Tilting Axis 4 – Caribbean Cultural Ecologies: Connecting Pasts, Presents and Futures

Tilting Axis 4 – Caribbean Cultural Ecologies: Connecting Pasts, Presents and Futures was hosted from May 31st – June 2nd, 2018, by Centro León and Centro Cultural de España in Santo Domingo, in collaboration with Curando Caribe, Santiago and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

The fourth convening of Tilting Axis aimed to shift its location and context to the Hispanophone Caribbean with the theme ‘Caribbean Cultural Ecologies: Connecting Pasts, Presents and Futures’. Artists, curators, stakeholders, instigators and activists gathered to debate ideas about the Caribbean’s interdependent future in relation to culture, the nature, technology and the role of institutions while sharing creative ways which reimagine our collective futures in relationship with our particular environment and with each other.

 

View the full programme for Tilting Axis 4 here

See below for video documentation of the conference, courtesy of the
Centro Cultural Eduardo León Jimenes Youtube Channel:

 

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.

 

Ronald Williams’ Fresh Milk Residency – Week 3.5 Blog Post

Barbadian artist Ronald Williams, the recipient of the 2018 Fresh Milk ‘My Time’ Local Artist Residency, shares his blog post for the three and a half week mark in the studio. This part of the residency was largely focused on production, taking the research and influences of previous weeks to experiment with pattern-making and digital collage. On Tuesday May 22nd, Ronald also led a collage & portrait workshop with a group of Class 4 students at Workmans Primary School as the community outreach component of his residency, where the children looked at African masks for inspiration and got creative and expressive with materials. Read more below:

Week 3 Monday saw me start what I fully intended to be a productive week in solitude. Both Katherine and Daisy were out at the Barbados Museum and the Jewish Synagogue respectively, so I took advantage of my little alone time and was a DJ for a while. Side note: K. O. D. and Without Warning are hard and I’m a lot late to the party but Migos’ two albums are better than I thought they would be. Judge me.

So, first order of real business was to create the pattern I had in mind. The base design is actually the amalgamation of various prints, cut and pasted together in Photoshop and laid on top of a photo of a piece of black fabric. Took much longer than I needed it to. That base image was then flipped, duplicated, pieced together and the process repeated until I got what I wanted. With that, the day was almost up.

I worked on this piece for the rest of the week, getting lost midway, questioning what exactly I was trying to say with the piece and if I could properly translate how I felt without the reading of it going very left. We’ll see.

Week 4 Monday was spent preparing materials for an African mask inspired portraiture collage project that I, along with Katherine and Daisy, would conduct  with the Class 4 students at Workman’s Primary School the next day. This project, which was my community outreach portion of the residency, was my personal highlight of the last week and a half. Daisy, Katherine and I all ended up making one. It was fun.

All things considered, a relatively complicated week and a half where everything didn’t go to plan, but an ultimately satisfying one.

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.