Marianne Keating – First Blog Post

Irish artist Marianne Keating shares her first blog post about her Fresh Milk residency. During her time in Barbados, Marianne’s focus will be  on the migration of indentured labourers from Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales who arrived in the island in the seventeenth century. She intends to explore this complex history both through the physical and social landscape of the country, beginning by conducting site visits and reflecting on the journeys of those who have long since traversed this space. Read more below:

Marianne Keating presenting to the students at Barbados Community College

During the last six years, I have spent my time as a practice-based researcher exploring and tracing the multiple trajectories of the migration of the Irish to Jamaica during Ireland’s colonial rule by Britain. My beginning point in the complex histories of Irish emigration to the Caribbean is the movement of Irish indentured labourers from Ireland to Jamaica beginning in 1835 until its abrupt end in 1842, and their resulting legacies in contemporary Jamaica.

My practice-based research combines many hours spent in national archives, libraries, onsite research, interviews and location shooting before combining all these research methods in my studio, where my multi-disciplinary outputs include a series of video pieces and written accounts. My research has now expanded to include the Irish diaspora in Barbados – bringing me back once again to the beginning –with a new direction in my research in an unknown land, surrounded by a new landscape, history, culture and people.

Although my research subject is the same, there are vast differences in all aspects between the Irish migration to Jamaica and Irish migration to Barbados of which I am still attempting to wade through and come to grips with during my first few weeks of onsite research.

To Begin
LAND – Ireland, Jamaica and Barbados

“By land is meant not merely land in the strict sense of the word, but the whole of the materials and forces which nature gives freely for man’s aid in land, water, in air and light and heat.” – Alfred Marshall.

I have always been fascinated by the geology of land, how the soil under our feet has been formed, who has passed this way before and the frequency of such movement. I think of our homogeneous desire to follow the same, well-worn path and manoeuvre inside the marks created in the landscape by those who have come before. These lie in stark contrast to the rawness of other areas, where few now walk allowing the natural world to continue ownership or reclaim the land back to its original form; removing all traces of life that passed through before.

Path of migration within a cane field, St. George, Barbados

As economist Alfred Marshall discusses, the word ‘land’ refers to not just the soil beneath our feet, but instead encompasses all of nature’s resources including the minerals underneath the soil and the trees above. “The term ‘land’ thus embraces all that nature has created on the earth, above the earth, and below the earth’s surface.”

Land holds the memories of past lives. The coral and limestone sediment on which we stand embeds what has come before and consumes the archives of past experiences, leaving us with few traces with many details never to be recovered. We trail through all manners of the past archaeology, anthropology and sociology to attempt to reconstruct the narrative, but often the land holds onto more traces than it reveals.

I think of the importance of our place in the landscape, and its gradual erosion by the constant migration of people over thousands of years, crossing the land back and forth on daily journeys and the eroding and erasure of the ground by natural or human-made means. It highlights the experience of all who have emigrated and continue to migrate from one country to another whether by choice, necessity or force. The formation of land over millions of years is a culmination of its coral and limestone structure and the inedible marks left in the soil by those that have passed through.

Many conflicts have been fought, whether on global or localised scales, over the ownership of land. But as Mason Gaffney discusses in his essay Land as a Distinctive Factor of Production, we are all only present for a time before the land is handed down over and over again, recycled as the limit of land is determined; its value may change due to circumstances, but its supply is finite. “Land is reusable. All the land we have is second-hand, most of it previously owned. Our descendants, in turn, will have nothing but our hand-me-downs. As there is never any new supply, the old is recycled periodically, and will be in perpetuity, without changing form or location.”

The importance and weight of land can never be diminished, and people’s connection to the land is universal. As each new generation is born, their attachment to the land continues, both of the lands of their birth and of that of their ancestors.

There are many points of connection between the three countries of my research through which I trace the migration of the Irish to Jamaica and Barbados. They all have the collective experience of being island states, their connection by the Atlantic Ocean and their colonisation by Britain till the 20th Century. This is not where these connections end, but it is instead the starting point for my exploration in Barbados.

To look at the lands of Ireland, Jamaica and Barbados, there are vast physical differences. Barbados, the eastern-most Caribbean island, was created by the collision of the Atlantic crustal and Caribbean plates, along with a volcanic eruption. It comprises low-slung terraced plains, separated by rolling hills, with eighty-five percent of the island’s surface consisting of coralline limestone. The island is small in comparison to the others, measuring 23km at its widest point, 34km long and a small surface area of 430 square km, with Mount Hillaby – the highest point on the island – at 340 meters above sea level.

Barbados is geologically unique, being two land masses that merged over the years with the deep ravine visible across the island. The distance by sea between Ireland and Barbados is approximately 6,357km, and I am imagining time spent by the Irish on their migratory path travelling across the Atlantic Ocean, knowing there was little chance of returning to the soil of their birth.

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This residency is supported by the Arts Council of Ireland

Fresh Milk Welcomes Marianne Keating to the Platform

Fresh Milk is pleased to welcome Irish artist Marianne Keating to the platform between March 11th – April 18th, 2019.

Landlessness, 2 Channel Video Installation, StudioRCA, London 2017.

Residency Statement:

Harnessing post-colonial and archival theory to analyse the migration of the Irish diaspora to the Caribbean during Ireland’s colonial rule by Britain, my research focuses its attention on the complex histories of the movement of Irish indentured labourers from Ireland to the Caribbean.

My focus in Barbados addresses the subaltern ‘poor whites’ community on the East Coast of the island, who are believed to be direct descendants of indentured labourers from Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales who arrived in the seventeenth century, although through creolisation their direct origins can no longer be determined. During my residency at Fresh Milk, I aim to visit and document regions related to this community in the villages of the parish of St John where the ‘poor whites’ still live today and other sites of importance including the “vanishing villages” of Irish Town and Below Cliff. The analyses of this material and sites are fundamental to my research and development of my practice-based output, which involves the gathering of oral histories through interviews, film footage, research and documentation.

Excavating the official government documents at the Irish, English, Jamaican and the Bajan National Archives, alongside on-site investigation of other remaining visual and material traces, and through new oral histories, I begin to reconstruct this history.  Accumulating these disregarded and overlooked traces of different histories, I seek to insert a series of previously muted or silent voices into the archive and to give them presence through my practice-based work as an artist-researcher.

Situating my practice within the historiographic turn in contemporary art discourse and in relation to the Archive, notably through the examination of unrecorded, private and disregarded histories, my multi-disciplinary approach to the research, the archival record and the archival image questions the legitimacy of the archive and falsification within the recorded image and text. My research involves the gathering of oral histories through interviews, film footage, analysis, documentation and re-documentation. Through my research and the study of archival theory, I wish to challenge the definitions and meanings of the archive itself. By recovering photographic and textual traces, which had been consigned to disappear within the archive, I question what the archive remembers and what it forgets; for whom and for what purpose. By investigating collective, social and individual memory through a series of video interviews, I accumulate accounts and memories of a particular time and consider how they have been affected by the passage of time. My engagement with archival and personal accounts and embodied memories positions my research as anti-monumental, counterpoising monumental official state histories, and developing strategies to address excluded narratives, enabling previously muted voices to inform a counter-narrative assembled through creative practice, exhibition and written accounts.

About Marianne Keating:

Marianne Keating graduated with an MA from the Royal College of Art, London, and a BA from Limerick School of Art and Design, Ireland. She has exhibited extensively including exhibitions in London, Paris, New York, Melbourne and Shanghai. She is currently preparing for upcoming solo shows for the Crawford Art Gallery, Cork, Ireland and Rampa Gallery, Porto, Portugal. Recent group shows include New Contemporaries, South London Gallery and as part of the Liverpool Biennial; Arrivants: Art and Migration in the Anglophone Caribbean, Barbados Museum and Historical Society, Bridgetown, Barbados and Between Us And, Embassy Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland (2018). 

Announcing Caribbean Linked V

Ateliers ’89, Oranjestad, Aruba in collaboration with Fresh Milk, Barbados and ARC Magazine is pleased to announce that the regional artist residency Caribbean Linked V will be taking place at Ateliers ‘89 from August 6th through 28th, 2018. The official opening event will be held on Wednesday, August 8th from 8pm – 12am.

Thanks to generous support from this year’s core sponsors BankGiro Loterij FondsMondriaan FondsThe Tourism Product Enhancement Fund (TPEF), UNOCA and Aruba Bank, as well as number of local sponsors in Aruba, creatives from around the French, Spanish, English and Dutch Caribbean will convene to produce work, meet cultural activists in the Aruban art community, participate in public talks, blog about their experience and present a closing showcase of works during this three week period. The final event will be held on Sunday, August 26th.

Caribbean Linked is a space for building awareness across disparate creative communities of the Caribbean. It has created viable opportunities for young artists, writers, critics and creative activists from over twenty countries to foster new relationships with a larger community, contributing to the holistic development of the creative industries. In addition, it provides the opportunity to link with industry professionals who facilitate access to wider global conversations for the region’s practitioners, while allowing the artists to create work, exchange ideas and broaden cross-cultural understanding.

Participants in Caribbean Linked V (L-R): Sharelly Emanuelson, Velvet Zoe Ramos, Raily Yance, Adam Patterson, Miguel Lopez, Irvin Aguilar, Gwladys Gambie, Franz Caba, Alex Martínez Suárez, Kriston Chen, Averia Wright, Marina Reyes Franco

Artists this year include Irvin Aguilar (Mexico/Aruba), Franz Caba (Dominican Republic), Kriston Chen (Trinidad and Tobago), Sharelly Emanuelson (Curaçao), Gwladys Gambie (Martinique), Adam Patterson (Barbados), Velvet Zoe Ramos (Aruba), Averia Wright (The Bahamas) and Raily Stiven Yance (Venezuela).

The writer in residence will be art historian and independent curator Marina Reyes Franco (Puerto Rico). Visiting artists who will be lending support to Ateliers ’89 during the residency will be Laura de Vogel (Aruba) and Katherine Kennedy (Barbados). This year’s specially invited curators will be Alex Martínez Suárez, independent curator and general coordinator and museographer at the Museo Fernando Peña Defilló, a private museum in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and Miguel A. Lopez, co-director and chief curator of TEOR/éTica in San José, Costa Rica.

For more information, call Ateliers ’89 at (+297) 565 4613, email caribbeanlinked@gmail.com or visit the Caribbean Linked website at caribbeanlinked.com, and follow the Caribbean Linked Facebook page for regular updates on the residency!

Ronald Williams’ Fresh Milk Residency – Week 4 Blog Post

Barbadian artist Ronald Williams, the recipient of the 2018 Fresh Milk ‘My Time’ Local Artist Residency, shares his final blog post. Ronald describes the last stretch of his residency as “bittersweet” for a number of reasons. Taking part in the second session of fellow resident artist Daisy Diamond‘s reading group yielded fruitful discussions, but was coupled with having to bid her farewell shortly after. Ronald also felt a renewed sense of clarity and conviction about the work he has been creating, but this was catalyzed by an unfortunate event that is telling of serious societal issues in Barbados. Read more below:

Last blog post I stopped at the end of Tuesday afternoon’s meeting with the class 4 students at Workman’s Primary. That same evening turned out to be an equally enjoyable exercise of a different sort. I had the pleasure of being a part of a sacred reading session, spearheaded by Daisy, where we engaged in a critical dissection of a few paragraphs of Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. I thought the discussions that arose from the text, as well as the tangential ones, were all pretty dope. Reading and learning like this is something I’d recommend to any person(s) seeking an in depth appreciation for what they are studying.

Unfortunately, the rest of the week took a bittersweet turn with an emphasis on the bitter portion of that concoction. Tuesday evening was to be the last day I saw Daisy, as her time in Barbados came to an end shortly after. A shame, as I felt I had gotten to know more about her in the last few times we were in the space together. I wish her the best.

Then on a heavier note, serious, senseless but thankfully not tragic events unrelated to Fresh Milk occurred on what was to be my last day of the residency. While not affecting the space, these events did have a negative effect on my state of mind and mentality. It also got me thinking about the multiple times I’ve been asked why my work deals with certain subject matter by strangers and even family members. If I needed something to galvanize the conviction I have for what I’m trying to do with my work, it was what happened that morning.

I did manage to finish the piece I’d been working on the week before. That’s the silver lining from the latter half of week 4. I called it Noose-sense. An obvious play on the word nuisance, but I don’t think the reading of the piece will be as obvious. I like that.

All in all, what can I say at the end of these 4 weeks? It was quick, much quicker than I thought it’d be. I didn’t get as much done from the production side as I intended, but it doesn’t feel like a waste. If anything there’s a significant clarity in exactly what I want to do; now it’s just a matter of execution.

Daisy Diamond’s Fresh Milk Residency – Week 3 Blog Post

Fresh Milk shares the third blog post by US-based international resident artist Daisy Diamond. Daisy recounts her return to the Nidhe Israel Synagogue in Bridgetown, where she contemplated the Jewish mikveh ritual and related it to her wider experiences in Barbados. The first session of her sacred reading practices group also took place this week, and the collaboratively chosen text for thoughtful reflection was Paulo Freire’s ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’. Read more below:

I returned to the Nidhe Israel Synagogue early this week to visit one of the oldest mikvahs in the Americas. Mikvahs are traditionally used for ritual purification practices in Judaism and ones like this with fresh running water are said to contain “living water.” According to the Old Testament, the spiritual (rather than physical) cleansing power of this natural water source moved through this bath. If the water became blocked within the vessel, it became “drawn water” and was invalid for mikveh rituals. This reminded me a bit of other rituals of immersion, whether in literal, social, or mental spaces and how stagnancy or movement affect those processes.

There are also connections between these ritualistic, religious submersions and the intentions of those doing them. Some people say pre-written prayers of intention or individual prayers from their heart, like what they hope to experience from their immersion. In some ways, I felt a parallel again between this and the experience of feeling submerged in unfamiliarity with specific intentions to learn and create.

Later in the week, I held a sacred reading practices group at Fresh Milk. I tried to create a space with intention for the folks who showed up to have an engaging conversation. After discussing several religious reading practices, we collectively chose to read Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire, a book about education, humanization, relationships within society, and so much more. We took turns reading out loud and tried out some of the sacred reading techniques. These naturally led to conversations about how to define oppression, understand/address disparity, and take responsibility for action.

By framing this conversation in a certain way, we meaningfully engaged with a text and had a very challenging, thought provoking discussion that will be continued at a second reading group during my last week. I have been thinking about how these conceptual frameworks translate to visual symbols or could be explored further in images. I have also been looking at encyclopedias of sacred symbols and myths in the Colleen Lewis Reading Room and taking notes. Visuals are slowly coming together and writing/reading has been a huge part of that process…

A quick drawing of fires in the sugar cane fields I passed while driving near St. George.