it happen?

AD: Yeah for sure.  I think partly it’s the absolute fear of growing older and feeling that nothing is changing, so let’s do something about it!

MZ: In terms of the future, how do you see Fresh Milk developing as an organisation?

AD: What I would like to do is make myself completely irrelevant within Fresh Milk. The organisation needs a young fresh team to run it. The baton should be passed on and my hope is that Fresh Milk becomes a sustainable entity in its own right.  And then I’ll get to spend more time in my studio.

Written: August 2013

The Fresh Milk Map of Caribbean Art Spaces

* Since our conversation, Fresh Milk has launched their online interactive map which is available here.

Article commissioned by Curating Contemporary Art Department, Royal College of Art

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About Mariam Zulfiqar

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Mariam graduated from the Curating Contemporary Art Inspire MA in 2012 during which time she was based at Art on the Underground where she continues to work in a curatorial capacity. Mariam recently curated the online Kurt Schwitters inspired project, MerzBank with Steven Bode for Film and Video Umbrella and is currently on a research residency in Barbados. Her research will culminate into a forthcoming exhibition that explores the impact of plant migration on the Barbadian visual and social landscape.

FRESH MILK XIV Video

Take a look at our video from FRESH MILK XIV, which took place on March 20, 2014 at The Fresh Milk Art Platform, Barbados.

This event presented artists Nick Whittle, Mark King and Versia Harris speaking about the value of artist residencies to their practices, and a feature address by Chief Curator at the Pérez Art Museum Miami Tobias Ostrander, discussing the museum’s new design, existing programming, and interest in building a relationship with the Caribbean.

Thanks to Sammy Davis for shooting and editing this video!

A Review of FRESH MILK XIV

Art historian and writer Jessica Taylor reviews Fresh Milk’s last event, FRESH MILK XIV, which took place March 20, 2014 at The Milking Parlour Studio.

Photographs by Dondré Trotman.

Chief curator at the Pérez Art Museum Miami, Tobias Ostrander, giving his presentation. Photo by Dondré Trotman.

Chief curator at the Pérez Art Museum Miami, Tobias Ostrander, giving his presentation. Photo by Dondré Trotman.

The inaugural event held at the Fresh Milk Art Platform for the year 2014 brought together two interesting discussions concerning the production and exhibition of artworks within a global context. The first of these took up the role that artists’ residencies play as valuable sites of artistic growth and production, but also as sites that encourage cultural mobility and the negotiation of difference, where artists are able to freely adapt to new spaces and perspectives. These talks were conducted by three local artists – Mark King, Nick Whittle and Versia Harris – who have participated in multiple residencies within the region and internationally. This was followed by a presentation from the Chief Curator at the Pérez Art Museum in Miami, Tobias Ostrander, who explored the notion of a new regional museum. Reinforcing the emphasis that Fresh Milk places on the importance of cross-cultural collaboration, the speakers at FRESH MILK XIV provided audience members with an expanded view of Caribbean regionalism, intending to provoke greater consideration of the need to work across geographical boundaries in order to develop relationships with other institutions across the globe.

For Barbadian and British artist Nick Whittle, the problem with residencies is that eventually they come to an end. This notion of the artist residency as a safe space in which to experiment, explore, develop and even make mistakes resounded throughout the presentations given by the three speakers. For artists, a residency is an opportunity to produce work in a space away from their usual environment and obligations, often accompanied by other artists, and thus creates a community of reciprocity. Since there is not one specific model, residencies offer different environments and different creative frameworks.

Nick Whittle, Queen Emma Bridge, Curacao, 2013

Nick Whittle, Queen Emma Bridge, Curacao, 2013

Nick recently attended a residency at the Instituto Buena Bista (IBB) in Curaçao. The language barrier that Nick experienced inspired him to take up the issue of exclusion in his works, which acquired the form of nesting boats made from large sheets of Dutch newspaper. With the words “this is not my land, not my island” written on his back, Nick staged a live performance in Curaçao in which he sat in a long newspaper boat on a bridge, forcing viewers to consider what his presence in that context meant historically and geographically. Subsequently, Nick has produced a short film with his daughter, artist Alberta Whittle, extending these themes of exclusion and belonging, presence and absence, forced encounters and cultural dislocations.

Versia Harris, a Barbadian artist, was able to trace both the transformation of her artistic style and the development of her confidence towards her production process through her experiences at four artist residencies. Beginning at Fresh Milk, she saw this opportunity as a test run for her first international residency at the Vermont Studio Center, where her intention was to focus on printmaking because of the facilities available at the Center. By the time Versia finished her next residency at the IBB in Curaçao, her work had taken a fascinating turn, experimenting with the incorporation of photographs and live footage into her animations.

Versia Harris, Fantasy Land Seperation, 2013

Versia Harris, Fantasy Land Seperation, 2013

In Trinidad, under the guidance of Christopher Cozier, co-director of Alice Yard, Versia began to revise pervious animation projects, and through the process of re-editing was able to produce a multi-screen installation on the exterior walls of the Alice Yard building. This creation of a strong, new work from fragments of older works was an impressive manifestation of Versia’s development as an artist during her time at the four residencies, and stands as a testament to the importance of reflecting on progress over time, and anticipating what is to come from this young artist.

While Versia’s development was first and foremost aesthetic and stylistic, artist Mark King’s development was intrinsically based in the theory behind his works. Although trained in photography, Mark felt that the medium was limited in its ability to communicate the issues that he wanted to address. While attending residencies at Alice Yard, Fresh Milk and Ateliers ’89 in Aruba, Mark used the mediums of photography, drawing, installation, sculpture and collage to respond to what was happening around him. Inspired by geometric forms and the practice of origami, Mark has created a series of beautiful and complex line arrangements on paper that are the result of algorithms made from books on the 2009 economic crash, overall banking history and culture, memoirs, autobiographies, and financial industry related news articles.

Work by Mark King from the CABTW series, (2013 - ongoing) exhibited at FRESH MILK XIV. Photo by Dondré Trotman.

Work by Mark King from the CABTW series, (2013 – ongoing) exhibited at FRESH MILK XIV. Photo by Dondré Trotman.

Underlying these intricate and delicate designs is a strong criticism of the CEOs who were responsible for the financial crisis, and he recognizes an interesting connection between the uncertainty of the shape that the algorithms take when converted into the vectors that make up his work and the uncertainty of the stock market. In this series, and in his installations in Aruba, Mark has altered familiar structures in ways that enabled him to respond to social norms in coded and often satirical ways, free from the restrictions of one specific medium.

The value of attending multiple artists’ residencies as part of a larger process of artistic development comes from the global reality of our contemporary art world. Residencies, both regional and international, should be seen as part of a wider network of institutions that stands to connect artists and foster cultural exchange. This dialogue was continued by Tobias Ostrander, who spoke of his work as chief curator at the Pérez Art Museum Miami, which opened December 2013 in a new building designed by Herzog & de Mueron. Given that Miami functions as a transitory space between North, South and Central America and the Caribbean, the addition of this large-scale museum to a quickly maturing city, previously best known for the temporary art fair Art Basel, positions Miami as an interesting space in which to explore the possibility for a long-term relationship between the Pérez Art Museum and Caribbean art institutions.

FRESH MILK XIV. Photos by Dondré Trotman.

Speaking of a larger project of “strategic regionalism,” intended to increase the dialogue between these regions over time, Tobias emphasized the importance of seeing this a process of resolution, rather than a quick solution to the lack of visibility that Caribbean artists experience. Recognizing the curatorial issues inherent in exhibitions like Caribbean: Crossroads of the World, which will be shown at the Pérez Art Museum this year on a smaller scale than was shown in New York in 2012, Tobias positions this exhibition as a potential starting-point for dealing with these issues, and the first stage in a greater project of collaboration.

Underlying the discussion was a distinct frustration that ultimately exhibitions, like residencies, are temporary. The challenge that we face now is how to extend the wider horizons afforded by these events to effect meaningful change to the infrastructure within which Caribbean artists work on a daily basis.

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About Jessica Taylor:

Jessica Taylor

Jessica Taylor

Jessica Taylor recently graduated from McGill University with an undergraduate degree in Art History and Philosophy and hopes to begin a graduate degree in Curatorial Studies in 2014. Her focus is contemporary Caribbean art.