Mother Tongue’s Residency – Final Blog Post

Mother Tongue, the curatorial duo of Jessica Carden and Tiffany Boyle, share their final blog post about their Fresh Milk residency, which concluded at the end of February 2015. They recount the last set of meetings they were able to conduct in their very full and productive schedule, including speaking with more artists & academics, visiting collections, and finally attending the Tilting Axis conference. Read the full post below: 

Walking Tour with Dr Anthony Richards

Walking Tour with Dr Anthony Richards

The final two weeks of our residency with Fresh Milk were incredibly full and productive, and left us with little time to put down in words how things had been progressing for us. So, belatedly – and from our colder home climates – here is our final blog, as we begin to reflect more widely on our time and research in Barbados.

Work by Versia Harris installed at Alice Yard, Trinidad

Work by Versia Harris installed at Alice Yard, Trinidad

We began our fourth week at the Fresh Milk studio where the emerging Barbadian artist Versia Harris talked us through her latest videoworks. Versia has had a really busy couple of years with residencies and exhibitions across Europe, Russia, the USA and the Caribbean, so we were fortunate to have the opportunity to discuss her work in-person. In the afternoon, we led a curating workshop with the Fresh Milk Books group. Within this session, the group worked together to select an exhibition and then present to us an exhibition redux, making  revisions, reimaginings and remodellings of the original exhibition’s concept and execution. The workshop proved to be a successful method of furthering the FMB groups’ understanding and expectations around curatorial practice, and how it yields a huge affect on the way their own work is framed and represented.

Mid-week we met with Dr. Aaron Kamugisha, Senior Lecturer in Cultural Studies at the University of the West Indies where we discussed his work on coloniality, cultural citizenship and freedom in the contemporary Anglophone Caribbean, as well as his role of editor for the ‘Caribbean Political Thought: The Colonial State to Caribbean Internationalisms’ (2013) which has been an influential reference point for our own research in Barbados. Also situated on the Cave Hill campus at UWI is the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination which offers  BA and postgraduate degree programmes. At the EBCCI we met with the director, Gladstone Yearwood, who gave us a tour of the building and described some of the educational approaches the centre is taking in relation to arts education. Later in the day, we visited with Therese Hadchity the private collection of architect Mervyn Awon, whose collection has been amassed over a period of 40 years and predominantly consists of Caribbean modern and contemporary art.

Hosted within the capital’s Grande Salle, we attended the film screening of documentary ‘Chinee Girl’ by Natalie Wei which formed the later part of the Fish and Dragon Festival opening reception on the 19th. ‘Chinee Girl’ interweaves testimonials from twelve Chinese-Trinidadian women from all different walks of life to explore the various stereotypes and issues of identity they face daily in Trinidadian society. The end of the week was marked by our visit to the home of the artist Nick Whittle; an artist who has been making work in Barbados since the 70’s. Nick talked us through his recent works including his ongoing collaboration with his daughter and fellow artist Alberta Whittle, before allowing us to search through his print archive consisting of some of the older works. Nick was really instrumental in helping us to map the arts scene during the 80’s and 90’s, through his involvement in many of the local and regional exhibitions. Our visit ended with a very special reading from Nick; his poem ‘This Is Not My Land,’ is still echoing in our thoughts.

Ras Ishi Butcher

Ras Ishi Butcher

Our fifth and final week began with a visit to the National Cultural Foundation where we met with Andrea Wells, Chief Cultural Officer, and Rodney Ifill, Visual Arts Officer, focusing on their remits across the arts sector. We then travelled northeast across the island to make a studio visit with the prominent artist Ras Ishi Butcher. Previously working closely with the artist Ras Akyem, Ishi and Akyem left Barbados in the 90’s to study in Cuba. Ishi showed us new works, particularly focused on the female body and gender in the context of the Caribbean. We then viewed some of his older works whilst discussing his views on sustaining a practice on the island. That evening, we met with Dr. Anthony Richards, a biotechnologist based in Barbados who gave us a walking tour of the city centre. We discussed the spiritual meanings of the island’s flora and fauna, as well as being taken to a number of sites which are known to be important for the history of slavery and the sugar industry on the including the dockyard and city port.

On Tuesday we met with the dancer, choreographer and academic Dr. Yanique Hume. Co-editor alongside Aaron Kamugisha of the ‘Caribbean Political Thought’ volume, Yanique is also based within the Cultural Studies department of the University of the West Indies. Our conversation began with discussing the evolution of Yanique’s own practice in dance and choreography, before discussing her research into the arts in Barbados in the 70’s (primarily around Elombe Mottley’s ‘Yoruba Yard’ and Ras Akyem and Ras Ishi’s public painting projects), before discussing examples of exhibition-making focused around colonialism and race.

On Wednesday morning, we were very lucky to be granted access to the Barbados Gallery Association’s collection which is currently housed in the national museum’s storage facility in Holetown, located on the west coast of the island. We were accompanied by a number of the association’s committee members who talked us through their acquisitions process and future plans for the collection. We picked out works from the store to view, from artists including Stanley Greaves, Arthur Atkinson and Norma Talma; works which we had only previously seen in catalogues and books. On Thursday evening after visits to the British High Commission and the Ministry of Culture, we returned to Mojo’s bar on the south coast where we had met with the local artists and Fresh Milk team four weeks previously for welcoming drinks. This time, we were celebrating our four weeks and saying our farewells, whilst also welcoming a number of participants who had arrived early for the Tilting Axis international symposium which would be taking place at Fresh Milk later in the week. Directors Max Slaven and Ellie Royle arrived from David Dale Gallery, Scotland, alongside CCA Glasgow curator Remco de Blaaij.

Our final day before our residency came to an end was spent with the artist and curator Joscelyn Gardener. Joscelyn met with us in the Fresh Milk studio and described her experiences of being both an artist and  curator in Barbados, her framing of her heritage as ‘white-creole’ and the challenges she faced whilst running the Art Foundry; a gallery space which has now closed but was an important landmark within the arts scene for bringing international work and challenging subject-matter to the island. An established artist now living in Canada, Joscelyn spoke about the difficulties facing all artists in Barbados and her role on various committees attempting to secure a national gallery throughout the 90’s.

The following two days were dedicated to the international symposium ‘Tilting Axis: Within and Beyond the Caribbean – Shifting Models of Sustainability and Connectivity’ which was held at Fresh Milk. A partnership between ARC Magazine, Res Artis, Perez Art Museum Miami and Fresh Milk, the aim of the meeting was to promote conversations and engagement between artists and professionals within artist-led initiatives across the wider Caribbean region, build and redefine historical relationships with those in the North, and establish open dialogues and networks emerging in the Global south. Alongside David Dale Gallery and CCA Glasgow, we were present and supported by the British Council Scotland, representing artistic activity across Scotland. The conference witnessed 34 participants from all across the Caribbean come together in order to exchange experiences and form strategies for future support and collaborations. It was a rich experience and one that will undoubtedly have lasting effects. We will be sharing a report on the conference, alongside all participants in the coming month. We will also be reporting back on the outcomes of our residency with Fresh Milk, as well as information on the return project to take place in Scotland – more coming soon!

Tilting Axis: Game-Changing Regional Art Conference on Sustainability in Caribbean Visual Arts held in Barbados

Participants of the Tilting Axis 2015 conference. All photographs by Sammy Davis.

Participants of the Tilting Axis 2015 conference. All photographs by Sammy Davis.

The visual arts conference, ‘Tilting Axis: Within and Beyond the Caribbean – Shifting Models of Sustainability and Connectivity‘, was held in Barbados on February 27-28, 2015 and was dedicated to forging infrastructure between several independent art organisations and museums operating across the Caribbean, U.S., E.U., and China. The conference is a game-changing development for sustainable economic development in regional visual art.

The two-day conference brought together the diverse leaders of these visual art development organisations to negotiate strategic regional and international alliances for the formalisation and further development of infrastructure, production and markets for Caribbean art.

The conference was organized by The Fresh Milk Art Platform, Inc., where the event was held, in collaboration with ARC Magazine, Res Artis and the Pérez Art Museum Miami. Tilting Axis was supported by the Arts and Sport Promotion Fund Committee (Barbados), the Davidoff Art Initiative, the British Council and the Prince Claus Fund.

Among the more than thirty invited participants were Annalee Davis, Founding Director of The Fresh Milk Art Platform (Barbados); Holly Bynoe, Co-founder and Editor-in-chief of ARC Magazine (St. Vincent & the Grenadines); Tobias Ostrander, Chief Curator, and Maria Elena Ortiz, Assistant Curator, of the Pérez Art Museum Miami (USA); Mario A. Caro, President of Res Artis (Amsterdam); David Codling, Director Arts, Americas, British Council (Colombia); Natalie Urquhart, Director of the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands; Amanda Coulson, Director of art fair VOLTA NY and Director of the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas; Deborah Anzinger, Artist and Director of Kingston-based visual art initiative NLS (Jamaica); Nicholas Laughlin, Co-founder of Trinidad and Tobago-based backyard space, Alice Yard; David Bade and Tirzo Martha, Co-directors of Instituto Buena Bista (Curaçao); Elvis López, Director of Ateliers ‘89 (Aruba); Remco De Blaaij, Curator at the Centre for Contemporary Art (Glasgow); Max Slaven and Ellie Royle, Co-Directors of the David Dale Gallery & Studios (Glasgow); Jessica Carden, Co-founder of Mother Tongue (Glasgow); Solange Farkas, Director of Videobrasil (Brazil); N’Goné Fall, Independent Curator and Co-Founder of GawLab (Senegal); Raquel Paiewonsky, Co-founder of the artist collective Quintapata (Dominican Republic); Kira Simon-Kennedy, Co-founder China Residencies (USA/China); Malaika Brooks-Smith Lowe, Co-founder and Director of Groundation Grenada, Marsha Pearce, Senior Editor of ARC Magazine (Trinidad); Caryl* Ivrisse Crochemar, Director of 14°N 61°W (Martinique). And from Barbados participants included Janice Whittle, curator of Queens Park Gallery and representative of the National Cultural Foundation; Therese Hadchity, Art Historian; Joscelyn Gardner, Artist; Llanor Alleyne, Artist and Writer; Katherine Kennedy, Artist and Directors’ Assistant at ARC and Fresh Milk; Versia Harris, Artist and Fresh Milk volunteer; Sammy Davis, Fresh Milk volunteer and Tonika Sealy, Independent Cultural Producer.

L-R: Mario A. Caro (President of Res Artis), Annalee Davis (Founding Director of Fresh Milk), Tobias Ostrander (Chief Curator at the Pérez Art Museum Miami) and Holly Bynoe (Co-founder & Editor-in-chief of ARC Magazine).

L-R: Mario A. Caro (President of Res Artis), Annalee Davis (Founding Director of Fresh Milk), Tobias Ostrander (Chief Curator at the Pérez Art Museum Miami) and Holly Bynoe (Co-founder & Editor-in-chief of ARC Magazine).

According to co-organisers Holly Bynoe and Annalee Davis, the conference seeks to create opportunities for visual artists living in the Caribbean and provide professional and economic development in the region through formal collaborations between key art organisations and foundations across the Caribbean and beyond. The conference also aims to build and redefine relationships around cultural exchange between the Global North and the Global South.

“It is not just about contemporary art. One of the tasks we have undertaken at the Pérez Art Museum Miami is the building of Caribbean art histories in the consciousness of the American public. We see the Pérez Art Museum as strategically placed to undertake this,” stated Tobias Ostrander.

From the conference, a strategic action plan for continued collaboration was developed after a reflection on the two-day discussion.

“In creating markets for contemporary art in the Caribbean, we are developing the ecosystem and all the underlying components that drive that market: The environment for artists to make great work; art writers, researchers and funders to help make that work accessible to the public; international museums and galleries to show the work; advisors and dealers to get the work placed in collections. Shared programming, exchanges, and educational initiatives developed between the institutions present addressed these key components,” stated Deborah Anzinger.

Tilting Axis 2015

Tilting Axis 2015

One of the mandates issued to the participants of the Tilting Axis conference is to tighten strategic networks in their home countries. The organisers of the conference also expect to expand the invited participant list for the next meeting which will take place in 2016.

Annalee Davis stated in her welcome address that “Many of us working in the region have been speaking with one another, in some cases for many years, but today is the first time that artist-led initiatives have come together from the Dutch, Spanish, French and English territories to meet physically in the Caribbean. It is critical that this gathering is taking place on Caribbean soil, and that we consider the visual arts sector from within the archipelago as a counterpoint to the many decisions that have been and are often made about the region externally.”

Mario A. Caro expressed his enthusiasm for the collaborations to be developed between members of Res Artis, a worldwide network of art residencies, and organizations in the Caribbean. “It is clear that the cultural sector in the Caribbean is undergoing exciting and, at times, dynamic changes, and many of these have to do with relationships being established with new partners around the globe. The increase in the mobility of artists through art residencies, both into and out of the region, is one critical factor.”

Holly Bynoe echoed positivism: “The meeting of professionals who are actively engaging and challenging collaborative strategies acknowledges the changes rippling across the Caribbean, and reaffirms the critical value of innovative emerging networks. As more eyes are turning to look at this space, we need to be cognisant of what they are seeing, and consider how and what we want them to experience. Tilting Axis aspires to become a conduit; supporting the professionalisation of artists and formalising engagements, leading to greater visibility and accessibility of contemporary Caribbean art.”

Tilting Axis 2015

Tilting Axis 2015

FRESH MILK XVI Review

Fresh Milk Books‘ Team Leader Amanda Haynes reviews our last public event FRESH MILK XVI. Read more below:

Photograph by Dondre Trotman

Photograph by Dondre Trotman

On Thursday June 26th, the Fresh Milk Art Platform hosted FRESH MILK XVI, the Barbados Launch of See Me Here: A Survey of Self Portraits from the Caribbean, edited by Melanie Archer and Mariel Brown of Robert and Christopher Publishers. Organised into a moderated panel discussion and an open Q & A, it was one of those rare times the second segment outran the first.

The event opened with a succinct presentation by visual artist Ronald Williams and my brief chat about Fresh Milk Books, before launching into the feature of the night: a conversation with See Me Here editor Melanie Archer and contributing Barbadian artists Ewan Atkinson, Annalee Davis, Joscelyn Gardner and Sheena Rose.

Skilfully moderated by Barbadian artist Russell Watson, dialogue revolved around the motivation and content of each artist’s unique self-portraiture, as well as the editors’ decision to compile an anthology with self-portraiture as its point of departure.

Annalee, Joscelyn, Ewan and Sheena’s responses were nuanced, embodying their personal expression of self and a distinct awareness of social identity as a political circumstance. In each case, their creative process reveals an understanding of this tension. For example, Joscelyn’s reflection on her work highlighted its ‘naïve’ perspective as she grappled to comprehend the complex racial and social climate of the Caribbean and being ‘white creole’. Similarly, Annalee shared her experience as being a white creole artist from Barbados, and the way in which Fresh Milk can be read as a self-portrait of this journey.

The more unapologetic, ‘socially vague’ visual art of Ewan and Sheena provoked especially provocative questions. As the discussion was opened to the audience, the question of self-portraiture as a zeitgeist of current Caribbean contemporary artists whirled into thoughtful questions and critically introspective answers. Major concerns expressed included the implications of this preoccupation with ‘self’ in today’s art practice, including the lack of a collective social agenda of current contemporary Caribbean art when compared to the socially oriented work of previous generations. Is this phenomenon indicative of an abandoning of ‘the national project’, or is it reflective of contemporary deconstructions of place as the root of one’s identity? How does this trend fit into the phenomenon of self-portraiture in general art history; is there a common social climate of these times?

In the context of contemporary mediated social media, the question of the performativity of art practice also raised poignant questions about the commodification of art, the role of the marketplace in the creative process, and criteria of authenticity: Who is the audience of this performance? How does this influence how, where and what we create? More importantly, what is the point of what we do? Should there be a point, anyway?

The mic was passed from artists, curators, scholars, students, men, women, the young, the older and the old. In a safe space for our perspectives to clash, clang and mingle, the night confirmed how much place does matter. In particular, the exchanges implied the radical potential of contemporary Caribbean art; more than ever before in the history of our region, we have the opportunity to create, control, consume and distribute perceptions of our visual and cultural identities. See Me Here signifies this moment—what comes next, we are not entirely sure.

Just after 9:30, Russell brought the lively conversation to a coherent close. Most of us stayed to mingle, purchase See Me Here, view the intimate exhibition and browse the CLRR. You wouldn’t guess that three hours before, FRESH MILK XVI was weary of the rain. Thankfully, Annalee and Katherine’s decision to host the night’s proceedings in the open space of the porch and lawn was magical. The atmosphere was relaxed and open, and the rain decided not to drench the projector or those of us sitting under the stars.

All photographs by Dondre Trotman 

FRESH MILK XVI Video

Check out our video from FRESH MILK XVI, the Barbados book launch for Robert & Christopher Publishers‘ (R&C) latest title, See Mere Here: A Survey of Contemporary Self-Portraits from the Caribbean, edited by Melanie Archer and Mariel Brown.

The event presented a small exhibition and panel discussion with the Barbadian artists featured in the publication – Ewan Atkinson, Annalee Davis, Joscelyn Gardner and Sheena Rose – and editor Melanie Archer, moderated by Barbadian artist Russell Watson.

Thanks to Sammy Davis for shooting and editing this video!

FRESH MILK XVI: Book Launch and Conversation for ‘See Me Here’

FM XVI Flyer - Final

The Fresh Milk Art Platform is pleased to invite you to our last public event before our summer break, FRESH MILK XVI – the Barbados book launch for Robert & Christopher Publishers’ (R&C) latest title, See Mere Here: A Survey of Contemporary Self-Portraits from the Caribbean, edited by Melanie Archer and Mariel Brown. The event will feature a small exhibition and panel discussion with the Barbadian artists featured in the publication – Ewan Atkinson, Annalee Davis, Joscelyn Gardner and Sheena Rose – and editor Melanie Archer, moderated by Barbadian artist Russell Watson.

See Me Here will be available for purchase at Fresh Milk on the night of the launch at a discounted price of $100 BBD, and thereafter at $110 BBD. The book has also been added to the collection in the on-site Colleen Lewis Reading Room (CLRR). In the spirit of celebrating this ever expanding archive of beautiful and critical publications, there will also be a short presentation on our new initiative Fresh Milk Books, introducing the team and sharing ways in which the public can get involved with this space for the interactive exploration of the CLRR.

FRESH MILK XVI takes place Thursday, June 26, 2014 from 6:30-8:00 pm at the Fresh Milk Studio, St. George (directions can be found here) and is free and open to the public.

See Me Here_book cover 720

About See Me Here

See Me Here is the second book in R&C’s thematic explorations of contemporary art in the Caribbean – it follows the imprint’s successful first title, Pictures from Paradise (2012), which was picked up for distribution by North America’s most prestigious art book distributor, and is also being made into a major exhibition in Toronto, Canada, in May.

See Me Here calls attention to recent directions in self portraiture throughout the region, by focusing on artists who frequently or significantly use their physical selves, or those to whom they are linked by blood or significant experience, as an avenue for exploration and expression. In so doing, the book asks: How do we really see ourselves? How accurate is the image we present? What formative roles do our cultures and upbringings play? And, what role does the Caribbean as a physical and mental space have in the creation and perception of our own personal, visual identities?

Edited by Melanie Archer and Mariel Brown, See Me Here features a critical essay by Marsha Pearce, and more than 380 images from 25 artists. These works range across a variety of media, from drawing and painting to photography, sculpture, installation and performance. Eleven of these artists – Akuzuru, Ashraph, Susan Dayal, Michelle Isava, Jaime Lee Loy, Che Lovelace, Joshua Lue Chee Kong, Steve Ouditt, Irénée Shaw, Roberta Stoddart and Dave Williams – are from or are based in Trinidad & Tobago. The book’s other artists – Ewan Atkinson, James Cooper, John Cox, Renee Cox, Annalee Davis, Laura Facey, Joscelyn Gardner, Lawrence Graham-Brown, Anna Ruth Henriques, Nadia Huggins, O’Neil Lawrence, Olivia McGilchrist, Sheena Rose, and Stacey Tyrell – are either based in the Caribbean or have ties to the region, which are addressed through their works selected for the book.

About the Presenting Artists

 

Ewan Atkinson:

Ewan Atkinson was born in Barbados in 1975. He received a BFA from the Atlanta College of Art and an MA in Cultural Studies at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill.  He has exhibited in regional and international exhibitions including the 2010 Liverpool Biennial, “Wrestling with the image: Caribbean Interventions” at the Art Museum of the Americas in Washington DC, and “Infinite Islands” at the Brooklyn Museum in New York.

Atkinson is the coordinator of the BFA in studio art at the Barbados Community College where he co-founded the Punch Creative Arena, an initiative for creative action based in the college gallery. An arts educator for over a decade, he is also on the executive board of Fresh Milk, a Caribbean non-profit, artist-led, creative support organization. Atkinson also works as a freelance illustrator and designer.

Annalee Davis:

Annalee Davis is a Visual Artist living and working in Barbados. She has been exhibiting her work regionally and internationally since 1989. She works part-time as a tutor in the BFA programme at the Barbados Community College.

Her explorations of home, longing and belonging question parameters that define who belong (and who doesn’t) in contemporary Caribbean society, exposing tensions within the larger context of a post-colonial history while observing the nature of post-independent (failing?) Caribbean nation-states.

In 2011, Annalee founded and now directs the artist-led initiative The Fresh Milk Art Platform Inc. An experiment, a cultural lab and an act of resistance, Fresh Milk supports excellence among contemporary creatives in the Caribbean, its diaspora and internationally.

 

Joscelyn Gardner:

Joscelyn Gardner was born in Barbados and lived there until 2000 when she moved to Canada. She now teaches Fine Art at Fanshawe College in London, Ontario, and works as an artist between Canada and the Caribbean. She holds an MFA degree from the University of Western Ontario and her work has been exhibited widely in solo exhibitions in the USA, Canada, Spain, and the Caribbean, and in numerous international exhibitions including the Sao Paulo Biennials and major European and Latin American printmaking biennials.

Recent awards include the Biennial Grand Prize at the 7th International Contemporary Printmaking Biennial in Quebec (2011), awards at the Open Studio National Printmaking Awards (Toronto, 2012) and the 22nd Maximo Ramos International Biennial Award for Graphic Arts (Spain, 2012), and a Canada Council for the Arts grant for a major research project in the UK (2013). Gardner’s work is found in many public and private collections and can be viewed on her website.

Sheena Rose:

Born in 1985, Sheena Rose has a BFA from the Barbados Community College. Rose’s work is comprised of hand drawn animation combined with photographs, mixed media, transfers and comic strips. The animations have a surreal quality and deal with daily life, space and the stereotype of her country.

Rose has exhibited extensively, both regionally and internationally. Her work has been shown at Real Art Ways, Hartford Connecticut, Queens Museum, New York, Uitnodiging Amsterdam, Holland, Havana Biennial, Cuba, ACIA, Madrid, Spain, Art Museum of the Americas, Washington, D.C, Greatmore Art Studios, Cape Town, SA, International Curator Forum, Bristol, England, CMAC, Martinique, Museo de Arte, Contemporaneo de Puerto, Puerto Rico, Kentucky Museum of Art & Craft, Kentucky, US, Aruba Biennial, Aruba, Panama Biennial del Sur, Panama and Alice Yard, Port of Spain, Trinidad.

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About Robert & Christopher Publishers

Robert & Christopher Publishers (R&C) is a Trinidad-based art book imprint. R&C’s primary concern in its art series is to produce quality books that document and elucidate our Caribbean story, as seen through the eyes of Caribbean artists. R&C aims to produce the highest quality of relevant art books that will be accessible to a wide reading and creative audience in Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean and internationally.

Robert & Christopher’s mission is to help open up critical dialogue for and amongst Caribbean people, and to explore and record the work of regional artists from a local perspective. By keeping a low price point on all their titles, R&C aims to create go-to texts that are accessible to artists, students of art, art lovers, and critics within the region. And, by maintaining high intellectual and production standards, R&C aims to appeal to international art and publishing markets.

In addition to See Me Here, Robert & Christopher has also published: Pictures from Paradise: A Survey of Contemporary Caribbean Photography, Che Lovelace: Paintings 2004 – 2008, Meiling: Fashion Designer and Barbara Jardine: Goldsmith.