Mother Tongue’s Residency – Week 3 Blog Post

Mother Tongue, the curatorial duo of Jessica Carden and Tiffany Boyle, share their third blog post about their ongoing Fresh Milk residency. As well as continuing to meet with artists, collectors and academics based in Barbados, they also made two presentations to the students in the BFA degree programme at the Barbados Community College, screening their 2012 programme ‘Afrofuturism: Revisions Towards a Place in Modernity’ and expanding on their work as curators. Read the full post below: 

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As the third week of our residency here with Fresh Milk draws to a close – and with only a little over a week left to go – we are continuing  to make the most of our time here in Barbados, whilst also beginning to formulate ideas for the return UK project. As with last week, we have primarily been focusing on meeting with artists, writers, curators and academics, in order to further understand the arts infrastructure on the island and how this is affecting practitioners across the board. We have had many productive and engaging conversations about the shape our modest return project may take – both internally and externally – and we’re very focused on producing something that can be meaningful for Barbados and the UK.

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Our third week began with the first of two presentations made by us to the BFA Degree programme students at Barbados Community College. Our afternoon session for the first, second and third year students was a talk and re-screening of our 2012 programme, ‘Afrofuturism: Revisions Towards a Place in Modernity,’ which was originally developed for the Africa In Motion Film Festival 2012. The programme included five works in total by Neïl Beloufa, Philip Mallory Jones, The Otolith Group, Rico Gatson and the Glasgow-based artist Michelle Hannah. Then on Thursday morning, we made a presentation to the third year students speaking with them on the history of curating and exhibition-making, and an introduction to our practice. The students do not have a curating module here, but the dialogue following our presentation was really impressive. We have found the various discussions with students at the college really helpful for our outlook on contemporary art here in Barbados, especially for understanding the conditions under which emergent artists are producing. Whilst at BCC, we took the opportunity to sit in on art historian and curator Therese Hadchity’s seminar on ‘Caribbean Art,’ which explored modern and contemporary Caribbean art with a focus on post-independence practitioners in Trinidad, Jamaica and Barbados. After the lecture we had the opportunity to briefly discuss Therese’s role as the founder and director of the former Zemicon gallery, which formed a central role in supporting the work of Barbadian artists throughout the 90’s.

Continuing to gather information about the arts in Barbados, particularly during the 90’s and early 2000’s we met with art historian Alison Thompson who talked us through her regional and international work and upcoming projects. We were also fortunate enough to meet with the established artist Alison Chapman Andrews, who allowed us full access to her wonderfully active studio and large archive of sketchbooks and prints dating back to the 1970’s. Alison wrote a long-running column on art for local press, and flicking through her – very well arranged – collection of these, gives a real sense of a vibrancy in the local art scene during the 80s and 90s. Alison’s house is also something of a gallery in itself: with paintings, drawings and sculptures adorning every wall from the various artists she has known and admired over her long a career as an artist. We also took a visit to meet Clyde Cave, a renowned art collector, whose house is also arranged around, and in tribute to, his fascinating collection of Caribbean contemporary art.

Touring Clyde Cave's collection

After a discussion with Fresh Milk’s Director Annalee Davis surrounding our interest in the art networks between the Caribbean islands, she made an informal presentation to us on Fresh Milk’s ‘Caribbean Art Spaces’ online mapping project, which maps-out the variety of art spaces and artist-led initiatives across the Caribbean from Jamaica to Trinidad to Guyana, the Dominican Republic, to Martinique. It’s a fantastic resource and really important in crossing the many language barriers between the islands and mainland. Over these past three weeks, our many conversations with Annalee have been some of the most insightful and constructive dialogues, as we attempt to come to an understanding of the arts infrastructure here.

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Finally, we met for a second time with Professor Sean Carrington, this time at the University of the West Indies Biology department where he lectures, to be given a tour of the herbarium. Sean opened up their vast archives, talking us through the many specimens that have been collected from all over the Caribbean for hundreds of years. The visit helped push along our thinking around the colonial elements of horticulture, flora and fauna, and its significance in the work of Caribbean artists. We’re working hard to fit in as much in our fourth week as possible – we look forward to reporting back!

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