Trinbagonian artist Alex Kelly shares a third blog post about his Fresh Milk residency, which took place earlier this year in March. Looking at his last night in Barbados, spent liming with some of the people he encountered while in the island, Alex reflects on some of the collective aspects of the Caribbean experience he has noticed, and the fine line between comforting familiarity and complacency around regional issues. Read more below:
It’s the last lime before I leave Barbados. I’m having a chat with my Bahamian flatmate and her friend, a fellow Bahamian who’s lived in Barbados since she was a child. There is a bowl of chips and two bowls of dip on the coffee table in front of us. A fly lands on one of the chips and begins to survey the bowl. We continue having our conversation.
Someone gets up and, paying no attention to the fly, takes a chip out of the bowl, scoops up some dip and returns to their seat to enjoy. The fly has of course exited the conversation at this point, but that just happened, and we all let it. In that moment, I once again felt strangely at home in Barbados.
It’s not that we’re particularly fond of flies in TT, in fact I’m sure that the average person, including myself on another day, would have hastily gotten rid of the fly before it could ever desecrate the surface of a single chip; we love we belly. But there was something so unpretentious and confident about the imagined Caribbean that I learned to appreciate, and while on an average day I feel that I am constantly surrounded by actors playing out a role or as Chang might have said, artists more interested in their title than in the work, in that moment I saw an image of that Caribbean. No one pretended to be offended by the presence of that fly.
I am aware that this is an odd and, perhaps for some, off putting example, but I went to Barbados hoping to find a way that my own Caribbean experience could connect to others. I found it yet again in those moments. In that interaction, I was reminded of all the tension that I experience in my work; a practice that examines a way of life that is deeply troublesome and often dangerous, but one that is full of little subversions that make life so much more beautifully subtle and complex.
The frightening question that I am now comforted by, after having been reminded that it is our breaking of the rules that often makes life so nice, is how does a people manage to keep their beautiful conversation going, with that fly still in the bowl, and yet avoid all of the horrors associated with its kind. I believe that we can find a better way, but I’m not sure that I ever want that way to include fussing over a bowl of imported chips. What doh kill does fatten.
This residency is supported by Tridium Caribbean Limited