Mother Tongue’s Residency – Week 1 Blog Post

Mother Tongue, the curatorial duo of Jessica Carden and Tiffany Boyle, share their first blog post about their Fresh Milk residency. Coming from Scotland and never having been to the Caribbean before, they describe their introduction to the Barbadian art scene and share some of their evolving plans for engaging with the creative community over the next few weeks. Read their blog post below:

Our first week at Fresh Milk simultaneously marks our first week in the Caribbean; a region whose artists and writers we have been engaging with from a distance for some time now. We arrived with a mix of anticipation and genuine excitement at the opportunities that lie ahead. We had previously met with Fresh Milk’s director Annalee Davis on her visit to Glasgow for the 2014 Commonwealth Games cultural programme, at the ‘International Artist Initiated’ panel discussion at David Dale Gallery, Glasgow, and had been in dialogue since then. Fresh Milk played a central role in the critical discussions unpacking the commonwealth as a loaded cultural event and its enduring impact for the Caribbean, whilst also representing artist-led activity in Barbados.

Our first day at the Fresh Milk residency space took the form of an introduction to the impressive collection within the Colleen Lewis reading room. Annalee talked us through the collection’s categories, and picked out for us seminal texts and exhibitions catalogues which have been helping to give us an overview of not only the current artistic activity and infrastructure in the region, but also the history of artistic practice in Barbados and its ties with elsewhere.

The Fresh Milk ArtBoard featuring work by Ronald Williams.

We were then introduced to the Fresh Milk Books team. After introducing our practice and discussing a number of our curatorial projects, we started to informally talk with the group about their experience of making work in Barbados, the support the Fresh Milk Books group provides for them, and the manner in which they position their work in relation to specialised interests pursued through this meeting point. The discussion then went off in a number of tangents, from notions of whiteness, skin and beauty ideals, both historically and contemporary. We’re going to be discussing with the group a format for understanding curatorial practice this week, which will lead to a kind of workshop in Week 3, the same week that we will be re-screening our 2012 Afrofuturism artist film and video programme for students at the Barbados Community College.

We were also delighted to bring with us a collection of publications generously donated from UK based organisations and individuals, which now call the Colleen Lewis Reading Room their new home. These include Map Magazine; Variant Magazine; Chelsea Space publication archive; University of the Arts London Graduate School; TrAIN Research Centre for Art, Identity and Nation; Flat Time House London; Lyndsay Mann, and Alex Hetherington’s Modern Edinburgh Film School. We hope these publications will be a welcome connection between the UK and Barbados.

Creatives gathering at Mojo's on the south coast.

We also took a trip into the capital of Bridgetown, and later in the week met with a group of local and visiting artists, Fresh Milk friends and the Fresh Milk Books group. After some rum punches at Mojo’s on the south coast, we had the chance to talk about our practice and our aspirations for the residency, as well as to connect with artists and discuss not only their work but their views on being Bajan practitioners. Among the artists we met was the wonderful Alberta Whittle, whom we have existing connections with from her studies and career in Glasgow. The evening was informal and provided a perfect introduction to the local arts community, before we set up further discussions in the weeks ahead.

For now, we are implementing all the planning the first week provided, and will spend our second week mostly outside the studio, meeting with practitioners, and looking towards our return UK project.

Article featured in the Cyprus Dossier: Notions of common/wealth versus single/wealth

The 7th edition of the Cyprus Dossier, launched this summer during the International Artist Initiated project hosted by the David Dale Gallery in Glasgow, Scotland, featured an article titled ‘Notions of common/wealth versus single/wealth‘ written by Fresh Milk‘s founding director Annalee Davis. Read the piece below:

CD crop

“Global art is not only polycentric as a practice, but also demands a polyphonic discourse. Art history has divided the world, whereas the global age tends to restore unity on another level. Not only is the game different: it is also open to new participants who speak in many tongues and who differ in how they conceive of art in a local perspective. We are watching a new mapping of art worlds in the plural which claim geographic and cultural difference.”[1]

The Fresh Milk Art Platform Inc., founded in 2011, is located on a dairy farm on the island of Barbados in the Southern Caribbean. We are one of several artist-led initiatives continually emerging across the archipelago supporting contemporary art production and the shaping of critical communities in the region. The local contexts these Caribbean artist networks respond to is the lack of formal institutions to meet artists’ needs, such as a national art gallery or a museum of contemporary art with a mandate to support the production, discussion and visibility of contemporary practice.

Artists in the region are functioning in an arena with relatively small local audiences, underdeveloped primary art markets and, in most cases, non-existent secondary markets for contemporary art works with very few spaces to exhibit. A challenge this poses is that much of the artwork produced in the region is exhibited, appreciated and valued outside of the region where more developed creative environments function, creating a gap between artists and their domestic audiences. Artist-led initiatives have been working to bridge this gap by creating opportunities for creatives to engage with local audiences.

Fresh Milk responds by (i) offering residencies for local artists to produce work and nurture critical thinking, (ii) expanding the reading room to acquire material focusing on contemporary practice from within the region and around the world, not available anywhere else on the island, (iii) activating the reading material through establishing mentoring opportunities for young people who write critical reviews of the book collection shared through the Tumblr page – Fresh Milk Books – The books that make us scream!, and (iv) staging public events providing local audiences and artists moments to engage with each other, along with other activities.


While recognizing the importance of nurturing the local environment, Fresh Milk is equally committed to participating in larger and more diverse conversations regionally. Common obstacles rippling throughout the region’s creative sectors act as unifiers, giving rise to geographical connections among artists across the Caribbean who share in these frustrations and resulting in the formation of many of these artist-led initiatives and collaborations.

Fresh Milk’s online interactive mapping project reconfirms our regional identity and functions as a transnational exercise demonstrating the presence of a myriad of arts entities across the Caribbean from the nineteenth century till now – refuting the fact that we are a divided space as determined by former colonizers who used dominant languages to separate the region linguistically. Consolidating regional art spaces into one, the readily accessible online map also acts as a crucial educational and research tool for locating historical and current data about Caribbean art, broadening both local and international knowledge, awareness and collaboration. Mapping becomes an act of resistance as we become our own cartographers, insisting on connection rather than division and relationship as opposed to discord. The map also resists the notion that there is a central and singular art world of which we are peripheral.

While it maybe true that, as Amanda Coulson wrote in the Frieze April issue, ‘The idea that anything intellectual happens here is anathema to the brand we have projected to the outside world’,[2] this map opposes the reductive way in which the Caribbean has been branded repeatedly as an exotic playground for people from elsewhere.

Fresh Milk has worked with partners in the region to establish a regional residency project called Caribbean Linked.[3] This project brings artists throughout the region to make and exhibit art, engage in critical dialogue and build relationships, while using the arts to foster a more unified Caribbean.

As our relationships spread beyond the insular Caribbean, our programming expands to reflect the shifting dynamics of our engagements. Nurturing our core foundation in the Caribbean equips us to build robust, meaningful connections internationally – not seeking validation, but rather mutually enriching cultural exchanges. Fresh Milk is continually fostering critical conversations with entities throughout the Caribbean, in the Global South and traversing the North/South axis of the world to holistically realize a healthy cultural ecosystem.
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Mapping the Commonwealth with “Glasgow’s Finest”

Alberta Whittle shares her thoughts on the recent International Artist Initiated (IAI) project in Glasgow, presented by the David Dale Gallery & Studios as part of The Glasgow 2014 Cultural Programme which took place alongside this year’s Commonwealth Games. Read more below:

Photograph by Rayanne Bushell

Representatives of Clark House Initiative, RM, Video Network Lagos, Fresh Milk; Alberta Whittle and Rayanne Bushell

 “In 1884 the Earl of Rosebery visits Australia and asks, ”Does the fact of your being a nation… imply separation from the Empire? God forbid! There is no need for any new nation, however great, leaving the Empire, because the Empire is a Commonwealth of Nations“.”[1]

In the summer of 2014, the Commonwealth Games arrived in Glasgow. Much like any travelling circus, the Games brought believers, performers, participants and an audience. Like any participant, I came to Glasgow with my own expectations. Having lived in the city for many years, but failing to assimilate completely, I still feigned the confidence that comes so easily for those who know the area. Sharing a taxi ride, with the self-proclaimed “Glasgow’s Finest”, the driver quizzed me on my knowledge of the city’s geography, asking me where roads connected, easily highlighting my failure to truly belong to Glasgow. The driver insisted on informing me that Glasgow’s taxi drivers were always known as “Glasgow’s Finest”, and I was not allowed to forget it.

During this trip, over many conversations with “Glasgow’s Finest”, a discourse of belonging and not belonging readily emerged. The drivers often assumed Barbadian artist, Annalee Davis and I were Americans, our accents blurring into a vague sense of foreign-ness. They asked why we were here, and when we explained about our project as part of the Commonwealth Games, they in turn spoke of how the Games were not for Glaswegians. The Games’ faux presentation of multiculturalism and the promotion of the idea that we are all in this together confronts the reality that, for many Glaswegians, there is a disconnect between their participation on home soil and the participation of the athletes and visitors flown in to contribute to the spectacle of imagined unity. The notion of unity between us, members of a former British colony, and Glaswegians, a nation grappling with securing their own independence, came from an unlikely direction. Driving through the Merchant City we passed roads such as St. Vincent Street and Jamaica Street; easy reminders of Glasgow’s active role within the slave trade as members of the plantocracy and as indentured servants. However, “Glasgow’s Finest” posited the belief that Caribbean and Scottish nations must be united against the English, advocating the belief that Scots also faced “oppression” from England. This supposition did not entirely surprise me, given the political climate surrounding the upcoming Scottish Referendum.

From the banners, traffic diversions and the odd, green mascot called Clyde dotted across the city, the aura of the Commonwealth seeped into Glasgow’s public spaces. As part of the celebrations, the David Dale Gallery in Glasgow’s East End invited artist-run spaces from across the Commonwealth:  Fillip (Canada),  RM (New Zealand), Cyprus Dossier (Cyprus), Fresh Milk (Barbados), Video Art Network Lagos (Nigeria) and Clark House Initiative (India) to participate in their International Artist Initiated programme.

As part of the Fresh Milk platform, Mark King, Ronald Williams and myself presented a series of interventions. Responding to the commercial nature of the area, we crafted three individual presentations. The location of the David Dale Gallery within the heart of the East End of Glasgow – once a thriving industrial boomtown – seems peculiarly apt, mirroring the substantial role of production Britain’s former colonies assumed, laying the foundation for the industrial revolution. These same former colonies are now re-positioned as independent nations, members of the Commonwealth, exhibiting artwork in their own image. The recent deterioration of Glasgow’s prominence in manufacturing, where production is now outsourced to these former colonies, lends symmetry to the proceedings.

 “Internet ultimately offers both the seductions and subductions of a postmodern “world.”’ [2]

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