Alice Yard announces the results of their inaugural Prize for Art Writing

alice yard prize winners

From L-R: Winner Stephen Narain (Bahamas) and Honourable Mentions Nicole Smythe-Johnson (Jamaica) and Katherine Kennedy (Barbados)

The co-directors of Alice Yard are pleased to announce that the winner of the inaugural Alice Yard Prize for Art Writing is Stephen Narain, born in the Bahamas and now living in the United States.

From the shortlist of five writers, two more have been selected for honourable mention: Katherine Kennedy of Barbados and Nicole Smythe-Johnson of Jamaica.

The other shortlisted writers are Brandon O’Brien of Trinidad and Tobago and Aiko Maya Roudette of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Narain will receive a cash award of US$1,000, and his essay, along with Kennedy’s and Smythe-Johnson’s, will be published in The Caribbean Review of Books.

Launched by Alice Yard in 2014, the prize is an annual award for an original piece of critical writing on contemporary Caribbean art by a Caribbean writer aged 35 or under. It aims to encourage new writing on Caribbean art and artists, and to identify emerging voices in contemporary Caribbean art criticism. Originally it was expected that the winner of the inaugural prize would be announced in late 2014. Despite the delay in the timetable, the prize will continue to be awarded annually, and the 2015 Alice Yard Prize for Art Writing will open for entries in September.

The co-directors of Alice Yard wish to thank the 2014 prize judges — Krista Thompson, Charles Campbell, and Courtney J. Martin — for their time and critical engagement.

Read more on the Alice Yard website here.

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

Mother Tongue’s Residency – Week 2 Blog Post

Mother Tongue, the curatorial duo of Jessica Carden and Tiffany Boyle, share a blog post about their second week at Fresh Milk, which kept them busy with a number of meetings and visits. These sessions were not only with artists, but also focused on the island’s history, geography and social environment; topics that feed into a number of the art practices they have encountered so far, and contribute to Mother Tongue’s overall understanding of the space. Read their report below: 

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Whilst our first week in Barbados took the form of an introduction to Fresh Milk, the reading room collection and the studio space, our second week has been a flurry of meetings, studio visits and trips around the island to meet with various individuals, museums and organisations. It has been a week of connecting with a whole host of people who are instrumental to the arts scene here on the island – both in the past and in the present – with established and emergent practitioners. We have also consciously widened our scope to look at the rich histories outside of the arts, but which have been preoccupying local artists, such as the sugar industry, tourism and the colonial role in the horticulture of the island.

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On Monday we met with the Barbadian artist Alberta Whittle, who we were originally introduced to in Glasgow whilst she was studying at Glasgow School of Art. Alberta gave us a tour of the National Museum of Barbados, and provided a brilliant insight into her position as a Barbadian artist who has become established outside of the island but returns regularly to make work here as an invested member of the arts community. Alberta also introduced us to our very first Caribbean snow cone, which consists of crushed ice, sugar syrup and condensed milk; perfect for a Scottish sweet tooth! We attended a lecture at the museum which was focused on the evolution of the tourist industry here in Barbados from the early 19th century onwards, and how it has become central for the islands’ economy, which was for such a long time monopolised by sugar cane.

Having become aware of their work through various Caribbean art publications in the Fresh Milk reading room, Director Annalee set-up studio visits with the artists Ewan Atkinson and Mark King. We were really lucky to have caught a sneak preview of Ewan’s exciting new work for the Havana Biennial which he will be taking over later this year. He also gave us some really interesting background information to his recent series ‘The Neighbourhood Report’, which comprises of several fictional characters exploring notions of identity, sexuality and gender representations. In our conversation with artist Mark King, he charted his journey from the US and Holland, and why he has chosen to return to Barbados to make it his base, while he continues to exhibit internationally.

This week we have also been really fortunate to spend some time with the artist Holly Bynoe, who is also the Co-Founder and Director of Caribbean Arts and culture magazine ARC. Throughout her career as an artist, researcher, curator and writer in the Caribbean, Holly has been an invaluable source in providing references and links to artists and projects across the region. We were able to discuss the role ARC magazine has been taking as a platform for many projects – written and beyond – over dinner with Holly and Assistant to the Director Katherine Kennedy, who is also an artist and an integral member of the Fresh Milk team.

On Friday we were introduced to the artist Denyse Menard Greenidge, who founded Dayrells Art Gallery in Barbados in the 70s, and continues to curate the work of Barbadian artists locally and internationally. Talking us through documentation from the 70’s and 80’s, Denyse was able to provide us with an overview of how governmental support for the arts has changed over the years and how this has impacted the current activity on the island. We visited her husband Newlands Greenidge‘s self-founded Springvale Indigenous Folk Museum, which is located in the Scottish district on the east of the island. The museum hosts a collection of artefacts which describe what life would have been like on the island in the early 19th century. Created through a labour of love by Newlands and Denyse, their passion for the island’s history is clear through the wealth of information they provided about the collection and its significance for Barbados.

In our second week, we were also visited in the Fresh Milk studio by Sean Carrington, Professor of Plant Biology at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus. We had a really stimulating conversation about the importation of species into the island, indigenousness and plant life, and the problems language causes between islands in the region, in terms of classification and keeping track of plant populations. Following our meeting with Sean, we went to meet Dr. Anthony Kennedy, Director of the West Indies Central Sugar Cane Breeding Station. The station is one of the most successful breeding centres in the world, whose work and research helps to develop sugar industries across the Southern Hemisphere. During our visit we were talked through the history of sugar on the island, and how it formed and influenced the way we see not just the agricultural formations but the human geography and architecture of the island too. This history is so significant for any attempt to understand the island, and it’s something that we’re trying to grasp as best as we can during our visit.

We look forward to a busy third week that will include two presentations at Barbados Community College on curating, and a re-screening of our ‘Afrofuturism’ programme, originally developed for the Africa in Motion Film Festival 2012.

FRESH MILK XVII Review

Kwame Slusher, writer and current team leader of Fresh Milk Books, shares a review of our final event for 2014, FRESH MILK XVII which took place on December 19. The event featured presentations by resident artists, overviews of past and upcoming projects & activities, and a potluck celebration dinner to close out our year. 

All photography by Dondré Trotman.

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…so we jewel the edges of his body

With shattered bottles, then bear him
to the foot of the casuarinas in order that his born
silhouette may freely flash and prance—

– Christian Campbell
Goodmans Bay II

The game described in Campbell’s poem, which he read at the event FRESH MILK XVII that took place on December 19, 2014, is known as Moon Shine Baby/Dolly—a traditional game played by children in the Caribbean and West Africa. One person is chosen or chooses to be the ‘baby/dolly’ and they lie down on the ground, while the other children outline the ‘baby/dolly’ with limestone and broken shards of glass. When the other children are finished, ‘baby/dolly’ gets up and their silhouette of found things would glitter in the moonlight. The game in Campbell’s poem is reminiscent of the Ancient Greek girl that wanted to preserve the memory of her lover who, after a time, had to return to his homeland. As the story goes, she made her lover stand still while she traced the outline of his shadow, then later, got her father to fill it in with clay. Inadvertently, like the game in Campbell’s poem, she not only created a space to remember someone by, but where something new can be developed.

FRESH MILK XVII was not just a space for the latest two resident artists to formally present on their work and experiences, but also an opportunity for members of the Fresh Milk platform to recount recent activities and to look to the future. In the wake of not having a National Art Gallery, Fresh Milk’s director Annalee Davis stated in her opening remarks that “…we live in an era necessarily of self-organization. Civil society must self-organize and build the spaces we want and need for ourselves.” Like the gathered bits of limestone and glass on the beach and the outline of the lost lover, Fresh Milk is  attempting to reimagine a historical space that fosters creativity.

The first presenter, Barbadian arts writer Natalie McGuire, spoke about the Transoceanic Visual Exchange, which is a project Fresh Milk is working on in conjunction with two other art communities: RM in New Zealand and Video Art Network (VAN) Lagos in Nigeria. McGuire said that the project was about upending traditional notions of geo-political space and cultural exchanges. The project is looking for submissions from filmmakers, video artists or artists that work between these spaces—those whose works don’t quite qualify to be shown in a gallery or in a cinema —to go about creating a digital sphere where these cultural exchanges can take place.

Barbadian visual artist and writer Katherine Kennedy then spoke about her experiences at Akadamie Schloss Solitude in Germany, where she had been selected to participate in the ResSupport Fellowship Programme offered by Res Artis on behalf of Fresh Milk from September 1st to December 1st. In her presentation, Kennedy looked at the different connections and encounters that she made with a diverse cross-section of people from around the world. In addition to the interconnection of ideas in a single space, she said that it was good to be able to find the familiar in an unfamiliar environment. She spoke about attending the opening of an exhibition in Memmingen, which focused on carnival, and seeing the work of Trinidadian visual artists Marlon Griffith and Barbadian visual artist Ewan Atkinson. Kennedy pointed out that what was interesting about the exhibition is while the theme was carnival, it was looking at both European and Caribbean depictions instead of just focusing on one locale.

In the second half of the evening, the two artists in residence – Toronto-Based, Bajan-Jamaican industrial designer and visual artist Kara Springer and Toronto-based, Trinidadian-Bahamian poet and cultural critic Christian Campbell – presented their work and what they had accomplished during the residency. Kara talked about her project, Repositioned Objects, which involved the building of 4x4x4ft wooden structures that create tension between the controlled and the uncontrollable. Kara, with the assistance of Christian, went around different points of the island installing the cubes and photographing them. In some cases the structures were left overnight, and in others she only had a short time to construct, photograph and break the structures back down again. What she did not expect was to not only have to deal with destructive natural elements, but also with people who went out of their way to destroy her structures. She was forced to then contend with the intersection of creation and destruction; the difficulty of trying to create order in a chaotic environment.

The final address was given by Christian Campbell, who began by speaking a little about the workshop he led titled ‘The Art of the Essay/The Essay on Art’. The workshop focused on ekphrasis, which has traditionally been a creatively written description on a visual work of art, however for the purposes of the workshop the definition was expanded to include any art form responding to another. Christian’s presentation, unlike the others, was really a series of readings. The first was Martin Carter’s Till I Collect to commemorate the 17th anniversary of Martin Carter’s death, which would have been on the second and last day of the critical writing workshops, held on December 13th. He also read Till I Collect because the last two lines of the poem, “till I collect my scattered skeleton/till I collect…” seemed to correlate with Jean Michel Basquiat’s X-Ray-like self portrait. Campbell read what he considered the ‘most important’ thing that he achieved during the residency, an essay on Jean Michel Basquiat, before adding to the selection with three poems from his own collection ‘Running the Dusk’: Goodmans Bay II, Curry Powder and Iguana. The last poem he read was one of his newer pieces, Names.

In his piece on Basquiat, Campbell read that the Haitian-American artist tried to collect everything, “…the way the Caribbean is the cross-cultural crossroads for the whole damn world”. In many ways that represents what art communities such as Fresh Milk, RM and VAN Lagos are and try to be with projects like the Transoceanic Visual Exchange; to create spaces with what is there, so that something new can develop. This makes it possible for artists like Katherine to go to places like Akadamie Schloss Solitude to work with and connect with other artists from all over the world.

After the presentations were over, and the rain that threatened to drown them had petered out, everyone gathered on the veranda to partake in the Christmas Potluck; to create a new space filled with the holiday spirit and hope for the New Year.

FRESH MILK XVII Video

Check out our video from FRESH MILK XVII, which took place on December 19, 2014 at The Fresh Milk Art Platform, Barbados.

FRESH MILK XVII was our last public event for 2014, and featured visual artist Kara Springer and poet / critical writer Christian Campbell speaking about their residency experiences, Katherine Kennedy sharing news about her three month fellowship at Akadamie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Germany and Natalie McGuire addressing TVE – a Transoceanic Visual Exchange between Barbados, Nigeria and New Zealand.

Thanks to Sammy Davis for shooting and editing this video!