A Performative Moment – Presentation for Northern Kentucky University

On Thursday May 16th, FRESH MILK presented a programme to group of visiting students from the department of theatre and dance at Northern Kentucky University, USA. Presentations were made by Barbadian artists Ewan Atkinson, Sheena Rose and Shanika Grimes, local playwright, actor and artist in residence Matthew Kupakwashe Murrell, our two international resident artists Marla Botterill and Conan Masterson, and our off-site resident artist Damali Abrams who joined us via skype. All of the participants engaged in discussion with the students on performance, and the many forms it can take in the arts.

All photographs taken by Mark King.

Marla Botterill & Conan Masterson’s Residency: Week 2 Report

Puppet3Day/Night

Above/Below

Leisure/Work

East coast/West coast

Rain/Sun

Wake/Sleep

There is a strong contrast between the night and the day here.  The contrast is not just one of light, though this contrast is severe.  In the day the sun is blazing, but the darkness falls early and quickly, cloaking the island in darkness.  Was there a moon the first week?  If there was, we didn’t see it.  The sounds and smells change; it is almost as if they are two entirely different places.  There is a mystery to this island; it is felt most keenly at night.  Perhaps we feel this contrast more being in the country and away from the lights and traffic of the city, but we feel that mystery, pulsing around us like the oceans and enveloping us in the darkness.

In conversations with the people here we’ve learned of the caves beneath us.  As fellow resident, Mathew Kupakwashe Murrell pointed out to us, the whole island is formed over limestone caves.  Is this a space where are puppet characters could come from?  Have they bubbled up from the dark, damp, mysterious caves beneath to the lush, sun-filled land above?  How long have they been here?  How have they evolved to live on this island?  They are taking on characteristics of the vegetation, animal, insect, bird and amphibian life above, but there is an unnerving quality to them, they come from that place of mystery.  In the past two weeks we have jointly created a small ensemble of puppet creatures that will continue to grow but now we must listen to them, hear their stories and take them out of the studio and allow them to explore this island where they come from.

We had our own chance to explore this week, we were taken on an island tour by Joscelyn Gardner, the love of her homeland is palpable and contagious.  A collector of stories herself, she shares a combination of local history and personal anecdotes with us.  The tour turned into a double-night sleepover at the family’s cottage on the Southeast coast, where we had a mini-vacation and also experienced the deluge of a tropical rainstorm.  The rain comes as quickly as the night, you fear it will never stop, but it can leave just as abruptly and replaced once again by the sun.  The rugged Atlantic coastal landscape is such a contrast to the manicured calm of the Caribbean west coast; Fresh Milk is conveniently located in the middle of these extremes, a rural, hilly centre point.  We want to take our puppets out into these contrasting landscapes.

The platform at Fresh Milk continues to be a hub of activity and a place of networking and interchange.  We are finding our days are becoming more productive as we begin to feel at home here. Though no matter how hard we try, we cannot wake up early enough to start the day as early as the Bajans do!  On May 16th FM hosted ‘A Performative Moment’ with Northern Kentucky University and we were happy to be included with the past and current residents of FM and to be given the opportunity to briefly present our individual and shared practice.  Even though Annalee and Katherine are both abroad, we feel very looked after by the people (and pets) of Barbados.  Winston Kellman dropped by FM one morning to return a book and see our progress so far.  We had an interesting discussion about Barbados, we focused around the night/day contrast and as he left, he wished us “many more sleepless nights.”

Marla Botterill & Conan Masterson’s Residency: Week 1 Report

IMG_6138

Fresh things are starting to happen already.  We arrived on May 1, a little groggy after travelling all night without sleep.  But the warm welcome we received from Blue Curry who met us at the airport and Fresh Milk’s dynamic duo of Annalee & Katherine certainly gave us energy.  The people are not the only warm thing about this place, the heat envelops you and we welcome that after the frigid winter and chilly spring we left behind in Canada.

The first few days were spent in a whirlwind of meeting some members of the art community here in Barbados, including past resident Mark King, Ewan Atkinson & Allison Thompson (who proved an excellent and knowledgeable tour-guide).  We enjoyed the generous hospitality and tours of impressive art collections of Leandro Soto, Mervyn Awon & the historical Colleton House as well as studio visits to Winston Kellman & Ras Ishi.  It’s been a bi-coastal extravaganza!  We find the lively scene here in Barbados invigorating and encouraging.  We are delighted to be included among the artists in ‘A Performative Moment’ happening next week with the Northern Kentucky University visitors to Fresh Milk and we enjoyed meeting the local artists who will be presenting their work at a group meeting.  We also got to attend BCC’s graduation exhibition of both the Fine Art and Foundation students.  On Monday, playwright Matthew Kupakwashe Murrell began his residency at Fresh Milk and we look forward to a continued and on-going dialogue with him.

Since our arrival we’ve been on sensory-overload.  The sound-scape here in Barbados is very unlike anything we have at home and it took some time to adjust to the singing frogs, alarm-sounding crickets, mahogany tree bombs and new bird calls as well as the farm sounds of the cows and roosters!  Even when inside, the surrounding landscape is ever-present, there is very little separation between outdoor and indoor space, the windows all open wide allowing nature to be seen, heard, smelled and sometimes even entering your space. The grounds surrounding Fresh Milk are a sensory feast.  We are drawn to the repetition of long narrow tendrils and laying in the landscape.  Our work began in earnest last week.  We are using Fresh Milk as a platform to experiment with new ways of working.  Though we have known each other for many years, this is our first journey into working collaboratively.  It is not without challenges.  As individual artists we are used to processing and working though our ideas independently and privately, we are still adjusting to this new way of working.  The first couple of days we set up at opposite ends of the studio, but have gradually begun shifting our things together and working jointly on some initial puppet pieces.  There are obvious references forming in the work to the vegetation, insect, bird and animal life that surrounds us.

Annalee’s dogs have appointed themselves our chaperones, though we think they are just using us for the chickens they hunt after assuring we are safely home.  We spend most evenings at Prendoma, reading through items borrowed from the Colleen Lewis Reading Room.  Our walks home are filled with the seductive smell of ylang-ylang blossoms.

FRESH MILK’s International Residency Opportunity: Marla Botterill and Conan Masterson

Marla and Conan residency flyer

FRESH MILK is very excited to announce our first international residents from our recently launched programme, Canadian artists Marla Botterill and Conan Masterson, who will be on the platform from the 1st-31st of May 2013.

Marla Botterill received her B.F.A from Queen’s University, Ontario, and went on to pursue her M.F.A. at the University of Waterloo, which she obtained in 2003. She has exhibited widely in Ontario, Canada, including the solo show Close to the Skin at the AWOL Gallery in 2007, and most recently in the group exhibition In a Pinch, The Eleanor Pearl Gallery, 2013. She also exhibited in Berlin, Germany during the months of July-September 2011, where she took part in the Takt Artist Residency programme. Her work explores recurring characters through a combination of painting, drawing, collage and puppets that generate interwoven fictional narratives.

Marla Botterill

The role of time also plays a crucial role in my work. Paintings and drawings exist in the past, the process of creation ends once the image is completed; it remains as a record of that labour. A viewer may reinterpret the painting or drawing, its context may change, but the object itself does not change. Contrastingly, a puppet exists in the eternal present, it only serves its function when it is moving; the process of creation does not end once the puppet is built, that is the moment when it begins. – Marla Botterill

Website: http://www.marlabotterill.com/

Conan Masterson received a B.F.A. from Concordia University Majoring in Studio Arts, and in 2007 earned an M.F.A. from The University of Western Ontario. Her solo exhibitions include Sea Dab Jig at the Full Tilt Creative Centre, McIvers, Newfoundland, and earlier this year she took part in the group exhibition Process and Place at the Maine College of Art in Portland, Maine. Her residency experiences include: the MECA Baie Sainte-Marie Artist Residency in New Edinburgh, Nova Scotia, Harold Arts – Do Do II Session in Chesterhill, Ohio and the Fibres Student Association, St. Charles Borromée, Quebec. Her work aims to perceptually alter the traditional gallery space, manipulating the physical materials of sculptural installation and the audience in a way that is both impulsively humorous and unsettlingly carnivalesque.

Conan Masterson

My practice involves transforming my studio into an unusual workshop. While tinkering within it, I create absurd and abstract forms that are bizarre yet oddly familiar. From the readymade to bits and pieces, I play intuitively with my collection of luscious and mundane materials. These anthropomorphized objects then become curious, slightly freakish, installations… A necessary function of the work is the blurring of boundaries between the spectacle and the spectator. It is in this intriguing terrain I situate my work; a discomforting, beguiling landscape, impossible to resist. – Conan Masterson

Website: http://www.conanmasterson.com/

Although both artists have worked closely for years, this residency at FRESH MILK will be their first collaborative venture. Botterill and Masterson are keen to explore the extensive grounds around Fresh Milk for inspiration in the development of their project, where they wish to create a series of puppets and a fictional habitat for them to function within the local landscape.  This International Residency Programme will also provide an opportunity to promote an exchange of ideas between the two artists, as well as develop relationships within the Barbadian creative community.