Mother Tongue, the curatorial duo of Jessica Carden and Tiffany Boyle, share their first blog post about their Fresh Milk residency. Coming from Scotland and never having been to the Caribbean before, they describe their introduction to the Barbadian art scene and share some of their evolving plans for engaging with the creative community over the next few weeks. Read their blog post below:
Our first week at Fresh Milk simultaneously marks our first week in the Caribbean; a region whose artists and writers we have been engaging with from a distance for some time now. We arrived with a mix of anticipation and genuine excitement at the opportunities that lie ahead. We had previously met with Fresh Milk’s director Annalee Davis on her visit to Glasgow for the 2014 Commonwealth Games cultural programme, at the ‘International Artist Initiated’ panel discussion at David Dale Gallery, Glasgow, and had been in dialogue since then. Fresh Milk played a central role in the critical discussions unpacking the commonwealth as a loaded cultural event and its enduring impact for the Caribbean, whilst also representing artist-led activity in Barbados.
Our first day at the Fresh Milk residency space took the form of an introduction to the impressive collection within the Colleen Lewis reading room. Annalee talked us through the collection’s categories, and picked out for us seminal texts and exhibitions catalogues which have been helping to give us an overview of not only the current artistic activity and infrastructure in the region, but also the history of artistic practice in Barbados and its ties with elsewhere.
We were then introduced to the Fresh Milk Books team. After introducing our practice and discussing a number of our curatorial projects, we started to informally talk with the group about their experience of making work in Barbados, the support the Fresh Milk Books group provides for them, and the manner in which they position their work in relation to specialised interests pursued through this meeting point. The discussion then went off in a number of tangents, from notions of whiteness, skin and beauty ideals, both historically and contemporary. We’re going to be discussing with the group a format for understanding curatorial practice this week, which will lead to a kind of workshop in Week 3, the same week that we will be re-screening our 2012 Afrofuturism artist film and video programme for students at the Barbados Community College.
We were also delighted to bring with us a collection of publications generously donated from UK based organisations and individuals, which now call the Colleen Lewis Reading Room their new home. These include Map Magazine; Variant Magazine; Chelsea Space publication archive; University of the Arts London Graduate School; TrAIN Research Centre for Art, Identity and Nation; Flat Time House London; Lyndsay Mann, and Alex Hetherington’s Modern Edinburgh Film School. We hope these publications will be a welcome connection between the UK and Barbados.
We also took a trip into the capital of Bridgetown, and later in the week met with a group of local and visiting artists, Fresh Milk friends and the Fresh Milk Books group. After some rum punches at Mojo’s on the south coast, we had the chance to talk about our practice and our aspirations for the residency, as well as to connect with artists and discuss not only their work but their views on being Bajan practitioners. Among the artists we met was the wonderful Alberta Whittle, whom we have existing connections with from her studies and career in Glasgow. The evening was informal and provided a perfect introduction to the local arts community, before we set up further discussions in the weeks ahead.
For now, we are implementing all the planning the first week provided, and will spend our second week mostly outside the studio, meeting with practitioners, and looking towards our return UK project.