Daisy Diamond’s Fresh Milk Residency – Week 2 Blog Post

Fresh Milk shares the second blog post by US-based international resident artist Daisy Diamond. Inspired by material in the Colleen Lewis Reading Room, Daisy has continued to research the Caribbean, Barbados, and Judaism’s role in society. She has been reflecting on the tremendous effects of complex histories on contemporary realities, and questioning how we can acknowledge this impact while reclaiming, reinventing and growing through our lived experiences and practices. Read more below:

My notebook and sketches from the synagogue and visual motifs from the graveyard

As a medium that lends itself more to imperfect (incomplete) exploration, drawing doesn’t allow for erasure or concealment. To draw could mean to visually conjure something from will or to extract something (meaning, guidance, connection) from a source (history, art, conversation). ‘Drawing’ is a tool, a verb, to pull on a thread and weave together thematic threads gradually. Midway through this residency at Fresh Milk, I continue to build on the ‘spine’ of my visuals and learn more about Barbados beyond what can be discovered at the easel.

Books I’ve been reading from the Colleen Lewis Reading Room collection

One of the books I’ve been reading is The Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique, an author from St. Thomas, an island in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Annalee Davis, artist and founder of Fresh Milk, recommended this incredible work of magical realism and generational family sagas when I asked for an introduction to contemporary Caribbean literature. The novel is a collage of ideas and experiences with shifting perspectives and a variety of writing styles.

Here are two quotes I’ve been thinking about from this book:

“History could do that, change a person’s name. History was something so simple and insistent that none of us has escaped it.”

“People can need each other like water.”

The water that surrounds each island shapes and serves as a witness to its history. A collective history “so simple and insistent that none of us has escaped it,” not our own, each other’s, or the one being written now. In what ways do acts of artistic creation and consumption situate us in a dialogue with history? Rather than in a position of repression or swallowing the legacies of colonialism? The water that swallows the lives of several characters in this story is impartial to their guilt, innocence, or their value to the people who depend on them, who might “need each other like water.”

I recommend this book for its poetic language and thought-provoking, critical analyses of intersecting family histories as Dutch rulers gave way to American ones in the early 1900s in the Virgin Islands. Here is a video of Yanique reading from a passage about protests, beaches, tourism, and so much more.

I also spent one morning this week walking on Bathsheba beach alongside a few swimmers who seemed intimately knowledgeable about the water’s tides and sweeping currents. We were all there, but had acutely different relationships to the waves cyclically consuming themselves. But perhaps not? Maybe they were visitors and in awe just as I was (the limitations of projection). I was reminded of a quote by Hilton Als from an essay, “Islands,” published in 2014. “The sky’s largeness and generosity reminded me of how pitiful I can feel on islands, where one’s ideas about the place amount to so much sentimental or ideological bullshit.” Similarly, Barbados occupies an active place in many imaginary realms as a ‘paradise.’ I have found powerful counterexamples to this homogenous narrative daily through literary, political, and artistic communities and news while at Fresh Milk.

Sir Paul Altman (left), walking on the grounds by the cemetery during a filmed interview

Later in the week, I returned to the Nidhe Israel Synagogue to listen in on an interview of Sir Paul Altman, a leading advocate for the restoration efforts of the synagogue that began in 1986, by Judy Dennison, a cinematographer from Trinidad, and her film crew. Sir Altman described his efforts with the restoration of the synagogue as a “labor of love.” It was fascinating to learn more about the Altman family’s advocacy for the Jewish community and their dedication to preserving history.

During the interview, I also learned more about connections between Barbadian Jews and synagogues in the United States. America’s oldest synagogue, the Touro Synagogue in Rhode Island, where I spent eight months this past year as a student, was founded by Jewish settlers from Barbados. A synagogue in Philadelphia, where I grew up, was financially supported by and had a rabbi who spent years in the Jewish community in Barbados. Again, I was reminded of how this small group of individuals has had a disproportionately large impact across time and geography.

Sir Altman also discussed his horror at the city’s one time plan to build on top of the sacred land where the Jews are buried outside the synagogue. This notion raised a lot of questions for me about how to memorialize sacred land within and beyond this graveyard that was also the site of so much historic trauma and violence – slavery, mass murders, and the displacement of communities. How does the absence of a memorial to this terrible legacy get in the way of a community’s understanding of their ties to history and prevent healing? I have so many questions about how echoes of colonialism and political control are used as justifications for ownership (of land, people, and history) in Barbados and across the world.

In this landscape of sand, sun and sea, I can’t help but think of other ancient land with thousands of years of conflicted ownership and migrations from stolen land to stolen land. Here, we are witnesses through our screens to the horror of the deaths and injuries at ongoing protests in Palestine against the jarring backdrop of formalities performed at the opening of the new US Embassy in Jerusalem.

I am reminded over and over again of Tiphanie Yanique’s insight that “history was something so simple and insistent that none of us has escaped it.” I am thinking of the ongoing protests in Palestine and the land theft justified in the legacy of colonialism and in the name of religion. Reconstructionist Judaism at its core acknowledges our history as one religious civilization among many with parallel histories. It also explicitly seeks to reinterpret and reject Jewish thought that has been historically used to justify the oppression of others. My background in this relatively recent branch of Judaism (founded in 1968) has spurred my interest in ways to engage with spiritual traditions to bring meaning, understanding, and community into daily, and perhaps even explicitly secular, life.

I hope to explore and experiment with religious techniques outside their original contexts to draw meaning and everyday relevance from a text we collectively decide on (poetry, short story, essay, etc.) this Thursday evening, May 17th from 6-8pm, at the Fresh Milk studio space in St. George. Information about this Sacred Practices Reading Group can be found here. Please be sure to RSVP to freshmilkbarbados@gmail.com if you are interested or have any questions! Again, no religious practice or belief is required, just an open curiosity! Hope to see you there.

Sacred Practices Reading Group

Join us for a series of sessions facilitated by our current international resident artist Daisy Diamond, applying traditional spiritual reading practices to non-religious, contemporary or critical material focused on arts, culture and Caribbean thought collaboratively selected from Fresh Milk’s Colleen Lewis Reading Room. These collective ways of reading will be used to analyze and have meaningful, open ended conversations about the texts and how they may relate to lived experiences. The first session will be held on Thursday, May 17th, 2018 from 6pm-8pm at Fresh Milk.

RSVP to freshmilkbarbados@gmail.com to confirm your interest! Directions can be found on the ‘About Page’ of our website.

Statement from Daisy about the Reading Group:

Come together in an open-ended conversation where we will select a text to treat as “sacred” by guiding our reading with a series of spiritual reading practices. The texts will not be religious in content. We will just use these traditionally religious tools to analyze, dig deeper, and test our assumptions. The only requirements for this are an open curiosity and a commitment to dialogue within a community.

As an introduction to sacred reading practices, here are two examples which enable a semi-structured study of texts without a teacher/student hierarchy. Havruta is an ancient, Jewish practice where one student within a group poses a question about a text the group is familiar with. The student who asks the question then proposes one potential answer to their own question and explains their reasoning to the group. The group then challenges, opposes, or builds upon the initial response to the question. This platform for conversation builds both nuance and clarity. Lectio Divina is a Catholic practice for studying Scriptures. One person in the group will randomly select a sentence from the text. We will then pause on it and discuss what the word or passage is calling us to do or become. The random selection generates a surprising point to intentionally and thoughtfully build on.

The point of these practices is not to come to one, unified conclusion. Meaning and purpose proliferate in the disagreement, conversation, and unfolding exploration of interpretations and applications. I am not a theologian, but I am a student interested in building upon my understanding of engaging with texts intentionally and passionately within a community. If you have an understanding of tools to study texts, please come and be a part of this opportunity to teach and learn with others!

I’m interested in discussing a text from the Colleen Lewis Reading Room at Fresh Milk related to creative rituals, collective art practices, arts and revolution, or the influence of cultural tradition on contemporary artists. If any of these topics interest you, or if you have another direction you would like to go in, please join me Thursday, May 17th, 2018 to begin to discuss which text we will use and the methods for sacred reading.

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About Daisy Diamond:

Daisy Diamond is a painter, animator, and student originally from Philadelphia who values interdisciplinary and intersectional collaborative exploration. She is currently pursuing a BA in Studio Art from Bates College and spent this past year as a visiting student at Rhode Island School of Design. While she is a resident at the Fresh Milk space, she plans to research the history of Judaism in Barbados and the relationship between ritualistic sacred practices and artistic creation.

 

Fresh Milk hosts ‘A True & Exact History’ by Sonia Farmer

On Monday, April 30th, 2018 Fresh Milk hosted an exhibition & panel discussion around ‘A True & Exact History‘ – an erasure poem by Bahamian writer & artist Sonia Farmer, using Richard Ligon’s publication A True & Exact History of the Island of Barbadoes (1657) as its source material.

Sonia was in conversation about her work with Ayesha Gibson-Gill, Cultural Officer for Literary Arts at the National Cultural Foundation, and Tara Inniss-Gibbs, Lecturer in the Department of History and Philosophy at The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus.

Thanks as always to our photographer Dondré Trotman for these images!

Artist Statement for A True & Exact History

I consider my writing practice a tool for disrupting and investigating existing narratives, forming a response that is not necessarily preoccupied with making new narratives to replace them, but rather exposing different narratives as a parallel, ultimately calling into question the inherent power structure in the existing narrative (such as historical accounts, folktales, mythologies, canonical books, etc). Experimental process of generation, such as erasure, found text, mistranslation, technological intervention, or other restrictive methods, are especially exciting opportunities to create direct responses to existing narratives by using its own language against itself. The resulting text then becomes the content for my final projects.

The core of my artist book A True & Exact History is an erasure of one of the most formative descriptions of the English Caribbean in the seventeenth Century, Richard Ligon’s 1657 guidebook, “A True and Exact History of Barbadoes.” This project began during March 2016 at a writing residency at Fresh Milk, an art platform in St. George, Barbados, where I encountered Ligon’s book through their Colleen Lewis Reading Room. Using the language, imagery, and thematic drives at the core of this text to disrupt the teleology of colonial Caribbean history, these unbound poetic fragments scattered among a shifting landscape simultaneously re-create and resist narrative as a device of cohesive history, ultimately calling into question what it means to write “a true and exact history” of anything.

TVE Exhibition at Deakin University

Fresh Milk is pleased to share that one of our partner institutions, Deakin University, Melbourne, recently hosted another iteration Transoceanic Visual Exchange (TVE) from April 11th-27th, 2018 in ‘The Project Space‘, the contemporary & experimental exhibition space at Deakin’s Geelong Waterfront Campus.

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TVE is a collection of recent films and videos from artists practicing in the Caribbean, Oceania and their diasporas. The project aims to negotiate the in-between space of our cultural communities outside of traditional geo-political zones of encounter and trade, intending to build relations and open up greater pathways of visibility, discourse and knowledge production between regional art spaces and their networks.

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On Thursday, April 26th, there was a special viewing and floor talk led by Dr. Torika Bolatagici, Lecturer (Art and Performance) at Deakin University, and our core partner for all of the Melbourne screenings of TVE.

Enormous thanks to all of the participating Caribbean and Oceanic artists, and to the team at Deakin for facilitating TVE reaching broader audiences!

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Tilting Axis Curatorial Fellowship 2018 Open Call

As a direct outcome of the Tilting Axis meeting held at the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands in May 2017, the University of Texas at Austin’s (UT) Art Galleries at Black Studies has come together with Tilting Axis to offer a Curatorial Fellowship to an emerging curator living and working in the Caribbean.

This Fellowship opportunity focuses on curators living and working within the Caribbean region, and is both research and practice-led, and mentor-based. The Fellow will receive a maximum of USD$5,500 towards a fee, travel, accommodation and living costs. The Fellowship is supported by University of Texas at Austin’s (UT) Art Galleries at Black Studies.

This Fellowship includes round-trip airfare from any country within the Caribbean to Austin, Texas, where the Fellow will have access to private accomodation, in the award-winning home of Susanna and Richard Finnell, local collectors, for a period of four weeks. During this timeframe, the Fellow will be able to view and work with the University of Texas at Austin’s (UT) Art Galleries at Black Studies’ Collection along with the LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies Collection, and the campus libraries.

This Fellowship also includes access to the 800-piece private Christian-Green Collection comprised of Afro-Caribbean and Afro-American art works, with a dedicated focus on works from Haiti. The Fellow will also have access to the Christian-Green’s Reading Room and will be mentored by Lise Ragbir, the Director of the Art Galleries at Black Studies at UT, with whom he/she will work to produce a fully funded exhibition in the Warfield Center’s Idea Lab Gallery, in the Fall of 2019.

Application Process:

Proposals will be judged by an international jury consisting of curators, academics, and museum professionals, after which shortlisted candidates (3) will be invited for an interview via Skype.

The Fellow will be selected on the basis of a letter of interest stating how this opportunity and access to collections and archives would inform and develop their curatorial practice, and why they think they would be a good candidate. The proposal should be no longer than 1000 words, and can be submitted to: tiltingaxis@gmail.com.

Please enclose CV and two references.

The Fellowship will be conducted over a four week period in either the Fall semester of 2018 or the Spring semester of 2019. Exact dates to be determined in consultation with the mentor.

The submission deadline for applications is May 18th, 2018, and the Curatorial Fellow will be announced at the upcoming Tilting Axis 4 meeting in the Dominican Republic on May 31st – June 2nd, 2018.

Jurors will be:

  • Lise Ragbir, the Director of the Art Galleries at Black Studies at The University of Texas at Austin
  • Eddie Chambers, Professor in the Department of Art and Art History, University of Texas at Austin
  • Holly Bynoe, ARC Magazine, The National Art Gallery of the Bahamas and Tilting Axis co-founder
  • Tobias Ostrander, Senior Curator, PAMM
  • Mario Caro, board member of Res Artis, Tilting Axis partner
  • Annalee Davis, Fresh Milk Barbados, Tilting Axis co-founder
  • Natalie Urquhart, Director, The National Gallery of the Cayman Islands
  • Sara Hermann, Visual Arts Consultant, Centro Cultural Eduardo León Jimenes
  • Joel Butler, Visual Arts and Exhibitions Coordinator, Centro Cultural Eduardo León Jimenes