FRESH MILK XXII Photographs

Fresh Milk is pleased to share images from FRESH MILK XXII: Residency Readings, hosted on Friday, July 5th, 2019.

Writers-in-residence – inaugural recipient of the Colleen Lewis Research/Writing Residency, Barbadian artist Kia Redman; participant in our international residency programme, Bahamian writer Ethan Knowles; and the 2019 ‘My Time’ Local Resident, Barbadian writer Ark Ramsay – each shared the outcomes of their residencies, giving readings of their work and engaging with the audience about their experiences over the last few weeks.

All photos by Dondré Trotman.

Ark Ramsay’s Fresh Milk Residency – Week 4 Blog Post

Ark Ramsay shares a blog post about their fourth and final week as writer-in-residence at Fresh Milk.  With the official residency coming to an end, the question that is asked both internally and externally looms: what is the value of this experience? Ark thinks about the tangible and intangible responses to this question, recognising that residencies are in many ways immeasurable. They allow for the sowing of seeds that bear fruit in multiple, sometimes unforseeable ways over prolonged periods of time, and give creators the too-often denied permission to deeply and unapologetically invest in their practice. Read more below:

Photo by Dondré Trotman

I am terrible at goodbyes.

I preempt the pain of separation by inducing small shocks–inoculating myself against the final disruption–so that what arrives is already marrow-sucked.

I grow nostalgic for things that have not yet ended. It’s a feeling similar to déjà vu, in that I become a passenger in my body–aware of the artifice–trying to hold onto things–knowing them to be transient. I think, I will miss this; outcome being, I do miss this.

I have never walked on stilts, but my mind is well-trained at balancing conflicting mechanisms. It tight-ropes between trying to soften the now, and trying to seal it off in amber.

This was my last week here at Fresh Milk. I did not want it to be subsumed by my familiar patterns.

I slowed down at this farm.

I spent hours sitting amongst the quiet caucus of trees that I had no formal names for.

I contemplated, watched myself in my contemplation, and eventually (growing tired of the intruding me) learned to trust in silence again. There is a deep and penetrating silence (even with the lowing of cows, and the sometimes-intrusion of mahogany pods on a corrugated iron roof) which I had missed entirely while living in Shanghai. It is the kind of silence that May Sarton claims (writing in “Journal of a Solitude”), will force one to confront the starved face at the window–starved cat, starved person–simply put: in the silence are the questions you are running from.

I wanted so badly to push forward this week. To write ceaselessly. To unearth new. To shore up old. But there was a raggedness–the bucket of myself was overflowing with Bathsheba swampies–toppling each other in their quest to be rid of me. Uninspired, tired, I wrote. I wrote what was functional and necessary. I wrote because the ‘job’ of writing must persist even if the muses are late–or never arrive at all. Because you have to go through many roughnesses to reach the roughness that matters–the thousand words that delivers up one usable paragraph. Writing too carefully, I have learnt (am learning), feeds only the overbearing perfectionist–not the nascent manuscript.

And when that was done I retreated fully to silence. I stayed at the farm until the sun set, and the unresolved work of cows was put to bed. I stayed until the St. George noise had backgrounded to a hum, and even the mahogany pods were reticent to fall. I stayed until I could not even remember what it was like to sit in my apartment in Shanghai and hear the forever-din of city life. This resolved the raggedness.

Another form of quiet came to us this week in little Roo. A three-legged rescue puppy with a penchant for nuzzling into the softest parts of someone, and sleeping.

He took up the entire day–not in his need for me–but in my curative need for him. I was reminded of a Joy Williams quote, from one of her strange short stories, “Shepherd”: many things that human words have harmed are restored again by the silence of animals.

That ‘harm’ is always soiled up in our attempts to collate worth, value, the immediate return on investment of all things. For a writer this equates to: page count, characters built, scenarios polished, contacts made, submissions finalized.

What is the payout on a month in the bush?

Why should an organization be structured to support (what sometimes looks), like an artist’s retreat (read: vacation)?

What. Is. The. Value.

I can only recount my own process. What I, in my ruminations, consider to be returns.

What a residency does (I have found out), is provide this buffer against the anxiety of production. It cuts into the noise of ‘value’, and demands that one return to the font of all things–tend the garden–not force (an unforcible) germination process. I have a friend who talks about her work by saying: it’s still cooking. And I imagine a fragrant Caribbean one-pot, full of plantains, beans and everything else in the fridge–but it’s not ready. It needs time. The insights into my work, discovered here, may take two years to prove themselves useful. A story I began writing when I was nineteen needed the addition of the Bardo Thodol (Tibetan Book of the Dead) to reach full coherency–something I only came to see when I was listening to an audio version of that text at four a.m. in Shanghai. What is given now cannot always be used now. But all things are banked, and returned to.

Without time, nothing is given.

Without a buffer against the anxiety of production. The treadmill of value. Nothing valuable is made.

At the risk of overpowering this blog post with quotations, indulge me one last time:

Yet, how do you relax without the safety net of organizations and people who understand that the process of art runs contra to the process of production (as in product; as in consumer)?

What I want to do in these final days is be an active participant in the unfolding. I do not want to sorrow an ending that has not yet ended (though this is inevitable for me). I do not want to contest the value of a thing that I know to have imbued my work with indelible value. I want simply to be here. In the silence. In the nurturing.

The thing about this writing life that I am coming to understand, is that what it takes from you–it also rewards you with.

In time.

Thank you, and goodnight

Ethan Knowles’ Fresh Milk Residency – Week 4 Blog Post

Bahamian writer Ethan Knowles shares his final blog post about his Fresh Milk residency. Written a week after his return to the Bahamas, Ethan looks back on his month in Barbados, particularly the building crescendo of his last few days which culminated in the event FRESH MILK XXII: Residency Readings on his last night. A visit to the East Coast was the catalyst he needed to solidify his ideas for the short story he presented at the event, adding a twist to the interpretations and expectations of the frequently asked, loaded question islanders get – what is it like to live here? Read more below:

East Coast antics

It’s been a week since I left Barbados. Since I’ve sat under a zinc roof, surrounded by good souls and the slow billowing serenade of idle cows.  It’s been a week since four weeks of reading, writing and fish cake crawling. It’s been a week, and what a few weeks it’s been.

Week four came right after the Barbados Pride parade, an endlessly inspiring event that brought water to my eyes and liquified my thighs. I walked and wined and smiled and sung and all the while felt welcomed in space I had only known a few weeks. What struck me especially about the parade (my first of the kind) was, frankly, how well it all worked out. It brought together people from separate walks on the same walk: a walk through Bridgetown meant to bring together what, for so long in our region, has not been allowed to be.

Love in all its forms filtered through the streets of Barbados and for making it happen leading organizer RoAnn Mohammed of Equals Barbados must be applauded.

In the days that followed, the whole cohort got to work preparing for FRESH MILK XXII: Residency Readings. Kia, Ark and I gathered our wits and began crafting a range of stories to read and perform on what would be my last night on the island. All the while I began to wonder. Who would my story follow? What would happen? And how would it all intersect with my month of study? These questions hovered around my head like hummingbirds as I went through the week in search of the right words and who would say them.

In the meantime, the whole Fresh Milk team had the opportunity to tour the wonderful work-in-progress multi-use creative ecosystem that is Union Collaborative, an ongoing project spearheaded by designer Israel Mapp. The soon-to-be urban hub for arts and design sat two stories high on a city block in Bridgetown, and hidden away at its core was a beautiful sunbaked courtyard. After moving around its eccentric rooms, we made our way over to Norman Centre to chat with Kraig Yearwood about his forthcoming exhibition “Retro-Future Landscapes” and eventually share a vegan meal with a side of mafia stories.

East Coast antics

Later in the week I took a trip to the east coast.

It felt like the edge of the world. Long sweeping breaks of surf faded away at the foot of steep slopes and a haze like held breath hung around the edges. It was mythic, haunting even.

It was just what I needed.

And with that I began to write My First Vacation, a story which draws from Isaac Babel’s My First Fee but reads unmistakably Caribbean. It deals with topics of class, grief and space on a small island. There are more than a few touches of humor written into it, but they slip and slide between deeply somber and even morbid moments. In writing it I was thinking a lot about the question of “What’s it like to live here?”– a question I get fairly often at home in New Providence. What is it like to live on a small island? Does the here of the visitor translate to the here of the local? And, if there is a disconnect, who is allowed to cross that divide? Is the question a rhetorical one? Does it beg for an answer, or require a confirmation? What might it miss?

Writing the story was for me an attempt to think through, if not answer, these questions. I feel we tend to believe that you think and then you write. That you have this thing you want to express and that all you need to do is find the words that fit. For me, it was quite a different experience altogether. I didn’t know what I thought. I had no answers. But I did want to make my way toward finding them, to stumble upon something. And so, I set about writing. And that’s how I found my way.

Many thanks to Annalee, Katherine, Ark, and Kia for all the love and support they’ve shown me since I arrived at Grantley Adams International Airport.

Fresh Milk Family. Photo by Dondré Trotman

#ask TVE 2019 – Community Feedback

As part of Transoceanic Visual Exchange‘s (TVE) community led curatorial approach to the selection of works that will be screened as part of our 2019 programme, we invite input from those living in the Caribbean and its diaspora to share their thoughts on what is happening right now in the areas of video art and film in their region.

#askTVE lets you submit your feedback directly to our team, which will add to the discourse in our community roundtable sessions and be taken into consideration when forming the final shape of the programme.

Respond to the form here!

About TVE 2019:

The Fresh Milk Art Platform (Barbados), China Residencies (NY and China), The Barbados Museum and Historical Society, I: project space (Beijing) and Alice Yard (Trinidad & Tobago) are partnering to screen a survey of of recent film and video works – screenings, installations, new media and expanded cinema – by contemporary artists practicing in the Caribbean, China and their diasporas for the third edition of Transoceanic Visual Exchange (TVE), a series of programmes taking place this year between Barbados, China and Trinidad & Tobago.

Fresh Milk announces participation in the international programme ‘CONTESTED DESIRES’

Fresh Milk is delighted to be a part of the team of cultural entities headed by D6: Culture in Transit whose collaborative project “CONTESTED DESIRES” was awarded funding by Creative Europe. We are the only Caribbean cultural organisation on the team, and we very much look forward to working with our EU partners between now and 2021 as the project unfolds.

See the original press release on the D6 website here.

CONTESTED DESIRES

D6based in Newcastle upon Tyne, has been awarded €199,937 to promote creative international connections and development opportunities between our region, the rest of Europe and beyond.

D6 is one of only a handful of UK organisations leading these international cultural projects, and the only one to be selected in the North East of England. CONTESTED DESIRES will include partners in Italy (ECCOM), Spain (La Bonne), Cyprus (Xarkis), Portugal (Lac) and Barbados (Fresh Milk). Through contemporary visual arts it explores our colonial histories and the impact this has had on our understanding of European cultural heritage and identity. At a time of increasing right wing populism, CONTESTED DESIRES aims to challenge the de-stabilising and divisive impact of political discourse where the complexities, diversity and expansion of our communities continue to be met with the power play of fear-mongering, discrimination and exclusion.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

CONTESTED DESIRES will work with artists and producers to engage with communities both in the North East and further a field to create spaces for intercultural dialogue. The programme will begin in September 2019 and over the next two years will offer unique opportunities for artists and communities, further enriching the cultural scene and supporting creatives to grow their experience and knowledge of the wider international arts sector. The programme will include artist residences, capacity building, exhibitions, public events and new digital work.

This is not the first time that D6 has attracted Creative Europe to the UK.  From 2014-18 Corners connected communities in the North East of England to communities across Europe. Through a creative programme, Corners drew threads between neighbourhoods built for industries that were no longer there or that had significantly changed.

At a time of such uncertainty with our relationship with Europe, we are pleased to have been handed the baton by the European Commission to continue to grow this region’s international collaborations, and by our international partners who chose to invest in D6 and in the UK when the political landscape is so uncertain. We are delighted to once again be bringing this investment to our region and look forward to the journey ahead.

Clymene Christoforou, Director, D6: Culture in Transit