Fresh Milk resident artists Maj Hasager and Ask Kæreby share the second blog post about their time in Barbados, outlining their busy week that saw them continuing to learn about the island through research in the Barbados National Archives and by traversing the physical landscape. Both artists also began their community outreach, which included Maj’s first session with BFA students at Barbados Community College and day one of Ask’s experimental sound workshops being held at Fresh Milk. Read more below:
The blessed rain pours down massively. After a dry wet season the plants, trees and animals feel energized and revitalized. Monday is spent in the studio and the rain creates a perfect soundscape on the metal roof, where the sound is intensifying and suddenly loosens its loud grip to make the wind and the surrounding sounds audible. The studio is quiet and we are planning the South Coast trip later in the week. Our plan is to see the majority of the island by local buses and it demands a bit of logistics, good walking shoes and some determination to make this happen – as time is a luxury that many visitors to the island seem short of. Insisting on taking our time is indeed in stark contrast to the past year of activities, and it is highly appreciated.
Annalee is waiting in her car outside the apartment – I (Maj) can hear her beeping and grab my things before closing the door behind me. We move down the hill towards Barbados Community College (BCC) where half an hour later I will give a lecture on my work to a group of students from the fine arts department. Hours later, I am enriched by the level of conversation and questions raised amongst the students, and I can’t wait for the next session where we will go more in depth in terms of a close reading of a text, and thinking through social practice together. As we are leaving the BCC, Annalee takes me to the top of the campus to show me an old derelict building – despite it falling apart you can sense the grandeur of the structure. She tells me that it is a former sugar plantation house and it sits fairly dislocated or perhaps amputated at the edge of campus. Here the generic campus buildings seem to be rejecting a contested past, and the neglect of the house (or perhaps its symbolic meaning of colonial power) seems to be a way to suppress a past by letting it dissolve slowly by time. Though perhaps forgetting, as Annalee mentions, that the first black Chief Justice on the island Sir Conrad Reeves lived in this house too.
History spills out of wooden drawers in the chilled archival hall of the Barbados National Archives where we arrive Wednesday morning. We are slowly chewing our way through archival documents – via neatly organized index cards in perfectly fitted drawers tracing migration movements after the emancipation in the 1830’s – in particular looking at the massive exodus of young Barbadian men leaving for work in Panama either constructing the railway or later digging the Panama Canal. We are following the trail of the “Panama money”, the encouragement – and later restriction – of migration, the riots in 1937 and the formation of trade unions. One thing leads to the next as the hours vanish in the archive. The archive itself is somehow stuck in the past, and the sounds of heavy books being dropped on tables echo in the vast space. At 4 pm the archive is slowly shutting down, and we leave the air-conditioned hall with a chill. Outside the archive at 4 pm on the dot, the art historian Therese Hadchity picks us up. She left Denmark 25 years ago, and we spend hours over coffee discussing contemporary art in the Caribbean, social practice and the potential pitfalls of this type of practice – to mention a few of the many topics covered over three hours in good company – definitely a conversation to be continued.
Thursday morning begins with some more work on the hydrophone (underwater microphone) – Ask is still attempting to secure the cable so water is kept out when immersed. Thanks to the Colleen Lewis Soldering Iron, Annalee’s extended family and local hardware and music stores, an improvised solution begins to materialise. The plan is to test it over the weekend when we are walking along the South Coast. Thursday is also the first session of the sound workshop that Ask is teaching. Six people turn up at Fresh Milk for the first dose of soundscape recording and composition – some have a bit of a shell shock. It is a rocky ride through Musique concrète, Pierre Schaeffer, soundscape, acoustic ecology, Murray Schafer and the physics and technology behind it all. As the dust settles, questions arise and a most interesting debate takes form – I am very much looking forward to the continuation.
We head out early Friday morning, and as we leave the apartment at dawn, Annalee’s lovely father offers us a ride to St. Lawrence Gap at the South Coast, and thereby cuts our journey shorter by an hour or more. St. Lawrence Gap is the first place where we immerse the hydrophone fully in seawater, and thank goodness it is water proof despite its very homemade look. Maj has volunteered to be the assistant in the sea (what a dreadful task) and Ask is at shore with the recorder and headphones. Suddenly sounds of sand on the sea bottom are coming through and it is very exciting. The recordings continue throughout the weekend in different locations and both in the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean.
We end the weekend trip at the Good Life Café near Accra Beach, where we meet the multitalented artist Mark King, who quickly turns out to be a stimulating conversation on both art and global politics.
This residency is supported in part by the Danish Arts Foundation