Barbadian artist and aspiring writer Kia Redman shares her final blog post about her Colleen Lewis Research/Writing Residency at Fresh Milk. The last week was somewhat stressful as she prepared for her first public reading at the event FRESH MILK XXII, while also offering moments of relief through outings and interactions with her fellow residents, the Fresh Milk Team and the wider creative community. Spilling over into a 5th, unplanned week has been just the thing for Kia to comedown from the intensity of her performance, continue her research, and even embark on a new visual work to complement her written/spoken word piece. Read more below:
This last week was stressful. I spent the entire time completely dreading Friday night, when we would have to read what we wrote in front of people. It wasn’t the public speaking that bothered me. That is a necessary evil in life. I just had no idea what I would write. I tried for days, and I ran myself around in circles. Ideas would fly out of my brain, imprint themselves on a page and just as soon disappear when I scrapped them. I was embodying a clichéd rendering of writer’s block.
Eventually, I settled on a concept. I was spending a lot of time researching ‘How to Escape from Paradise’ and I knew I wanted to write something from the perspective of the island. When I thought of all the possible instances from history I could reference, there were so many players and so much turbulence and trauma surrounding them that it seemed like the island was having a series of terrible relationships. Initially, I was only going to have the island reminiscing about her past paramours, but the voices of her current lovers kept invading my mind. This is how “A Paradise Escape?” was born. I read the part of the citizen, and with the help of Ethan reading the tourist and my mother, Donna, reading the Island, we performed the piece.
While most of the week had me in a panic, the beginning was amazing. We had a town-adventure day and visited Israel Mapp at the incredible Union Collaborative space and Kraig Yearwood in the midst of setting up his installation “Retro-Future Landscapes” in Norman Centre. It is inspiring every time I witness contemporary art purposefully intertwined with everyday public life. Our adventure day was no letdown. Creativity ran rampant, in tune with the frenzied pulse of the city. The perfect day ended in much the same fashion. We sat upstairs Norman Centre, looking down at the city as we ate some delicious vegan food, family style.
I couldn’t have asked for a better final week. While it did incite a massive amount of stress, it also helped me get over the mental creative block I have had for a while. There’s nothing like the threat of public embarrassment to light a fire under your ass. I’m still humming from the thrill of that experience. So much so that I’ve now found myself back at Fresh Milk for another week, keeping Ark company as they finish up their final week.
My work for this time isn’t going to be strictly literary. I loved the way the performative-like presentation of “A Paradise Escape?” left room for me to incorporate this and other future literary works into my visual practice. This is what I’ll be experimenting with in my bonus week at Fresh Milk and back in my space in the time to come. But it hasn’t all been work. The stress of the last week really made me crave curling up with a good book. Earlier in the residency, Annalee had placed a copy of Jean Rhys’ “Wide Sargasso Sea” on my desk, telling me it was one of Colleen’s favourite books. It’s certainly been on my ‘to read’ list for a while and seemed like the perfect way to end off my time as the inaugural Colleen Lewis Research/Writing Resident. The addition of the beautiful, sweetheart Roo made it impossibly better.
I didn’t know how much I needed this residency until it came. The peaceful surroundings were a great escape from the bustle of my everyday life in the city, but it was the camaraderie that made it a truly unforgettable experience. Spending time connecting with Ethan, Ark, Katherine and Annalee has been healing in a way that’s as vital as it was unexpected. While I have been in the company of people who have encouraged my writing before, I have never been in a space so devoted to celebrating literature. It made me distinctly aware of how much I rely on the visual to translate my experiences, and how out of my comfort zone I was. It was great to be pushed. I’ve felt my perspectives broadening each day in the last few weeks. It almost feels like I have developed a new way of seeing…of being. I’m excited to explore this new addition to myself and see where it takes me. I’m sure it’ll be somewhere I could never imagine.
Thank you to all who made this journey possible. You are appreciated in ways I can’t express.