Ark Ramsay’s Fresh Milk Residency – Week 3 Blog Post

Ark Ramsay shares a blog post about the third week of their Fresh Milk residency, beginning with Barbados’ second Pride Parade  organised by Equals Barbados on Sunday, June 30th; punctuated with a midweek visit to Bridgetown to see the developing creative hub Union Collaborative and the exhibition ‘Retro-Future Landscapes‘ by Kraig Yearwood; and ending with the event FRESH MILK XXII: Residency Readings. Read Ark’s poignant thoughts on the intense and challenging week, which required strength and vulnerability to absorb and process both publicly and in private:

Ethan and I celebrating Pride. My sign says “protect the non-beenary baes” with a little bee on it.

I was putting my mouth on the future in my last blog post. When I wrote: the way forward requires that I think about structure–I might as well have said, the way forward requires that I live in a week other than this week.

Sunday was Barbados’ second Pride Parade.

And I don’t want to siphon the joy/abandon/celebration out of that–or sit here and tell you that I did not get on wild and dutty–or claim that the light in me did not flare up at the touch of the light in my Bajan queer family.

And I don’t want to deny ‘bravery’, or ‘resilience’, or ‘beauty’, or ‘at-homedness’.

And I think it ironic that I have to preface the somber and vulnerable with a defense of pageantry. But I do.

Come Monday, sore and filled to the brim with love for this place, I was sitting on the deck at Fresh Milk–video-chatting a queerabian artist-friend who could not be at the parade in person. We started out the same way this blog post started out. In defense of love and glitter. Halfway in, this became untenable.

“Me and belonging just don’t pitch marbles,” they said, as we lamented the long (pothole-filled) road we had taken to arrive at this shifting place. And the cows, chickens, and small dogs all around this farm made effortless song–lampooning our attempts to ground ourselves, or think through the vast human-centeredness of ‘belonging’.

The price paid to dance to “I’m Coming Out” by Dianna Ross in front of Cave Shepherd on Broad Street was (and still is) steep. I pay it every day. All queer Barbadians do. And for some the charge is pulling from a sum they don’t have (and may never have), and whittling away–a slow, drain–until ‘bravery’ is rendered skeletal and impotent.

I volunteer to pay the price, knowing it has to be paid, knowing what’s asked of me is a fraction of a fraction of what is asked of others.

The truth is, all I have to offer is open heart writing surgery, performed on myself. And, the question is not whether it is ‘enough’ (no, possibly not), or whether it can effect change (how egocentric)–what remains is the stubbornness to root through these questions despite their nature–despite the manifold unknowns.

I am reminded this week, after getting back “Cereus Blooms at Night” from Ethan Knowles–and leafing through it–that it appeared for me right when I needed it. I read it when I was nineteen and leaving the island for the first time. I felt then (as I feel now), how unpayable the price of this book must have been, its very existence, the toll it must have taxed out of Shani Mootoo. Her expense is my enrichment, and so the circle of the word continues. I guess all I want to do is pay forward what I was given.

This rambling, guilt-ridden, wishing-I-could-do-more, lamenting-things-as-they-are, swarmed my week. I moved in careful silence, rebuilding what was knocked down, knowing that what was really happening (within me) was the fermentation of things that I could (gratefully) rage back into art–motivated by a Rainer Maria Rilke quote given to me by someone long ago: “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart, and try to love the questions themselves.”

So I repeated that quote like a mantra, knowing it is a rickety bridge from unsurety to unsurety.

At Union Collaborative for a tour of the site

On Tuesday, the whole Fresh Milk family visited “Union Collaborative”, this newly developing hub that seeks to create a space for dialogue and side-by-side creative flow–all within the remnants of a gutted commercial mall.

As Israel Mapp walked us through his vision (fashion designers working across the courtyard from metalworkers and chefs), it seemed like he, and his team, were inexhaustible. That the abundance of love they have for this place, and the whole idea of a revitalized, artistically-thriving Bridgetown, was enough to power the lights. His whole energy seemed to suggest: this is happening with or without anyone else’s input. I was bowled over by the whole enterprise because it was the complete antithesis to the questions that I had been carrying around. It was so rooted, so part-of-things, so not-in-your-own-mindcell.

Yearwood’s work “Aquifer”–inviting us to question the bedrock

Afterwards, we went to Norman Centre, where artist Kraig Yearwood had installed his work “Retro-future Landscapes”. It was right next to a leatherworking stand, and beside the gutted space where a shoe store used to be. Here was this room (fitted for a boutique store), filled with Kraig’s huge pieces rendered from concrete and found items. He cast these objects with the innards of cellphones and plastic detritus–creating these sediment layers that reflect what we may leave behind in the bones of this island. It seems like everyone this week was pondering island, in some form. Who we are, what we build, what we leave behind.

On Thursday, jackhammering at my work (revealing nothing of substance), the rains came. The roof at Fresh Milk is itself a drum–inconsistently played by mahogany pods–but here was this persistent percussion. Annalee (convinced that she practices some sort of Obeah) appeared with “Calling a Wolf a Wolf” by Kaveh Akbar, a book of poems that I’ve been trying to hunt down (or wait to arrive), for years now.

“We all want the same thing (to walk in sincere wonder, like the first man to hear a parrot speak”

Kaveh is an Iranian-American poet, whose work is staggeringly beautiful. In fact, the latter half of this week was about reconnecting with old collections that I treasure and champion (“Everyone Knows I am a Haunting” by Trinidad’s Shivanee Ramlochan), and finally getting to read this work. I was able to put them side-by-side. Their work, so different, yet both so brutal and honest. They both stare it down. They both inhabit ‘bravery’, ‘resilience’, ‘beauty’, and ‘at-homedness’.

I channelled them when I was called upon to perform.

On Friday the trio of residents decided to host an open house, where we would pull from work-in-progress and untested writing. We would essentially give what we had never given before.

I read a short story that I have been carrying with me for years. Every time I changed as a writer, a transformation would be stimulated in my personal life, and I would see a new way into the story. But I had never read it. I had kept it safe, kept it mine.

Sharing it, and then inviting the audience to engage with me afterwards (when I was rawest and shaking), was one of the most rewarding experiences of this entire residency. My Q&A moved from ‘process’ questions into the realm of climate-sorrowing–and because of this–I felt less like I was going through the motions, and more like I was trying to share something I feel deeply kinned to. Less like I was manufacturing something artificial, and more like my soul was on the line.

This is Ethan and Kia’s last week at the residency, and the space will be worse off for their absence. I will miss what was created here (even if it lasted a few weeks), with the strange interplay of personalities (including Katherine and Annalee)–who all helped me return to this island. Physically. Mentally. Creatively.

Thank you.

I have one more week. Flying solo.

Fresh Milk contributes to the 2019 Understanding Risk Caribbean Conference

The 2019 Understanding Risk (UR) Caribbean Conference took place May 27 – May 31 at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Cave Hill Campus, Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination (EBCCI) in Barbados. This conference brought together representatives of government ministries and national disaster management agencies, disaster risk management practitioners, urban planners, insurance industry stakeholders, private sector organizations, academia, multilateral development banks, regional partners and donors to discuss the core theme ‘From Risk to Resilience: A Foundation for Action’.

Janot Mendler de Suarez, a consultant with the World Bank, most recently the Caribbean Technical Programme of GFDRR’s Disaster Risk Financing and Insurance initiative, and Pablo Suarez, Artist in Residence, National University of Singapore – Lloyd’s Register Foundation Institute for the Public Understanding of Risk, invited Fresh Milk to co-develop three artistic interventions for the conference. These projects acted as a way of translating and communicating key factors about environmental risks in the Caribbean into a visual language, as well as showing tangible examples of resilience within our culture and landscape in Barbados.

Photographs by Dondré Trotman unless otherwise specified.

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Risky Timelines:

Concept: Janot Mendler de Suarez & Pablo Suarez
artists: Akilah Watts, Alanis Forde, Anna Gibson in collaboration with Kia Redman and Kraig Yearwood
With thanks to: Harclyde Walcott, Joseph Spagnuolo, Kerri Cox, Mary Boyer, Rashmin Gunasekera, Thibaut Humbert, UWI EBCCI

Photo by Dondré Trotman

This project, conceived by Janot Mendler de Suarez and Pablo Suarez and created by Barbadian artists Akilah Watts, Alanis Forde and Anna Gibson with Kia Redman and Kraig Yearwood, saw the depiction of natural disasters which have taken place in 33 countries across the Caribbean in the form of a large data sculpture.

This piece showcases a timeline of these events spanning from 1990-2019, and communicates the breadth and impact of these catastrophes on the region. The artwork creates a visually intuitive juxtaposition of natural hazard data – on hurricanes from category 1 to 5, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, and floods – with impact data on the number of people affected, the number of lives lost, economic losses and the amount of money invested in response and recovery efforts.

‘Risky Timelines’ was installed at the EBCCI between May 27th – June 3rd, 2019.

The Making

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The Installation

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The Finished Work

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Sargassum and Coral Reef Benches

Concept by Janot Mendler de Suarez & Pablo Suarez, Photography By Nadia Huggins & Data Story Layout by KAtherine Kennedy
A collaboration with Adopt A Stop Barbados
With thanks t:o Shelly-Ann Cox and Hazel Oxenford of CERMES, UWI Cave Hill Campus

Photo by Dondré Trotman

As an extension of our Fresh Stops public art project in collaboration with Adopt A Stop Barbados, the design and production of two benches to be permanent fixtures at the EBCCI were commissioned by the World Bank for the UR Caribbean Conference through Janot Mendler de Suarez.

Telling the stories of ‘Risk and Resilience’ within the Caribbean’s oceans, the backs of these two benches feature data stories about the properties and importance of coral reefs and Sargassum seaweed. These graphics were designed by Barbadian artist and Fresh Milk’s Communications & Operations Manager, Katherine Kennedy, using information largely provided by the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES), UWI Cave Hill Campus.

The fronts of each bench showcase photographs by Vincentian artist and photographer Nadia Huggins, depicting modified versions of photos related to her Transformations series, which she describes as “[exploring] the relationship between my identity and the marine ecosystem.”

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(Bush) Tea Plots – A Decolonial Patch

A Work by Annalee Davis in collaboration with Ras Ils and Kevin Talma

Photo by Dondré Trotman

This artwork by Barbadian artist and Founding Director of Fresh Milk Annalee Davis in collaboration with Ras Ils and Kevin Talma, also commissioned by the World Bank for the UR Caribbean Conference through Janot Mendler de Suarez., sits within Davis’ larger artistic practice and confronts the historical imposition on this island of the monocrop–Saccharum officinarum–while recognizing nature as a radical maneuver against the singular model of the plantation. Observing how the natural world is threatened and degraded, (Bush) Tea Plots acknowledges the resilience of our regenerative biosphere and its inherent capacity for healing at the agricultural, botanical and psycho-spiritual levels.

The work creates visibility of near extinct (Bush) tea practices, appreciating biodiversity through dormant wild botanicals now resurfacing in abandoned sugarcane fields. This live restorative plot–an apothecary of resistance–is permanently installed at the EBCCI for the UR Caribbean Conference 2019, includes mobile accessibility via a QR code linked to the project’s web platform.

The Installation

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The Finished Work

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UR Caribbean is organized by the World Bank’s Caribbean Disaster Risk Management team, in partnership with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and the European Union (EU), and will be hosted by the Government of Barbados. This conference is co-financed by the European Union-funded Africa, Caribbean, Pacific – European Union (ACP-EU) and the Natural Disaster Risk Reduction (NDRR) Program and managed by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR).

Fresh Milk presents ‘Resonance’

The Fresh Milk Art Platform is pleased to present Resonance, a showcase of works by some of the artists who have participated in residencies or projects with the organization over the last six years. Resonance opens on Saturday, August 19th, 2017 from 2-4pm with a presentation about Fresh Milk’s programming and a chance to speak with some of the exhibiting artists, and will also be open to the public on August 21st – 23rd and 28th – 31st from 10am – 4pm each day. Come and see what Fresh Milk has on display during the regional celebrations of CARIFESTA XIII, and commemorate our 6th anniversary with us!

About Resonance:

res·o·nance
noun

1.
the quality in a sound of being deep, full, and reverberating.

2.
the reinforcement or prolongation of sound by reflection from a surface or by the synchronous vibration of a neighbouring object.

When Fresh Milk began in August 2011, it was an experiment based on the hypothesis that there was a need for spaces in Barbados where contemporary artists, writers, thinkers and makers could come to conduct their own creative investigations. Six years later, the experiment continues to grow organically locally and throughout the Caribbean, constantly being fed by the artists that we engage with.

Resonance plays on the phonetically similar word ‘residence’, taking this opportunity to celebrate our local artist in residence programme among other innovative projects, as well as regional residency initiatives. There is also synergy with the definition of the word; each of the creatives that have been involved with Fresh Milk have enriched the platform, their presence and contribution continuing to impact every new endeavor we undertake and reinforcing our desire to foster prolonged relationships with artists. This showcase is less about following a theme, and more about recognizing the dynamic trajectories of the participants’ varying practices.

It’s our pleasure to feature works by Barbadian artists Simone Asia, Evan Avery, Cherise Harris, Versia Harris, Raquel Marshall, Ronald Williams, Anisah Wood and Kraig Yearwood. Additionally, we are excited that this show coincides with CARIFESTA XIII in Barbados, and are pleased to be able to include works by regional artists Dominique Hunter (Guyana), Leasho Johnson (Jamaica), Oneika Russell (Jamaica) and Shanice Smith (Trinidad) – each of whom have also been part of the Caribbean Linked residency programme coordinated by Ateliers ’89 in Aruba, Fresh Milk and ARC Magazine. We look forward to maintaining our connections with each of these artists, the many others that we have worked with in the past, and those still to come in the future.

Directions to the Fresh Milk studio can be found on the About Page of our website, and for more information email freshmilkbarbados@gmail.com.

Kraig Yearwood’s Residency – Final Blog Post

Barbadian artist Kraig Yearwood shares his final blog post about his Fresh Milk ‘My Time’ Local Residency 2017, which took place during March this year. Kraig gives an overview of the residency and final thoughts on the experience, including the workshop he held with Class 3 students at Workmans Primary School, and his participation in our public event FRESH MILK XX, which took place on May 9, 2017. Read more below:

A view of the Colleen Lewis Reading Room as well as a few of my reading materials

The Lost Blog

Okay, the title is a bit of a misnomer – I guess it’d be more accurate to say that life got in the way of writing this final blog post.

Once again, I can’t believe how time flies. As I cast my mind back to when I started the My Time Residency, it’s strange to imagine that my 1st week at Fresh Milk seemed to drag on endlessly and I was in a constant battle with myself about not doing enough. This was despite my using this week to work on possible directions as well as researching some of the materials I was hoping to work with.

A few of the experimental pieces which were made during the 2nd week of my residency

I’ve stated previously, on commencement of my residency, that I had no solid ideas other than I’d known I’d wished to play with materials I’d never used before and also wanted to explore the use of collected trash items. As I got deeper into my stay, I started to focus on exploring themes of materialism, mass production, excess and what we leave behind.

Knowing that I still had to develop ideas for the social outreach component of the residency, I decided to create an environmental awareness programme which would be geared towards primary school students. The aim of this workshop was to educate the children on the importance of proper waste disposal, drawing attention to local and global environmental issues, community activism and the importance of teamwork in tackling such issues. Workmans Primary was selected mainly due to having a very limited arts programme as well as the existing relationship between the school and the residency platform. The workshop began with a with video presentation focusing on environmental awareness and recycling tips, and was followed by a question and answer segment. The children were then split into groups where they were invited to colour and collage bits of trash items on to a poster which was illustrated by myself, depicting an appropriate method of waste disposal as well as the consequences of litter. To conclude, the class was given a smaller version of the poster to take home, as well as a handout which included interesting facts on the environment and a small activities section.

The poster for the “This! Not This” campaign

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FRESH MILK XX Event

On Tuesday May 9th I wrapped up my time at Fresh Milk with a showing of the work made or conceptualised during this stint, as well as participating in a Q & A with international curator Pamela Lee. Pamela also delivered an eye opening presentation on the connections between the areas of Art and Science. This well attended event was brilliantly capped off by the then current resident, US-based poet drea brown, who spoke on her residency experiences which was followed by an engaging poetry reading.

Although this might be the 1st time that I’ve perhaps failed to complete a body of work, I do believe that the Fresh Milk platform has provided me with an invaluable experience. It has allowed me some much needed time to focus on making artwork, experiment and introduce new materials into my practice in a new and supportive environment.

Much thanks to Annalee Davis and Katherine Kennedy.

FRESH MILK XX featured in the Nation Newspaper

Journalist Carol Williams shared a review of our recent public event FRESH MILK XX on page 18 of the Thursday, May 11th 2017 edition of the Nation Newspaper. She focused on the artwork of Barbadian artist Kraig Yearwood, whose work was on display in the studio. FRESH MILK XX also featured a presentation by international curator Pamela Lee and a reading by US-based poet drea brown.

Click here to read the full article!