Ethan Knowles’ Fresh Milk Residency – Week 1 Blog Post

Bahamian photographer and writer Ethan Knowles shares his first blog post about his Fresh Milk residency. His first week has been spent familiarizing himself with Barbados and embarking on research into Caribbean identity, the archetypes/stereotypes associated with it, and how we see ourselves and shape our own identities from within the region. Read more below:

“Yet every place is both local and foreign. The same place is the site of two very different experiences.” – Lucy R. Lippard

Two planes took me from Bahamian to Bajan soil and soon enough I found myself in the shotgun of a friend’s car en route to Chefette. It was late, around midnight, and in my groggy but giddy state I chose the channa roti. It was a light unto my empty stomach.

The next day was a holiday, Whit Monday, so I started off the morning with a jog to get my bearings. I passed cows, fields of sugar cane, and more than a couple puzzled looks. It was a pretty hot day, so I’m guessing these guys were wondering why I was running. It wasn’t long before I began to ask myself the same question.

Around midday, I met the ever-welcoming Annalee Davis and went on a quick shopping trip with my flat mate during which I forgot many things and continued to fumble the rather simple currency conversion of 2:1. It didn’t matter though, because before long we were all at the beach in the glowing company of Annalee’s dog Mica. The afternoon wrapped up with calm thoughts about how Barbados and The Bahamas seem to have both more and less in common with each other than I expected.

The next day I met fellow resident researcher Kia Redman and Fresh Milk’s communications manager Katherine Kennedy. We discussed plans for the residency ahead before going on to explore the ample collection of the Colleen Lewis Reading Room.

The next few days would fly by as I read contentedly for hours on end, diving into everything from gender theory to regional tourism to the poetry of Andre Bagoo.

See Me Here: A Survey of Contemporary Self-Portraits from the Caribbean

One text which caught my attention in particular was See Me Here: A Survey of Contemporary Self-Portraits of the Caribbean. This collection, produced by Melanie Archer and Mariel Brown of Robert & Christopher Publishers, seeks to investigate how Caribbean artists are crafting their visual identities and, by extension, how the region constructs its own images. Beyond the one-dimensional idyllic representations of the tourism industry, how are we portraying and expressing our own diverse identities?

In considering this question, I began to think about how I navigate my own Caribbeanness. I began to think about all those Caribbean meme pages I follow, about how culture, history and lived reality intersect in my own life. About how, in some ways, I conform to the archetypal image of the Caribbean male and, in others – if such a model even exists – depart from it entirely.

Another day passed before I would settle on the idea of conducting a collage workshop on Caribbean identity as part of my residency at Fresh Milk. I brought this plan to Annalee and she gave me a wonderful book on the work of the Kenyan collage artist Wangechi Mutu to consult in my planning process (funnily enough she is also a UWC graduate!). It was in dialogue with her work, and in the ongoing planning of my workshop, that I examined Stuart Hall’s insightful essay “Cultural Identity and Diaspora” which discusses a less conventional view of cultural identities as “the names we give to the different ways we are positioned by, and position ourselves within, the narratives of the past.”

At this stage I am still working on finalizing the details of the workshop but look forward to it taking shape. Here ends my first week at Fresh milk, complete with raining mahogany pods, raining rain, and the occasional roar of a cow.

 

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!

Validity and Visibility – See Me Here #CCF

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There is an undeniable relationship between validity and visibility. As quietly confident, assured or competent as one can be, there is something about gaining recognition that feeds the feeling of being appreciated and understood – of being seen. I already feel slightly uneasy and egotistical trying to articulate this in a way that doesn’t trigger little accusatory voices in the back of my mind hissing ‘vain!’ or ‘insecure!’…concepts that by all logic should be mutually exclusive, but the idea of needing validation from external sources manages to connote both. Maybe a less self-destructive approach is to delve into something relevant to, yet larger than myself, through the honest and brave work of the artists featured in See Me Here: A Survey of Contemporary Self-Portraits from the Caribbean.

The above excerpt is from Katherine Kennedy’s review of See Me Here: A Survey of Contemporary Self-Portraits from the Caribbeanthis week’s addition to the Fresh Milk Books Tumblr – the online space inviting interaction with our collection in the Colleen Lewis Reading Room.

For new Critical. Creative. Fresh reviews every week, look out for our #CCF Weekly posts and see the good reads we have available at Fresh Milk!

Nadia Img

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.

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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.