Fresh Milk resident artist Alex Kelly shares some reflections from his second week in Barbados. In looking at some of the connections and common threads he has noticed in the region, he has revisited his use of a shipping pallet as a symbol of our reliance on imported goods. He has also been looking at the similarities and issues within the Caribbean’s educational systems, and the importance of encouraging critical thinking to avoid perpetuating unproductive cycles of action and thought. Read more here:
I’ve discovered for the second time how a change of environment can help to refocus my thoughts about work and about the space that I am discussing. I suppose the conscious act of applying for and participating in a residency is a way of surrendering myself to possibility. I become more in tune to the elements that potentially connect to define Caribbean people and their environment.
Within the boundaries of this particular space, where you can find water from Jamaica, films from the USA, dried seasonings from Puerto Rico and I shop in a supermarket chain from Trinidad and Tobago, the wooden shipping pallet that I had been working with since last August becomes significant yet again. It is a symbol of dependence on imported goods and cultural influences. In a moment of economic and political uncertainty, the lack of self reliance suggested by the pallet is noteworthy. It is quite striking that this symbol would be the one to connect my practice in three separate Caribbean territories.
What has also struck me as significant is the shared education system and the role it plays in shaping the kind of citizens that individuals become. A conversation I recently had has reminded me that the education systems of many Anglophone Caribbean islands are ultimately geared towards the same goal. So that each of the countries are equally influenced by a curriculum that was not designed to foster critical and creative thought or to nurture citizens capable of shaping the kind of environment that they desire. We are sitting in a rocking chair, moving vigorously back and forth, but making no progress. It begs the question, what effect might decades of this kind of action have on a people and their culture.
Still, in spite of these and other similarities I have discovered, I find that my work represents a reality of life that seems frightfully specific to Trinidad and Tobago. In questioning how this work might be relevant in a wider Caribbean context I can only hope that a possible answer is, that it acts as an account of how we made it to where we are and as such provides a means by which other territories might avoid such a fate.
This residency is supported by Tridium Caribbean Limited