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.

 

Daisy Diamond’s Fresh Milk Residency – Week 1 Blog Post

Fresh Milk shares the first blog post by US-based international resident artist Daisy Diamond. Daisy had an eventful start to her residency, which began right on the heels of Fresh Milk hosting an exhibition & artist talk about Sonia Farmer’s piece ‘A True & Exact History’. Discussions held at this event, as well as conversations in the studio throughout the week, fed Daisy’s conceptual ideas by giving her regional context and multiple entry points for her research, as the main focus of her work in Barbados is the history & contemporary reality of Judaism in the island. Read more below:

I feel overwhelmed with unabashed gratitude for all the incredibly talented individuals I’m getting to know, contemporary art I’m learning about, and the artistic exploration I’m doing while at Fresh Milk. A huge thank you already to Katherine Kennedy, Annalee Davis, and the rest of the Fresh Milk team for all of the political/artistic discussions, books pulled from the Colleen Lewis Reading Room, and generosity with their help & time. I’m also excited to learn more about connections between collage, multiplicity, identity, and stereotypes in the work Ronald Williams, the other artist in the Fresh Milk studio space, is creating. The openness and unfolding of ideas this past week has stretched my expectations of what my first residency, a self-driven time of creating and learning without the limitations/expectation of traditional educational experiences, can be.

A True & Exact History by Sonia Farmer

My first two nights on the island overlapped with Sonia Farmer’s exhibition and conversation with Ayesha Gibson-Gill and Tara Inniss about her erasure poem of Richard Ligon’s text, A True and Exact History of the Island of Barbadoes (1657). I thought the conversation brought out some of the deeper interdisciplinary themes and ideas in Ms. Farmer’s poetry.

Ms. Gibson-Gill connected the practice of erasure poetry to a technique she learned while studying theater, where actors and actresses would, as a collective, narrow each act down in a tedious, deliberate manner until the text was reduced to just its essential lines: the “spine” of the story. Once in this state, the cast would perform these selected lines before diving back into the full play to imbue each scene with a deeper emotional backbone. Although the process and intention of erasure poetry is quite different from this practice, Ms. Farmer’s poem similarly pulled out a core, emotionally intelligent, 21st century perspective on Ligon’s position of power, dehumanizing language, and poetic phrases. Ms. Gibson-Gill then also posed an opportunity for a further project of creating an erasure poem out of this erasure poem to emphasize the importance of revisiting and reinterpreting texts from multiple perspectives as an ongoing process of collective meaning-making.

Dr. Inniss discussed historiography and her research on people (particularly women, children, and people of color) whose perspectives and experiences have been erased from historical accounts. The existing records, like Ligon’s text, force contemporary audiences to search for these people between the margins of “archives of pain,” as Dr. Inniss described. Since this talk, I’ve been returning to these comments again and again and thinking of many parallels in the study of art history and similar acts of appropriation in artistic creation.

I came with goals of painting and learning about the history of Judaism in Barbados. I visited the Nidhe Israel Synagogue and Museum and created several drawings of the interior of the synagogue and the tombstones, in varied conditions, while there. Essays from the Journal of the Barbados Museum & Historical Society introduced me to the Jewish community and this sacred space. The focus of these essays has ranged from Jews in a Caribbean Colonial Society, their acts of both resistance and accommodation, roles in the sugar economy, and how they created their own identities.

The visuals on the tombstones were particularly interesting. Similar ones kept appearing on a whole range of tombstones, some mostly buried and falling apart stones from the 1700s and some well-preserved ones from more recent decades. How does a visual lexicon of symbols of remembrance signify shared values within a community? The hand of God cutting down a tree of life, the divine intervention of the end of life? I found myself curious about intentions, other meanings, and the stories of all of these individual lives. How were they involved in the slave trade? How did their knowledge about technology, windmills, and sugar production affect the land and the people in Barbados? Was their historical involvement in merchant domains outside the plantocracy related to an ethical justification, or was it simply their lack of legal ability to own slaves because of their status in society? How have Jews acknowledged these legacies? This community was relatively quite small, but their impact was not. I have lots of questions I hope to continue to pursue.

I intentionally selected which materials I want to use while here. Distracting projects and limited time have motivated me to focus without an explicit goal, but an acknowledgement that I have more time to create work than just during this month, and I hope to continue to use the next few weeks to begin to work through visual and conceptual ideas for larger, future projects. Although currently my main medium is painting, I also love experimental & hand drawn animation. This morning, I watched an incredible animated film, Dante’s Inferno (2007) by Sean Meredith, with multimedia artist Sandra Vivas. We were both very inspired by the techniques, sound design, and puppetry in this story. I think I need to rewatch it, but with a pen and notebook, to record every innovative scene, movement and transition.

I look forward to the experiences, creative rituals, and many conversations that will fill the next three weeks here.

Ronald Williams’ Fresh Milk Residency – Week 1 Blog Post

Barbadian artist Ronald Williams, the recipient of the 2018 Fresh Milk ‘My Time’ Local Artist Residency, shares his first blog post. Fresh Milk is by no means foreign territory for Ronald, as he has volunteered with us and participated in a number of our projects in the past, but as this is his first residency within the space, the focus of his work while here has shifted – leaving a familiar platform open for new encounters & experiences. Read more below:

A new old space. That’s how this familiar environment feels. I’m used to the wind chimes, the mahogany pods licking shots on the roof intermittently and the moo-mooing along with the rest of nature, but something‘s different in this country atmosphere. It’s not a sense of purpose, as I’ve always felt that here, nor would I call it pressure; but maybe it’s an accountability/responsibility to get cracking and produce as much as possible in these four weeks. This is perhaps/most definitely driven by the fact that I’ve got a certain goal by the end of the year. More on that later.

My initial plan was to gather as much potential reading material from the Colleen Lewis Reading Room and start doing some research in this space that I’m sharing with the quiet (as far as I can tell) and quite nice international resident artist Daisy Diamond. Given her focus on Judaism in Barbados and my ideas of decadence, materialism, mortality and their relation to religion/spirituality, I think there are interesting things to come.

I must confess to veering from my plan, as Sonia Farmer’s extremely dope work and setup kept calling for my attention. As a result, I put more of my energy into working on a piece I’d laid the foundation for just before the residency started. My time since has been split unevenly between producing and research.

Then Friday came, and with it Amanda Haynes who was setting up for Fresh Milk’s reading room open day. And the critical conversations started, with it the jokes came too, and it was a throwback…no, a Flashback Friday if you will. An old face in an old space where new things are happening.

Levi King’s Emerging Directors Residency – Week 5 Blog Post

Fresh Milk shares the fifth and final blog post by Barbadian actor & director Levi King, who recently completed the Emerging Directors Residency Programme held in collaboration with the National Cultural Foundation (NCF). Levi’s final blog reflects on the process as a whole; what he has learned, who he has worked with and how he has grown as a director, from writing his initial application to seeing the work come to life during the small showcase held at the close of the residency. Thanks to Levi, his mentor Sonia Williams and his actors Kim Weekes, Dy Browne, Melissa Hunte and Asha Elcock for their stellar work! Read more below:

Trust the process

To be honest, I struggled to write this blog. Not because it is the final blog for the residency process and I’m overwhelmed with emotions and separation anxiety and stuff (cause I’m not, I’ll miss it and the wonderful people who took this journey with me, but I’m not). Nah, I struggled because I knew what I wanted to express but I didn’t know what to say.

I wanted to speak about how my process of learning began even before I set foot in the Fresh Milk residency space. How I had to learn a way to write a proposal, just to apply (I really needed to spend time with making proposals). Fortunately the proposal was accepted and I was chosen.

I wanted to speak about how choosing the work was a difficult choice, then I chose a piece that brought with it its own learning curve. I chose a piece that I felt I was able to use the space most creatively with. I chose a piece that had a story and themes I felt we need to explore in Caribbean media (childhood prostitution, poverty and cycles of abuse). I chose a piece with heavy subject matter. I had to do some cutting and editing which took more time than I anticipated.

I wanted to speak about the books I read which really gave me an insight into some techniques and styles which relate to directing and some acting.

I wanted to speak about how I chose most of the cast before I even applied (they don’t know that though, I chose them before I even asked). I was fortunate they said yes.

I wanted to speak about how I had trouble setting a rehearsal schedule because even though I knew the actors were right for the process, all our times constantly clashed. I had cast one man and three women. One man was unable to continue after the first rehearsal. I had to wait a week to recast. I recast. He played the part great.

I wanted to speak about how I spoke with my mentor. and from the beginning, she was upfront about her concerns and her support. Sonia Williams was fully supportive and fully honest throughout the process. Sometimes even just a simple suggestion, question or non-verbal expression was all I needed to know that I may have other choices to pick from that may be better.

I wanted to speak about how my rehearsal process kept evolving with each rehearsal and each conversation with Sonia.

I wanted to say that I was at times unsure I was making the right choices. That I had fluctuating confidence in my ability to deliver what I wanted to deliver. Not because I wasn’t able, but because I faced several personal challenges during the residency.

That there were challenges that arose at points, not my personal challenges this time, that in my mind threatened to halt the process.

That Janelle Mitchell was great at navigating those challenges with me.

That Katherine Kennedy was also great at navigating those challenges with me.

That actors Kim Weekes, Dy Browne, Melissa Hunte and Asha Elcock and my mentor Sonia were all great at navigating those challenges with me.

That at one point, I felt it may have been best to stop because I was becoming too stressed about what I thought was my inability to finish in the face of the challenges (yes, me, stressed).

That I learned so much more than just how to cut a script and find the story, how to work with actors with this kind of material and how to handle production meetings.

That I was grateful every day i was able to work on this.

That the feedback given was invaluable and deeply appreciated.

That I can be a little more forward in my approach as opposed to laid back, and I still need to work on how I communicate my vision to people who aren’t myself and actors.

That I was glad everything worked out in the end.

I struggled because there is lots I could talk about. There was so much that went through my mind during this process. The biggest lessons I learned weren’t academic, they were personal and professional. The reaffirmation of my love for directing was priceless to me. Being able to learn from a director that I respect and whose work I admire, was great. Even though I had struggles throughout, I was happy.

The biggest lesson I learned, or re-learned was simple…Trust the process.

Till next time

Your friendly neighbourhood rastaman.

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ncf mark rgb2This project is a collaborative initiative, funded by the NCF Barbados

Fresh Milk welcomes Daisy Diamond to the Platform

Fresh Milk is pleased to welcome US-based visual artist Daisy Diamond to the platform from April 30 – May 25, 2018.

In addition to broadening her knowledge and understanding about contemporary arts in Barbados and the Caribbean, Daisy is also extremely interested in the history of Jews in Barbados since their arrival in the mid-1600s. As an Ashkenazi Jew herself, she is invested in researching the refugee experience of Jews who migrated to the island and investigating the historical and cultural impact, including their contributions to the cultivation of sugar in Barbados, their roles in the painful history of slavery, and current heritage preservation projects. She hopes to make paintings exploring similar themes from reconstructionist Judaism: community, engaging with contemporary socio-political environments, and forming new progressive outlooks on traditional ideas and texts.

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.