Announcing Selected Artists for Digital Public Arts Projects!

The Fresh Milk Art Platform, with support from the Cultural Industries Development Fund of the National Cultural Foundation of Barbados, shares the results of our open call for Barbadian visual artists whose works will be on display for three exciting public art projects. Congratulations to Joshua Clarke, Mohita Shenoy and Chris Welch, whose artworks will be exhibited on the Fresh Milk ArtBoard, a mural at St. George’s Primary School and a Fresh Stops Bus Shelter respectively!

Their works will be installed during the month of May, so stay tuned for updates, messages from the artists and images of the completed works!

Learn more about the artists and their proposed artworks below.


About Joshua Clarke:

Joshua Clarke is a graduate of the Barbados Community College with a BFA in Graphic Design. He has worked in game development as a character, environment and concept artist (Le Loupgarou), as sequential artist on graphic novels (Power in the Blood GreenBook Comics 2020) was a semifinalist in the Kingstoon Pitch Competition (Junkyard Dragon 2019) and is the winner of the first Black Celebration in the Future art contest (2020) and CATAPULT SHAR Awardee (2020). A childhood spent reading has given him a lifelong love of storytelling and an inability to put the pencil down has drawn him inexorably to his career in illustration and concept art. A student of culture and history he attempts to capture that same joy and wonder of the stories that inspire him while ensuring representation of the fullness of Blackness in his work. His work shows a particular focus on Afrofuturism and Afrofantasy as he seeks to claim space for diasporic Afro Caribbean identity in the stories that shape our collective imagination.

Excerpt from ArtBoard Proposal:

“…In my work I try to create visuals that strike people on an entertaining level, but nevertheless resonate deeper as they take the time to look closer. The two works I’d seek to incorporate would be the Nelson’s History piece that tracks his personal story from young sailor to figure of heroism and horror in duality in the English Caribbean, and the Statue Fallen piece that draws on space opera & science fiction imagery to see the scar of Nelson’s idolatry rent asunder from the figure representing the island of Barbados. My hope would be to have a piece that arrests the viewer as something simultaneously otherworldly but relentlessly Caribbean, pulling the dynamic color from the painting and the complex linework from the illustrative piece for a pop poster mashup that takes my two artistic directions and combines them in a way that can be communicated on such a large scale.”


About Mohita Shenoy:

My name is Mohita Shenoy, born and raised in Barbados. I’ve loved drawing for literally as
long as I can remember. This love is what drove me to study art up to CAPE level in
secondary school. However, my experience in digital art is almost entirely self-taught. I
ended up pursuing digital art since then, selling my artwork (as posters, t-shirts, keychains,
stickers) at AnimeKon Expo from 2016 – 2018, and then doing commission work as a
graphic designer from then onwards. In 2020, I decided to upgrade my skills by taking online
classes in Photoshop.

Excerpt from Mural Proposal:

“…St George Primary School takes pride in its students, whether it be in their feats on the athletics field or on the dance floor. Being a school, of course, academics play a role as well. Therefore, I chose these three fields to portray my idea.

In the first concept sketch, I drew three students, a boy, and two girls, alongside a lion, lion cub and lioness, respectively. Since lions are the mascots of the school, I had the idea that the lions being portrayed are a sort of symbol, a spirit of the school that goes wherever the students go in life. The boy is shown to be reading (academics). The lion alongside him patiently allows him to lean against him, supporting him in his studies. The girl in the middle is playing soccer (sports), the lion cub at her side runs with her, again a symbol of moral support. The girl on the right is dancing (the arts). The lioness accompanying her winds around her, as if it wants to dance in support too.”


About Chris Welch:

Chris Welch is a photographer and new media artist, his style is characterized by vibrant and energetic imagery. Working with code he creates generative art and interactive installations, which explore the intersection of art and technology, artificial intelligence and the aesthetic potential of computational systems.

His work has been shown at the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art (LACDA), LightboxNYC, Village Gallery at the Crane, Grove Gallery Limegrove and the Gallery of Caribbean Art. His clients and credits include US Soccer, Brian “de Action Man” Talma, Caribbean Development Bank, Sandals Barbados, Innovate Barbados and the National Transformation Initiative.

Excerpt from Bus Shelter Proposal:

“…AI Chattel is a model that dreams of Bajan architecture, connecting the past, present and future of these unique structures. AI Chattel bridges the gaps between art, technology, culture and architecture. Machine Learning (ML) is the study of computer algorithms that improve automatically through experience. It is seen as a subset of artificial intelligence. ML algorithms build a mathematical model based on sample data, known as “training data”, in order to make predictions or decisions without being explicitly programmed to do so.

I used an image dataset of 2500 chattel house images from around the island to train a Style GAN 2 (Generative Adversarial Network) model. The objective of this project is to show an important and yet mostly forgotten characteristic about architecture; architecture is alive, lives among us and is capable of stimulating our senses.”


This project is made possible in part by the Cultural Industries Development Fund of the National Cultural Foundation of Barbados

Open Call: Digital Public Art Projects

The Fresh Milk Art Platform, with support from the Cultural Industries Development Fund of the National Cultural Foundation of Barbados, shares an open call for Barbadian visual artists to submit digital pieces* for consideration for three exciting public art projects:

(i) the Fresh Milk ArtBoard;
(ii) a Fresh Stops bus stop bench and shelter at St. George’s Primary school and;
(iii) a mural at St. George’s Primary school.

One artist will be selected for each project, and each successful applicant will receive a fee of $1,100.00 BBD!

For the purposes of this call, “digital” work can also include drawing, painting and other two dimensional media, once the artworks can be photographed or scanned at a high enough resolution to be printed at good quality at the sizes outlined for each project.

Submissions for all three projects will be reviewed by the Fresh Milk Team and an independent jury member. The application requirements are as follows:

 

(i) The Fresh Milk ArtBoard

  • Artists must be Barbadian and Barbados-based;
  • 2-3 concept sketches/work samples must be sent as digital files (JPG, PNG, PDF, TIF or PSD);
  • The concept sketches/work samples and a Word document/PDF containing a statement about the proposed work (no more than 350 words), a bio (no more than 250 words) and contact information (full name, preferred artist name, phone number, WhatsApp contact, address, social media handles and website if applicable) should be sent to freshmilkbarbados@gmail.com. This can also be done via WeTransfer;
  • If chosen, the final digital artwork must be very high resolution, and able to be printed clearly at the size 90” w x 90” h.

(ii) A Fresh Stops Bus Shelter

  • Artists must be Barbadian and Barbados-based;
  • 2-3 concept sketches/work samples for three pieces of work (one for the back of the bench and the other 2 for the two sides of shelter’s side panel) must be sent as digital files (JPG, PNG, PDF, TIF or PSD);
  • The concept sketches/work samples and a Word document/PDF containing a statement about the proposed work (no more than 350 words), a bio (no more than 250 words) and contact information (full name, preferred artist name, phone number, WhatsApp contact, address, social media handles and website if applicable) should be sent to
  • freshmilkbarbados@gmail.com. This can also be done via WeTransfer;
  • If chosen, the final digital artworks must be very high resolution, and able to be printed clearly at 82” w x 24” h (back of bench) and 24” w x 48” h (shelter side panel). Wherever possible, supply the original Illustrator or Photoshop file. Please view the dimensions guide for the shelter here for clarity.

(iii) Digital Mural at St. George Primary School

  • Artists must be Barbadian and Barbados-based;
  • 2-3 concept sketches/work samples must be sent as digital files (JPG, PNG, PDF, TIF or PSD);
  • The setting of the artwork at a public primary school should be considered in the design of the work. The St. George Primary School students referred to themselves as “lions”, reflecting their enviable position as national athletic champions as well as their excellence in Latin and ballroom dancing. Proposals reflecting the school’s continual striving for excellence will be welcomed;
  • The concept sketches/work samples and a Word document/PDF containing a statement about the proposed work (no more than 350 words), a bio (no more than 250 words) and contact information (full name, preferred artist name, phone number, WhatsApp contact, address, social media handles and website if applicable) should be sent to
  • freshmilkbarbados@gmail.com. This can also be done via WeTransfer;
  • If chosen, the final digital artwork must be very high resolution, and able to be printed clearly at the size 96” w x 30” h.

Selected artists will receive their $1,100.00 BBD fee in two instalments, a 40% deposit on selection and 60% on installation of the work. Once selected, all three artists will be asked to submit supporting images of their work and process, as well as a brief video message (no more than 90 seconds) which will be included in promotional material to be shared on the Fresh Milk and NCF website and social media platforms. 


Deadline for all submissions: April 16th, 2021

Successful applicants will be notified by April 26th, 2021, and the completed artwork must be submitted by May 15th, 2021 for printing and installation.


This project is made possible in part by the Cultural Industries Development Fund of the National Cultural Foundation of Barbados

Fresh Milk’s 2020 Highlights

Thank you for your continued support of Fresh Milk!

While it’s taken us a little while to share our reflections on the year 2020, we’re pleased to celebrate what we have been able to achieve in spite of the challenges that cultural workers everywhere have had to navigate.

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Still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, the virus has made our already precarious cultural sectors here in Barbados and across the wider Caribbean even more fragile. We have been challenged to find new ways to nurture one another, and Fresh Milk has participated in collaborations that have been beneficial to many artists in the region.

To learn more about the work we have done including CONTESTED DESIRES – an ongoing partnership with artist initiatives in the UK, Portugal, Spain, Cyprus and Italy; working with Le Centre d’Art in Haiti on a residency exchange programme; the most recent Tilting Axis Fellowship in partnership with Het Nieuwe Instituut in the Netherlands; or the pan-Caribbean CATAPULT project in partnership with The American Friends of Jamaica (AFJ) and Kingston Creative, see more below!

For 2021, Fresh Milk remains committed to delivering virtual editions of the programmes Caribbean Linked and Transoceanic Visual Exchange (TVE). These online platforms will unite artists across linguistic territories in the region, as well as expand our work with colleagues in Latin America.

If you would like to support artists participating in Caribbean Linked and TVE, or would like to lend support to the management of these various projects, go ahead and click on the donate button below! It’s very easy to support us and the artists we work with by making a donation through this PayPal link. Your contributions make our programmes possible, and gifts of any size are welcome.

While our artist residency programme is on pause now that we have honoured all previous commitments, we look forward to sharing an open call for a local project with three exciting components, which will take place right here in Barbados, in the parish of St. George.

Stay tuned for more details!

  If you’d like to work with us to build your art collection by acquiring work by local and Caribbean artists, please get in touch.

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We would like to thank everyone who worked with us, supported us, and express gratitude to the many artists who we have had the privilege of working with across the Caribbean during this very demanding year.

We are pleased to be able to share our 2020 reflections with you all and hope you enjoy this newsletter.

 

Matilde dos Santos writes on CATAPULT Awardee Gwladys Gambie for Madinin’Art

Martinique based historian, art critic and independent curator Matilde dos Santos, who was one of the guest curators/mentors selected to conduct studio visits with 6 of the 24 CATAPULT Stay Home Artist Residency participants, has generously offered to write features on each of the artists she engaged with during the programme. The fourth piece focuses on the practice of Martinican artist Gwladys Gambie!

Read the article, originally published in French on Madinin’Art: Critiques Culturelle de Martinique (January 10th, 2021), in English below!


Gwladys Gambie, Incandescent scars

In August 2020, Fresh Milk (Barbados) and Kingston Creative (Jamaica), with the support of the American Friends of Jamaica (United States), launched CATAPULT | A Caribbean Art Grant, a programme which, through six initiatives, provided direct financial support for five months to more than 1,000 Caribbean artists and creatives affected by the pandemic. One of these initiatives was the Stay Home Artist Residency (SHAR). Twenty-four artists were selected and the residencies were spread out into three groups from September 21 to December 11. I was delighted to be one of the visiting curators, and it is a pleasure to share the outcomes of these meetings with you.

Cartographie sensible (detail) SHAR residency November 2020, courtesy of the artist

Gwladys Gambie, an artist from Martinique, was selected for the home residency opportunity, so I was able, between one confinement and the other, to visit her studio in person.

Gwladys was born in Fort de France in 1988. After studying literature and education, she entered the Caribbean Arts Campus and obtained her DNSEP (Master) in Visual Arts in 2014. Gwladys’ work explores her own body and revolves around the character Manman Chadwon (mother sea urchin), a kind of divinity invented by the artist. Through drawing, collage, sculpture, sewing or embroidery, the artist works with voluptuous body shapes adorned with thorns, forceful yet evanescent. In recent years the artist has participated in several residencies, including Création en cours initiated in 2018 by the Ateliers Médicis in Guadeloupe and Caribbean Linked V organized by Ateliers’ 89 and Fresh Milk in Aruba. She has also participated in the Fountainhead Residency, in Miami (2019) and most recently the CATAPULT SHAR. Gwladys also participated in the international exhibitions Désir Cannibale at the Little Haiti Cultural Center in Miami, as part of the Tout-Monde Festival (2019), and in the Mercosur Biennale (2020), held on-line due to the COVID pandemic.

Corps paysage, felt on paper, 2018, 65 x 50 cm. Courtesy of the artist.

Corps paysage, felt on paper, 2018, 65 x 50 cm. Courtesy of the artist.

In her drawings, the female body is laid out into a dreamlike landscape. All-powerful femininity displays full bodies assuming their sensuality. Paradoxically, the delicacy and precision of the drawing impart a kind of harshness. It’s Manman Chadwon, Afro-Caribbean deity, a bit Mami Wata, a bit Manman Dlo, her body bristling with quills. An avatar of the artist that incorporates both softness and pain.

In her drawings, black and white dominates. Color comes in small touches and until recently, almost always by collage. Then, there is the red ink, connecting her work to the present day violence: against women, or the soil in Martinique poisoned by chlordecone. Emanating from these bodies drawn in black or red are real ecosystems supporting minerals, plants, and animals. In an organic landscape, the body spreads out, secretly forming folds that both enclose and exhibit.

The birth of Manman Chadwon, 2018, ink, collage on paper, 75 x 100 cm, courtesy of the artist

Cartographie sensible (detail) SHAR residency November 2020, courtesy of the artist

We can link Gwladys’ work to that of female artists, who since the 1960s have built a feminist aesthetic designed to liberate women’s imagination. The work of many artists who do not claim to be feminists shares common traits none-the-less with the feminist movement as a whole, such as the affirmation of the body and the deconstruction of stereotypes, or in the practice of strictly feminine crafts, such as embroidery and sewing, which triggers a subversion of hierarchies by promoting what was usually considered as subordinate. A combined concern for issues of gender, race, ethnicity and social class forms the basis of a feminism that is reinventing itself today through the enhancement of an exacerbated femininity, which, rather than denying sexist stereotypes, reappropriates them and throws them back in the face of the public.  In its pop version, this appears in the form of vertiginous heels and superlative “bondas”. Gwladys’ femininity is radical, yet poetic; assuming violence portrayed by omnipresent thorns that render both pleasure and protection. Thus, we can compare her works to those of the Haitian artist, Florine Démosthène, and her round heroines endowed with monumental buttocks, as doubles of the artist. Her work is also comparable to White shoes (2015), a performance of the photographer Nona Faustine, who exposed her own ‘unconventional’ naked body perched on white pumps while she browsed places linked to slavery in New York, such as Wall Street, an ancient slave market. Or, yet again, to the drawings of black women by Rosana Paulino, their bodies always round, always a little the artist herself, or to Paulino’s use of sewing to roughly patch up photos of naked slaves, or the way she obliterates the eyes, throats or mouths of black women by stitching over them as if to emphasize the state of servitude in which they are found, while their photos are delicately presented on embroidery hoops.

Cartographie sensible (work in progress) SHAR residency November 2020. Photo by Matilde dos Santos

Gwladys’ works breed rebellion: against stereotypes of black women’s bodies, against objectification and fantasies of sexuality tainted with exoticism. The artist would like to reinvent eroticism, with drawings of a touching sincerity: full bodies, black skin, challenging the canons of beauty. Thorny bodies, triple breasts, powerful yet fragile bodies; vulnerability as a weapon. To make the body of the black woman, for a long time the territory of all oppressions, a decolonial body: neither in the Western norm, nor against it, but rather outside the norm. Rooted in ancestrality.

The link with African ancestrality has been widely claimed in recent years by artists from the diaspora. With Gwladys this demand is visceral, as the need to examine oneself, to express oneself. The use of Creole, and poetry, which invade certain drawings, goes without saying. This is because Creole goes straight to the heart of things. A language that is very imaginative yet straightforward, like the visual language of Gwladys.

Ambulatory performance, The beautiful monster, FIAP 2017, Fort de France. Courtesy of the artist

For the SHAR programme, Gwladys experimented with needlework. Her particular affinity with sewing was noticeable in her work with “grennen” (frizzy) hair while she was still in art school. She built mole sculptures with hair; weaving, knotting and sewing, adding beads, fabrics, and frills. In the sequence, there were performance costumes, including that of FIAP 2017, a full leotard that she had personalized with rather coarse protuberances and adorned with pearls and fringes. Later on, after discovering the Moko Jumbie from Trinidad, she feminized the costume even more while keeping the thorns. It then became Moko Chadwon (2018). The Moko Jumbie is not just a dancer on stilts, the name retains its African origins, the idea of ​​a healer, and from the Caribbean, the word “jumbie” meaning spirit. This is probably why in 2020, to participate in Trinidad’s carnival, Gwladys added a fringed crown to her red costume; in it, I recognized the “odê” with “imbé”, which hides the face of certain orishas in Afro-Brazilian and Afro-Caribbean rites.

During the first part of confinement, Gwladys participated in a collective residency in the 16M2 art space in Fort de France. Since the shops were closed, she was forced to turn this constraint into an opportunity and use an old transparent curtain that was a little frayed as support. So she incorporated the holes of the fabric into her embroidery, a technique she was only just then discovering. The connection was immediate and very quickly her work was very successful. The idea of ​​reparation guided her. And while physically she was repairing the fabric, it was also the health of the world, the bodies of women, history itself, that was being symbolically repaired. In the SHAR residency, Gwladys wanted to give continuity to the embroidery work on two types of support: the first was an unbleached cotton fabric, a little thicker than a canvas, on which she made rough imprints of the erogenous parts of her body. (buttocks, breasts, thighs, crotch) in red ink. On these prints, she subsequently added random embroidery. On photos of fragments of the work, I imagined, with the help of red, that it was drawing a woman’s reproductive system; in front of the whole work, we can see that every figure is pure interpretation. The imprint is indeed that of the artist’s body, but deliberately they are fragmentary imprints whose shape cannot be easily identified and on which the embroidery is applied in a hazardous manner. The large size of the support allowed her to work on the idea of ​​a geography of emotions making an epidermis of the tissue, on which the artist embroidered scars. Fragments of texts add depth to the work and the color red gives them a false air of Chinese characters.

The second support was a banana leaf. The confinement once again forced the artist to review her way of creating. Working on a living natural object was a novelty for Gwladys. Laying the leaf flat on a stand, she felt like she had a body on the operating table, ready to respond to a double health emergency: Covid and chlordecone. Find an antidote for the poisoning? Circumscribe it? Talk about it anyway. And always this idea of ​​repair. The leaf is fragile, so the artist wanted to embroider the edges to prevent them from fraying. As she embroidered it, the leaf followed its natural process of deterioration, which the artist documented in photographs. The intense red magnifies the wound as the leaf gently rots. A first draft, beautiful and moving, which resonates with a poem by Brazilian Cristiana Sobral that I have only just discovered:

I have an incandescent scar of pain
But it’s only inside
Outside I drew a flower

– Matilde dos Santos – Historian, art critic and independent curator

Appreciation to the partners of the CATAPULT programme: The American Friends of Jamaica, Kingston Creative and Fresh Milk.

The SHAR participants described their experiences in blogs that you can read on the Fresh Milk platform here.


For further information:

Artist Gwladys Gambie’s website: http://gwladysgambie.blogspot.com/

Website of the artist Florine Démosthène: https://florinedemosthene.com/home.html

On the performance White shoes by Nona Faustine: https://africanah.org/nona-faustine-white-shoes-project/

On Rosana Paulino and other women artists of Brazil and the Caribbean: https://aica-sc.net/2018/01/28/femmes-artistes-noires-bresiliennes-et-caribeennes-defier-linvisibilite/

Matilde dos Santos writes on CATAPULT Awardee Camille Chedda for Madinin’Art

Martinique based historian, art critic and independent curator Matilde dos Santos, who was one of the guest curators/mentors selected to conduct studio visits with 6 of the 24 CATAPULT Stay Home Artist Residency participants, has generously offered to write features on each of the artists she engaged with during the programme. The third piece focuses on the practice of Jamaican artist Camille Chedda!

Read the article, originally published in French on Madinin’Art: Critiques Culturelle de Martinique (December 11, 2020), in English below!


Last August, Fresh Milk (Barbados), Kingston Creative (Jamaica) and The American Friends of Jamaica (USA) introduced CATAPULT | A Caribbean Arts Grant. This program, through six different initiatives, directly provided financial support for five months to over 1000 artists and other Caribbean creative practitioners confronted with the COVID-19 pandemic. One such initiative was the Stay Home Artist Residency (SHAR). Twenty-four artists were chosen, and the residencies spread out over three groups from September 21st to December 11th. I was lucky enough to be one of the visiting curators, and am pleased to share these virtual visits with you.  Each meeting brought me something different; each artist moved me in their own way. I was particularly pleased to meet Camille Chedda, whose work I knew only through photographs.

Camille Chedda, Untitled, 2020, Installation on view at The Olympia Gallery, Kingston. Photo by Charles Allen. Courtesy of the artist.

Camille Chedda (Manchester, Jamaica, 1985 ) lives and works in Jamaica. She is a Visual Arts graduate of Edna Manley College and holds a Master’s degree in Fine Arts from the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. Her work is polymorphic and questions the post-colonial identity. Using materials from everyday life, she traces the decomposition inherent in all construction, notably in the perpetually ongoing construction: identity; her own personal identity merged with a possible Caribbean identity. Her works have been exhibited at the National Gallery of Jamaica, the Museum of Latin American Art, the Portland Museum of Art, and at the Wallach Art Gallery at the University of Columbia, among others. Recipient of numerous awards, such as the Albert Hume prize, the Reed Foundation scholarship, the first prize in commemoration of Dawn Scott, and the TAARE program prize from the British Council, she was also a resident artist at Alice Yard in Trinidad and Tobago, Art Omi in New York and at Hospitalfield in Scotland. A teacher at the Edna Manley College, in 2016 she became the director of the artistic and social project InPulse Collective, financed by Rubis Mecenat to support young Jamaican artists.

I was familiar with Camille’s paintings on plastic bags, such as Shelf Lives (2011), where she painted in acrylic a whole series of mini portraits of ordinary people on transparent plastic bags.  These portraits on disposable bags produced the disturbing sensation of lives also being disposable, expressing, in a simple yet highly effective way, the little value that can be given to the lives of the most precarious populations. I left Brazil a long time ago, but Brazil never left me, and everything I see reminds me of my country. That is surely why these characters, drawn with a few simple strokes, ready to be used and replaced, upset me so. On the same support, the artist created Wholesale dégradable, a series of portraits of people who have been killed by Kingston police, taken from official statistics and drawn from photos. Some of the characters, those for whom the artist could not find any photos, were replaced by other acts of violence, not necessarily current or Jamaican. In this way, the artist established a link between actual ordinary violence and the systemic violence of colonial history. There too, I can’t help but explain recurrent police brutality as a product of colonial history perpetuating itself.  The idea of a throw-away society is accentuated by the evanescence of the portraits evoked in Built-In obsolescence. Acrylic paint on plastic can break up in pieces, and this allowed her to play with time, notably with the notion of the expiry date.

Camille Chedda, Untitled (Built-in Obsolescence series, 2011-12), mixed media on plastic bag.

Another material very present in her work, the one she will use while in the CATAPULT residency, is cement blocks or cinder blocks. Depicted on carbon drawings in the series  Drop it low, 2016, these blocks refer back to videos that went viral in Jamaica in 2015 showing women lying on the ground on their backs during dancehall block parties, breaking cinder blocks between their thighs. Dancehall is often presented as a place for women to liberate themselves; but, these videos depicted mainly simulations of violent sex and women earning small change from the public for displaying their talent for breaking concrete blocks with their crotch, talents that can lead to serious health problems. For a black woman in Jamaica to criticise dancehall is not a comfortable position; but, it is the one Camille chose to take by showing her drawings of a woman destroying herself only to please others. And when we speak of self-destruction of black bodies, coloniality surely has something to do with it. Cinder blocks were also present in the installation Rebuild, shown at the Ghetto Biennale 2017 in Haiti. The piece referred back to the destruction of the city of Port-au-Prince in 2010 and its rebuilding still in progress, but also to the fragility of cement blocks, generally believed to be resistant but made fragile by the greed of manufacturers who put sub-standard blocks on the market. Such imitations were probably implicated in the destruction of Haiti by the 2010 earthquake. This material has accompanied Camille since 2016, and recently, on the Net, I saw her photos of body parts buried in a sea of sand and cinder block. I very much like the idea of construction/deconstruction and the link the artist makes with the body (and indeed the spirit, which she does not state, but very well could have).

Camille Chedda, Drop it Low at famous Wednesday,  2016. Charcoal on paper

For her CATAPULT residency, Camille chose to work with a stack of cinder blocks, a work that I discover at its very beginnings and which will develop quickly, to be shown first in a collective exhibit “…And I Resumed the Struggle at the Olympia Gallery, in Kingston from December 10th. The work, in its current state, was entirely done in the framework of the CATAPULT residence, also with the support of WARE (The Wattle and Red Earth). At the time of the visit, the piece was still in the early stages, and it’s still a work in progress.

Camille Chedda, work in progress. Screen shot.

In this work, Camille wanted to explore the notion of heritage in decolonial terms. The artist sees heritage as a sort of construct, an exogenous gangue totally oriented towards tourism and that does not consider (nor honour) the black population, which comprises the majority of the Jamaican population.

The origin of the piece goes back to 2019, but the actual making of it began last October. This piece is to be considered in association with The Three Disgraces, a collage from 2019, showing a wall being climbed over, at the same time blocking out three dancehall dancers, surrounded by images of money, the public, and children. According to the artist, these children are exposed to something presented to them as their culture and heritage. Starting from the idea of the wall and heritage, Camille began to conceive her new piece about the social construction of identity.  The cement blocks are stacked into a wall, and the openings in each concrete brick are filled either with tablets playing videos or with photos or objects… When seen from far away, it gives the impression of a tower of apartments from the outside. This evokes, simultaneously, the notion of construction and compartmentalisation, foundation and immuration; the raw finish and the unfinished assembly imply construction, the small occupied nooks, and the visible defaults suggest a ruin. This all made me think of the popular song by Caetano Veloso: “Here all seems to still be in construction but it’s already a ruin.” Caetano was speaking of Rio de Janeiro, but it is reminiscent of Camille’s work. Ruins under construction. A construction that breaks down in the very process of being constructed. More than programmed obsolescence, a sort of denaturalisation; where the foundation of ruins, that which builds, demolishes; that which elevates, cuts down.

During our conversation, Camille, who first wanted to depict the sea at the top of the wall, changed her mind and thought instead to perhaps fill in the top part with photos of heritage buildings, notably Rose Hall, an ancient mansion dating from the first half of the XVIII century.  Very imposing, the Georgian style home had been abandoned and fell to ruins in the ’60s, then renovated near the end of the ’70s by Americans who made a museum out of it. This museum displays a story of the plantation and the legend of the white witch of Rose Hall, a fiction. And it is this kind of fictional character who romanticised colonial heritage that Camille would like to question. Built during the pandemic, the piece evolved to give more and more space to screens, which with the pandemic have become practically the only means of socialisation for the confined population. On the theme of social and memorial constructions, the piece made me think of the installation sculpture of Cildo Meireles, Babel (2001). This monumental installation (over 9 meters high) is composed of a pile of 800 radios from different brands and epochs, tuned to different radio stations set at distinct yet hardly audible volumes.  Around the room, a bluish penumbra immersed the audience in the sound of languages from all over the world. I also thought, from having seen it in another CATAPULT program, the Lockdown Virtual Salon, of the piece Grand Crus, appellations contrôlées le retour by Richard-Viktor Sainsily Cayol, which is also a construction based on materials that have built our memory. The work of Sainsily Cayol has two versions, both made of oak barrels organised in pyramids placed on a triangular base under blue light. The first version (Dakar Biennale, 2014) presented barrels marked “compagnie des indes,” and on which are also engraved various names of African ethnic groups.  In the second version (Havana Biennale, 2019), unmarked barrels are bristling with prickles.

Camille Chedda, Untitled, Installation, The Olympia Gallery, Kingston, 10 décembre 2020. Photo by Veerle Poupeye.

Because memory is also a construction, sometimes with blocks of bad quality, Camille made me think of  Cahier d’un retour au pays natal, where Aimé Cesaire praised  those who have never invented or tamed anything. Perhaps we are not builders of cathedrals, but we do build, never-the-less.

– Matilde dos Santos – Historian, art critic and independent curator

Appreciation to the partners of the CATAPULT programme: The American Friends of Jamaica, Kingston Creative and Fresh Milk.

The SHAR participants described their experiences in blogs that you can read on the Fresh Milk platform here.


For further information:

On the work Babel by  Cildo Meirelles: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/meireles-babel-t14041

On Grands Crus versions 1 and 2,  see the artist’s website: https://sainsily-cayol.com/

Aimé Césaire, Cahier d’un retour au pays natal, 1956 © Seuil, 2006.

*Nous ne sommes pas des bâtisseurs de cathédrales is the title of a work by the Martinicain artist  Jacqueline Fabien