Tilting Axis: Within and Beyond the Caribbean – Shifting Models of Sustainability and Connectivity

The two-day conference ‘Tilting Axis: Within and Beyond the Caribbean – Shifting Models of Sustainability and Connectivity’ will be held at The Fresh Milk Art Platform, Barbados on February 27-28, 2015. This meeting aims to promote greater conversations and engagement between artists and professionals working within artist-led initiatives across the wider Caribbean region, build and redefine historical relationships with those in the North, and establish open dialogue with active networks emerging in the Global South.

Organized by Fresh Milk, ARC Inc., Res Artis and Pérez Art Museum Miami, Tilting Axis sees the founders/directors of several of the region’s artist-led initiatives coming together to engage in face to face conversations, along with a number of professionals from outside the region interested in working with Caribbean based initiatives.

The objectives of the two-day engagement are to:

● Create opportunities for more integration, awareness, and collaborations to take place across the Caribbean and between international foundations, cultural organizations, and practitioners;
● Enable local, regional, and international artist networks to reflect on lessons learned and share best practices, methodologies, and ideas;
● Develop an action plan for continued collaboration and for moving the Caribbean out of a peripheral position in the global art conversation.

Directing Organizations: ARC Inc., and Fresh Milk Art Platform Inc.
Associate Partners: Res Artis and Pérez Art Museum Miami
Supporting Partners: Arts and Sport Promotion Fund Committee (Barbados), the Davidoff Art Initiative, the British Council and the Prince Claus Fund.

Participants:

Annalee Davis – Founder/Director, The Fresh Milk Art Platform Inc. (Barbados)
Holly Bynoe – Co-founder/Director, ARC Inc. (St. Vincent & the Grenadines)
Mario Caro – President, Res Artis (The Netherlands)
Tobias Ostrander – Chief Curator, Pérez Art Museum Miami (USA)
Solange Farkas – Director, Videobrasil (Brazil)
N’Goné Fall – Co-founder/Director, GawLab (Senegal)
Katherine Kennedy – Assistant to Directors, The Fresh Milk Art Platform Inc. & ARC Inc. (Barbados)
Versia Harris – Visual Artist/Volunteer, The Fresh Milk Art Platform Inc. (Barbados)
Sammy Davis – Videographer/Volunteer, The Fresh Milk Art Platform Inc. (Barbados)
Deborah Anzinger – Executive Director, New Local Space -NLS (Jamaica)
Malaika Brooks-Smith-Lowe – Co-founder/Director, Groundation Grenada (Grenada)
Caryl Ivrisse-Crochemar – Director, 14Nº61ºW (Martinique)
Nicholas Laughlin – Co-founder, Alice Yard (Trinidad & Tobago)
Marsha Pearce – Senior Editor, ARC Inc. (Trinidad & Tobago)
Amanda Coulson – Director, The National Art Gallery of the Bahamas (The Bahamas)
David Bade – Co-founder, Instituto Buena Bista – IBB (Curaçao)
Tirzo Martha – Co-founder, Instituto Buena Bista – IBB (Curaçao)
Elvis Lopez – Director, Ateliers ‘89 (Aruba)
Natalie Urquhart – Director, The National Gallery of the Cayman Islands (Cayman Islands)
Raquel Paiewonsky – Artist and Co-Founder, Quintapata (Dominican Republic)
Kira Simon-Kennedy – Program Manager/Co-founder, China Residencies (New York City)
Maria Elena Ortiz – Associate Curator, Pérez Art Museum Miami (USA)
David Codling – Director Arts, Americas, British Council (Colombia)
Remco de Blaaij – Curator, Centre for Contemporary Arts (Scotland)
Jessica Carden – Curator, Mother Tongue (United Kingdom)
Max Slaven – Co-Director, David Dale Gallery, Glasgow (Scotland)
Ellie Royle – Co-Director, David Dale Gallery, Glasgow (Scotland)
Janice Whittle – Curator, The National Cultural Foundation (Barbados)
Joscelyn Gardner – Visual Artist (Barbados)
Therese Hadchity – Art Historian (Barbados)
Llanor Alleyne – Visual artist (Barbados)
Tonika Sealy – Independent Cultural Producer (Barbados)

Image credit: Mark King, Untitled Grid Fields, paint on concrete, 2015. Photo by Llanor Alleyne

Mother Tongue’s Residency – Week 3 Blog Post

Mother Tongue, the curatorial duo of Jessica Carden and Tiffany Boyle, share their third blog post about their ongoing Fresh Milk residency. As well as continuing to meet with artists, collectors and academics based in Barbados, they also made two presentations to the students in the BFA degree programme at the Barbados Community College, screening their 2012 programme ‘Afrofuturism: Revisions Towards a Place in Modernity’ and expanding on their work as curators. Read the full post below: 

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As the third week of our residency here with Fresh Milk draws to a close – and with only a little over a week left to go – we are continuing  to make the most of our time here in Barbados, whilst also beginning to formulate ideas for the return UK project. As with last week, we have primarily been focusing on meeting with artists, writers, curators and academics, in order to further understand the arts infrastructure on the island and how this is affecting practitioners across the board. We have had many productive and engaging conversations about the shape our modest return project may take – both internally and externally – and we’re very focused on producing something that can be meaningful for Barbados and the UK.

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Our third week began with the first of two presentations made by us to the BFA Degree programme students at Barbados Community College. Our afternoon session for the first, second and third year students was a talk and re-screening of our 2012 programme, ‘Afrofuturism: Revisions Towards a Place in Modernity,’ which was originally developed for the Africa In Motion Film Festival 2012. The programme included five works in total by Neïl Beloufa, Philip Mallory Jones, The Otolith Group, Rico Gatson and the Glasgow-based artist Michelle Hannah. Then on Thursday morning, we made a presentation to the third year students speaking with them on the history of curating and exhibition-making, and an introduction to our practice. The students do not have a curating module here, but the dialogue following our presentation was really impressive. We have found the various discussions with students at the college really helpful for our outlook on contemporary art here in Barbados, especially for understanding the conditions under which emergent artists are producing. Whilst at BCC, we took the opportunity to sit in on art historian and curator Therese Hadchity’s seminar on ‘Caribbean Art,’ which explored modern and contemporary Caribbean art with a focus on post-independence practitioners in Trinidad, Jamaica and Barbados. After the lecture we had the opportunity to briefly discuss Therese’s role as the founder and director of the former Zemicon gallery, which formed a central role in supporting the work of Barbadian artists throughout the 90’s.

Continuing to gather information about the arts in Barbados, particularly during the 90’s and early 2000’s we met with art historian Alison Thompson who talked us through her regional and international work and upcoming projects. We were also fortunate enough to meet with the established artist Alison Chapman Andrews, who allowed us full access to her wonderfully active studio and large archive of sketchbooks and prints dating back to the 1970’s. Alison wrote a long-running column on art for local press, and flicking through her – very well arranged – collection of these, gives a real sense of a vibrancy in the local art scene during the 80s and 90s. Alison’s house is also something of a gallery in itself: with paintings, drawings and sculptures adorning every wall from the various artists she has known and admired over her long a career as an artist. We also took a visit to meet Clyde Cave, a renowned art collector, whose house is also arranged around, and in tribute to, his fascinating collection of Caribbean contemporary art.

Touring Clyde Cave's collection

After a discussion with Fresh Milk’s Director Annalee Davis surrounding our interest in the art networks between the Caribbean islands, she made an informal presentation to us on Fresh Milk’s ‘Caribbean Art Spaces’ online mapping project, which maps-out the variety of art spaces and artist-led initiatives across the Caribbean from Jamaica to Trinidad to Guyana, the Dominican Republic, to Martinique. It’s a fantastic resource and really important in crossing the many language barriers between the islands and mainland. Over these past three weeks, our many conversations with Annalee have been some of the most insightful and constructive dialogues, as we attempt to come to an understanding of the arts infrastructure here.

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Finally, we met for a second time with Professor Sean Carrington, this time at the University of the West Indies Biology department where he lectures, to be given a tour of the herbarium. Sean opened up their vast archives, talking us through the many specimens that have been collected from all over the Caribbean for hundreds of years. The visit helped push along our thinking around the colonial elements of horticulture, flora and fauna, and its significance in the work of Caribbean artists. We’re working hard to fit in as much in our fourth week as possible – we look forward to reporting back!

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.

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.

Fresh Milk welcomes Mother Tongue to the Platform

Fresh Milk is pleased to start the new year by welcoming Tiffany Boyle & Jessica Carden of the Mother Tongue curatorial project as our first international residents for 2015. They will be on the platform from January 26 – February 20. Read more below:

A Thousand of Him, Scattered: Relative Newcomers in Diaspora, Stills: Scotland's Centre for Photography | April - July 2014 | Yael Bartana | Richard Fung | Kiluanji Kia Henda | Bouchra Khalili | Maud Sulter | Milja Viita. Group Exhibition with accompanying events programme and publication in partnership with TrAIN: Transnational Research Centre for Art, Identity and Nation [UAL].

A Thousand of Him, Scattered: Relative Newcomers in Diaspora, Stills: Scotland’s Centre for Photography.

Mother Tongue  focuses on specific issues that are of ongoing significance for their research into northern Scandinavia and West African cultures. Although they have some knowledge of the Caribbean through the work of writers, diasporic artists and having exhibited work with connections to the region in the past, this exploratory research and writing residency with Fresh Milk will be their first visit to Barbados and the wider Caribbean.

During their stay, they will conduct a range of studio visits, archival research, meetings, interviews, etc, as initial groundwork, and as a way of grasping and getting to terms with a locale very different to their home territory of Scotland.

Previous residencies undertaken by Mother Tongue have proven to be equally intensive and productive periods of research, which have led to a number of subsequent projects. Their time at Fresh Milk will allow for the building of long term links and relationships with artists, writers, thinkers and institutions in Barbados, creating the potential for further collaborations regionally and internationally.

About Mother Tongue:

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Tiffany Boyle (left) and Jessica Carden (right)

Mother Tongue is a research-led curatorial project formed by Tiffany Boyle and Jessica Carden, in response to individual periods of investigation in northern Scandinavia and West Africa. Our practice in exhibition-making intersects with research interests – including, but not limited to – (post)colonialism, language, heritage, ethnicity, whiteness, indigenousness, migration, movement, sexuality, and technology.

Since 2009, we have produced exhibitions, film programmes, discursive events, essays and publications in partnership with organisations such as the CCA: Centre for Contemporary Art Glasgow; Stills: Scotland’s Centre for Photography; Transmission Gallery; Africa-in-Motion Film Festival; Malmö Konsthall; and Konsthall C Stockholm, and undertaken residencies with HIAP in Helsinki, the Nordic Africa Institute in Uppsala, and CreativeLab at CCA Glasgow. ­Mother Tongue participated on the 2011/12 CuratorLab programme at Konstfack, and we are currently both undertaking individual PhD’s – Tiffany at Birkbeck and Jessica at TrAIN: Research Centre for Transnational Art, Identity and Nation, University of the Arts London. In 2015, Mother Tongue will continue to collaborate with Variant magazine, Framework Scotland and the Creative Futures Institute at UWS on the ongoing discussion series, ‘Curating Europes’ Futures.’