drea brown’s Residency – Week 1 Blog Post

US-based poet drea brown shares her first blog post about her Fresh Milk residency, which is part of a new partnership between  Fresh Milk  and the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies at the University of Texas in Austin. drea’s first week has been a chance for her to exhale, coming directly from the rigours of academia, and allowing her to reconnect with her creative self while delving into Caribbean literature, ancestry and spirituality. Read more below:

When I was awarded this residency at Fresh Milk, there was a thrill that ran through me that there are not yet words to fully describe. But I can tell you about the rush of colours that came with it. There was gold in my chest, flecks of it covering my hands, a red in my palm that was too brilliant to look away from; for days I dreamt of blues I had never seen. And then, a whirlwind of days, an early morning flight, and somehow I walked right out of the halls of academia and back into my poet self, off the plane and into a welcomed rainstorm. Ready or not. It is still all settling in.

This is the end of my first week at Fresh Milk and already it is moving too fast. Each day I have been writing and working to devour a stack of carefully selected books: Caribbean short stories and poems, books about tracing ancestry, about leaning into the spirit, about shadows and ghosts, and making space to hold it all. At night when the sky is black and the cat has crept in and the fireflies are the only outside light, I listen to the deep sigh of horses and give thanks for this opportunity to breathe salt air and spread out in stanzas.

I am grateful. An immense thank you to the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies at the University of Texas in Austin, for the continued push, uplift and support in my scholarship and in my art. Thank you Fresh Milk Team, Katherine and Annalee who quietly add to my corner stack of books, who continue to help me open and relax and let go of worry. I am grateful for the Orisha and my Egun, who each day helps me survive and shine.

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This residency is supported by the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies

Fresh Milk welcomes drea brown to the platform in partnership with the Warfield Center

Fresh Milk in collaboration with the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin is pleased to launch their first international residency partnership, and welcomes US-based poet drea brown to the platform between April 19 – May 10, 2017.

About drea brown:

Originally from St.Louis, drea brown is currently a PhD candidate in African and African Diaspora Studies at UT Austin. Her work has appeared in a variety of literary journals most recently Stand Our Ground: Poems for Trayvon Martin and Marissa Alexander and Southern Indiana Review. drea is also the winner of the 2014 Gold Line Press poetry chapbook competition judged by Douglas Kearney. Her chapbook dear girl: a reckoning was released in 2015.

Excerpt from research statement:

My research explores Black women poets’ use of grief and memory as devices to reconstruct cultural histories and subjectivity. I posit this remembering often calls for other ways of knowing that defy Western logic and linearity and instead privilege ideas of the sacred, collapsed notions of time, and lifted veils between worlds of the living and dead. I offer that to take up the task of remembering and revision, black women poets must confront hauntings of a racial and sexualized past that continually imprint on the present. Using a black feminist methodology I apply close readings and formal analysis that take into account lived experience and social, emotional and spiritual climates as conditions of lyric construction. Through this I demonstrate how ghosts in this poetic lineage are not just deceased or missing persons; they represent evidence of injustice and unrest, serving as erasures or reminders of what is not there but should be. Though haunting is frightening, ghosts are not always malicious, and at times are evidence of divine manifestation or future possibility. I position black women’s poetry as sites of haunting that bear indelible markings of grief in memory, arguing that they make a unique contribution to the genre of elegy.

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This residency is supported by the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies

Artist Talk with Graham Fagen

On Friday, April 21st, 2017 Glasgow-based artist Graham Fagen will be giving an artist talk from 1:00 – 3:00 pm in the Morningside Gallery at the Barbados Community College (BCC). This lunchtime lecture, presented by BCC, Fresh Milk and the British Council, is free and open to the public.

Graham, who is this year’s external examiner for the BFA students at BCC, is spending some time connecting with several cultural institutions in Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago during the month of April. In addition to the artist talk, he will give an experimental drawing workshop to BCC students. He will also meet with artists while in Barbados to learn about their practice.

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About Graham Fagen:

Graham Fagen is one of the most influential artists working in Scotland today. His work mixes media and crosses continents; combining video, performance, photography and sculpture with text, live music and plants. Fagen’s recurring artistic themes, which include flowers, journeys and popular song, are used as attempts to understand the powerful forces that shape our lives.

Graham Fagen studied at The Glasgow School of Art (1984-1988, BA) and the Kent Institute of Art and Design (1989-1990, MA) and is senior lecturer at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design in Dundee.

In 1999 Fagen was invited by the Imperial War Museum, London to work as the Official War Artist for Kosovo, and since then has exhibited widely both in the UK and abroad.

Exhibitions include Golden Age, Institute of Contemporary Art, London (1999), The British Art Show (2000), Zenomap, Scotland + Venice at the 50th Venice Biennale (2003), Bloodshed at the Victoria & Albert Museum and Art of the Garden, Tate Britain (2004), Busan Biennale, South Korea and the Art and Industry Biennial, New Zealand (2004).

In 2011 Fagen was the International Artist in Residence at Artpace, San Antonio, concluding with a solo exhibition, Under Heavy Manners. With theatre director Graham Eatough he created The Making of Us, a performance, installation and film, for Glasgow International 2012.

Recent exhibitions include Cabbages in an Orchard at The Glasgow School of Art (2014); participation in GENERATION: 25 Years of Contemporary Art from Scotland (2015) at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh, and In Camera (2015) with Graham Eatough at the Panorama, La Friche, Marseille. The Mighty Scheme with Matt’s Gallery at Dilston Grove and CPG London (2016). Complainte de l’esclave at Galerie de l ‘UQAM, Montreal. (2017).

In 2015 he was selected to represent Scotland at the 56th Venice Biennale.

Digital copies of RA: Representing Artists now housed on the Fresh Milk website

The quarterly Barbadian and Caribbean arts newsletter RA (Representing Artists) was produced in the early nineties, spearheaded by a group of Barbados-based artists who saw the need to create a forum for more critical writing around contemporary arts in the region.

As part of her Tilting Axis Fellowship that has seen her travel to arts spaces throughout the Caribbean, Jamaican writer and curator Nicole Smythe-Johnson has digitized all six editions of this newsletter to make them available for public access on the Fresh Milk website. This inaugural curatorial fellowship is supported by the British Council.

With so many ongoing conversations about the development and future of Caribbean art today, it is important to know the history of spaces and what has laid the foundations for these discussions. Over the last 24 years, how have things changed? What has remained the same? We hope that these texts can be a source of inspiration, evaluation and critique, both for the state of the creative environment then and for encouraging productive discourse moving forward.

Edited by: Annalee Davis
Designed by: Arthur Atkinson (Issues 1-4) and Kristine Dear (Issues 5 & 6)

Contributors: Annalee Davis, Allison Thompson, Ras Akyem, Ras Ishi, Christopher Cozier, Nick Whittle, Alison Greaves, Roger Lipsey, Ken Corsbie, Dominique Brebion, Stan Kuiperi, Marianne de Tolentino, Dennis Tourbin, Petrona Morrison, Gayle Hermick, Geoffrey MacLean, Elizabeth Barnum and Sharen Carmichael

Click here to access the full issues on our Projects Page.

Ayesha Hameed’s Blog Post – Black Atlantis// The Plantationocene

In December 2016, UK-based artist Dr. Ayesha Hameed undertook a 2-week residency at Fresh Milk, where she conducted research for her ongoing project Black Atlantis. Ayesha shares an excerpt from a longer piece about her residency experience, and her exploration of the ‘plantationocene’ – a term which looks at the relationship between agriculture and our current geological era. Read more below:

Black Atlantis// The Plantationocene[1]

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Speed

This is my first evening at Walkers, once a sugar plantation and now a dairy.  It is dusk.

I step outside of the flat, climb the slightly mossy stairs and turn right into the purpling light. To my left are horse stables, behind me is the house and in front of me are fields of grass.

The sound of the frogs begins at dusk and it gets louder. The paved drive I am walking on ends at the field, and I turn right onto a dirt path.  The grass is long on either side of the path.  When I reach a lone tree to my left, the path dips down a small hill and continues to a line of trees in the distance.  To the right is the South and there are some twinkling lights in the distance.  A small bat swoops over my head.

Underneath the alien and screechy whir of the frogs there is a silence. A black dog runs up to me from the big house and then turns around and goes back, looking back at me as if trying to get me to follow it.  I walk away from it and into the long grass and listen.

The frogs get louder.  The sky turns black.

What is the relationship between climate change and plantation economies?  This is an exploration of many things – the beginnings of a fourth chapter of an ongoing performance called Black Atlantis, visiting the heartland of one of the three stops of the triangular trade, and taking seriously Donna Haraway’s and Anna Tsing’s use of the term ‘plantationocene’ which connects the development of a plantation form of production to the beginning of the current geological era that we are in.

The ‘plantationocene’ is a placeholder for the relationship between agriculture and the new geological era we find ourselves in called the anthropocene.  But the kind of agriculture they are thinking about is the violent replacement of diverse farming tactics, of forests and of pastures by the factory-like extractive structure of plantations – the cultivation of single crops like sugar and cotton for export, produced by enslaved and indentured laboring bodies forcibly transported across vast distances.  Plantations eradicate the diversity of what is cultivated, devastating the land, violently exploiting and expropriating the bodies working on the land and destroying any possible autonomy for self sustenance for those living in these areas.

[we use the term] Plantationocene for the devastating transformation of diverse kinds of human-tended farms, pastures, and forests into extractive and enclosed plantations, relying on slave labor and other forms of exploited, alienated, and usually spatially transported labor… Moving material semiotic generativity around the world for capital accumulation and profit—the rapid displacement and reformulation of germ plasm, genomes, cuttings, and all other names and forms of part organisms and of deracinated plants, animals, and people—is one defining operation of the Plantationocene, Capitalocene, and Anthropocene taken together (Haraway 162).

The plantationocene suggests that the geological force of humans on the planet’s ecosystem had its roots in plantation slavery, its instrumentalisation of the soil for a singular kind of production and its violent enslavement of bodies to be used as machines to cultivate and harvest the cane, and to ideally reproduce and sustain itself.  As Anna Tsing says, the plantationocene is formed of “machines of replication” or “simplified ecologies, such as plantations, in which life worlds are remade as future assets” – in other words it highlights the aftermath of a radical and violent incursion and its effects on lifeworlds that intertwine the human and the natural.

It is a nearly impossible endeavour to read an over three hundred year old history of plantations and their continually evolving social relations in the wake the oldest instance of plantation slavery, and in the continued presence of descendants of slaves and plantation owners and overseers, against the slow temporal swings that mark climate change.  Reading a still living and present history against a slowly unravelling future of increasing frequencies of natural disaster, the warming of the ocean, the jeopardisation of sea life is incommensurable and probably pointless as they operate on such different registers, and the possibility of finding common ground at ground level is nearly nil.

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Another beginning: It is half past two and I’ve been waiting in the parking lot outside Harrison’s Cave for about thirty minutes. Tour buses and hired taxis efficiently pull in and out of the parking spaces, loading and unloading their American passengers.

Two men are chatting beside me, one of them offers the other one a lift and they walk over to a brightly painted bus.  I figure I have 20 minutes more to wait.

I hear a loud noise and look up from my book to see a diesel powered mini bus hurtling through the lot like a getaway car for a heist. It abruptly stops at a hasty angle near the bus stop where I am sitting.  The sign on the bus just says ‘city’. People climb out quickly with the diesel engine rumbling.

As I climb the stairs the bus speeds up again so fast I trip onto a seat. I pull myself up holding out my 2 Barbadian dollars to the driver with an apologetic ‘excuse me?’ and the man in the passenger seat waves impatiently at me to sit down.

I look out the window as the bus hurtles down dirt roads hewn through fields of cane speckled with sun and dust.  We screech to another stop and the engine grumbles and roars.

Outside are the fields of cane and men and women waiting on the side of the road.

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[1] This is an excerpt from a longer chapter forthcoming in MAP Office’s Catalogue “My Ocean Guide published by Lightbox” (2017).  Research for this work was made possible by a Travel Grant awarded by the Canada Council for the Arts to attend residencies at Alice Yard (Trinidad) and Fresh Milk (Barbados).

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This residency was supported by the Canada Council for the Arts