Maj Hasager & Ask Kæreby – Week 4 Blog Post

Danish artists Maj Hasager and Ask Kæreby who undertook a residency at Fresh Milk during the month of November share their fourth blog post about a very busy final week in Barbados. The end of their trip included everything from research, sound recordings, a catamaran cruise, an exhibition opening, a workshop and our last public event for 2015, FRESH MILK XVIII. Read more about their packed last days below:

It seems now like a distant memory of being warm and sweaty night and day. We have returned to Copenhagen after a detour via London and Cologne, and suddenly the days are even shorter and the evenings and nights seem darker and colder. Winter in Copenhagen is a challenge. It always feels strange to have to reflect back on recent events when shifting location, and it sounds like a voiceover in my mind when trying to reconstruct the pieces and images that go with it.

Our fourth and final week begins in the library of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society, which seems to have chosen cryonics as their method for preserving their material. Maj meets with historian Miguel Pena while Ask reads on the formation of workers’ unions and migration to the Canal Zone – until the chatter of his teeth becomes so disturbing that we leave to defrost in the tropical sun. Even this didn’t prepare us fully for the Danish winter though…

We also pay a visit to Government Information Service, located in an unassuming building in the outskirts of town, and seeming to operate with a landline and the phone book as the primary resources. They are the sole distributor of the documentary Diggers, which is the only locally accessible source of footage from the construction of the Panama Canal. As it’s right after lunch, and our contact person is not around, we meet and greet seemingly all employees in the office, as a prolonged discussion over the spelling of the title takes place until we finally leave with DVD and receipt in hand.

Tuesday afternoon we are picked up by a driver, who is struggling to find our location hidden away in the centre of the Island – we are in fact “out of range” according to his company’s definition, and it does feel that way sometimes, which seems curious in such a small place.

We take the hydrophone sailing off the west coast, capturing some wonderful eerie sounds when anchored or wind powered – though any engine active in the entire bay can be heard clearly. As the sun sets, the visual beauty of the surroundings rivals the sonic seascape.

On Wednesday morning Maj meets Annalee to have a studio visit on her work. Exciting conversations unfold before we head off to meet Allison Thompson, the director of the fine arts department at Barbados Community College (BCC), where exchanges on pedagogy, teaching methods and structures are shared. In the evening we are attending the opening of This Quagmire, an exhibition by Versia Harris at the Punch Creative Arena in the Morningside Gallery at BCC.

Wednesday is also the final session of the sound workshop, and everyone chips in with fascinating yet very different compositions. We are also busy preparing for FRESH MILK XXVIII, which is quite a packed evening with both of us presenting work, Maj in conversation with Therese Hadchity, and the Beyond Publishing collective presenting their activities as well.

A packed final week, that somehow sums up the intensity of a month’s residency at Fresh Milk. Our suitcases are loaded with reading material and textile works by Mark King when we leave Walkers in St. George. A huge thank you to the wonderful Fresh Milk team: Annalee Davis, Katherine Kennedy, Natalie McGuire and of course also Barbara and Vere Davis. One thing is for sure: We can’t wait to return.

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This residency is supported in part by the Danish Arts Foundation

FRESH MILK XVIII

FRESH MILK XVIII_Flyer

The Fresh Milk Art Platform is pleased to present FRESH MILK XVIII, taking place on Thursday, November 26, 2015 from 6-9 pm. The event will feature Danish artists Maj Hasager and Ask Kæreby who are in residence at Fresh Milk for the month of November. Maj will be in conversation about her recent publication Making Visible with Barbados-based curator Therese Hadchity, while Ask will make a presentation about his work in experimental sound art and speak about the workshops he has been conducting at Fresh Milk.

Also on the platform will be members from local company Beyond Publishing, who will be speaking about self-publishing in the graphic novel industry in Barbados.

This event is free and open to the public. Limited numbers of Making Visible will be on sale, as well as graphic novels and t-shirts by Beyond Publishing.

Directions to Fresh Milk can be found on the About Page of our website here.

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About the featured speakers:

Portrait_Hasager_2015

Maj Hasager

Maj Hasager is a Danish artist and filmmaker based in Copenhagen, Denmark. She studied photography and fine art in Denmark, Sweden and the UK, earning an MFA from Malmö Art Academy, Sweden. Her work deals with power structures, identity, memory, the construction of history, and architecture, looking at how these interlinked phenomena are interpreted and represented culturally and spatially. Her artistic approach is research-based and interdisciplinary, and she works predominantly with text, sound, video and photography. The recent years Hasager has used oral history interview techniques as a method for accumulating information relating to personal stories, a site, and historical or political matters. It allows the material to unfold itself through different voices and from different perspectives and functions as a way of mapping an area or a context. Often these interviews lay the ground for the way she makes use of narrative forms and fictional writing as a tool to address personal stories in the context of socio-political matters.

She has exhibited her work internationally in events and institutions such as; Society Acts, Moderna Museet Malmö (2014), A voice of ones own, Malmö Konstmuseum (2014), Community works, Cleveland Institute of Art, 2014; Past Upon Past, Red Barn Photo Gallery, Belfast, Ireland (2013), Decembers, LAZNIA Centre for Contemporary Art, Gdańsk, Poland (2012), Liverpool Biennial, UK (2010). She has been awarded grants in support of her work from the Danish ArtsCouncil, The Danish Arts Foundation, Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (Beirut, Lebanon), ArtSchool Palestine, Danish Centre for Culture and Development and the Danish Arts Agency. She is the programme director of Critical and Pedagogical studies at Malmö Art Academy, and is a guest lecturer at the International Academy of Art – Palestine, Dar al-Kalima College, Bethlehem and University of Ulster, Belfast.

Ask Kæreby

Ask Kæreby

Ask Kæreby is a Danish composer. He studied music production in Copenhagen, earning a MMus degree from The Royal Danish Academy of Music.

Kæreby’s artistic practice is interdisciplinary and research-based, including elements of experimental composition, sound design and electroacoustic music. He is interested in the presentation of narratives by means of sound – not through traditional musical gestures, but using different approaches such as musique concrète or the futurists’ bruitism. Working in the intersection between known formats, Kæreby wishes to challenge our ways of listening – to music (live as well as recorded), to our surroundings and to (sonic) art.

He has been awarded grants in support of his work from The Danish Arts Foundation, Danish Musicians’ Union, Wilhelm Hansen Foundation, Familien Hede Nielsen Foundation, Dansk Artist Association, Ellen & Erik Valdemar Jensen Music Grant, Anders Månsson & wife Memorial Grant and Karen Margrethe Torp-Pedersen & husband Foundation.

Therese Hadchity

Therese Hadchity

Therese Hadchity is an independent art critic, curator and teacher based in Barbados. She was the owner/curator of the Zemicon Gallery in Bridgetown from 2000-2010. She has authored numerous catalogue-essays on Barbadian art and artists, including Ras Akyem Ramsay, Ras Ishi Butcher, Nick Whittle, Winston Kellman, Ewan Atkinson, Alison Chapman-Andrews and Eric Belgrave. Her current research-interest is in the impact of the transition from anti-colonial nationalism to post-colonial anti-nationalism on visual arts conversations in the Anglophone Caribbean.

beyond publishing caribbean logo-01

Beyond Publishing

For many people a comic book or graphic novel was one of the first fun, casual reading experiences, filled with various themes of heroics, bravado and thrill. They provide an imaginative escape from reality and may reinforce or shape cultural values through various themes.

Comics and animation have mostly been imported into the region, and as a result we have rarely seen the Caribbean experience or our own identity in this format. Although the group is relatively new, Beyond Publishing has made promising strides and has published 7 individual titles to date.

Beyond Publishing focuses on comics and graphic novels in digital or print media, showcasing stories with a Barbadian or Caribbean flavour through several genres: comedy, adventure, education and drama.

beyond publishing group

Beyond Publishing has won the following awards for their work:

  • 3rd place in 2012’s Automotive Arts Entrepreneurship Competition;
  • The series ‘Life and Death in Paradise’ has won two prizes from the Caribbean Advertising Federation Addy Awards: The Judges’ choice for WOW and a Gold Addy for Publication Design (Magazine or Book);
  • Offset #1 has won a 2015 Gold Addy for Publication Design (Magazine or Book) from the Caribbean Advertising Federation Addy Awards as well as a 2015 Glyph Award for Best Cover;
  • Hardears #1  has won two prizes from the Caribbean Advertising Federation Addy Awards: a Gold Addy for Book Design and another Gold Addy for Illustration.

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

Therese Hadchity Reviews Alberta Whittle’s ‘Hustle de Money – A Performance by Bertie aka Big Red aka General outta Glitter Zone’

The rude boy and the contemporary artist:
Alberta Whittle’s performance ‘Hustle de Money’

Performance art seems to be taking root in Barbados, and this can not the least be ascribed to the possibilities opened up by a private, non-commercial space like Fresh Milk. In late November, the platform thus hosted ‘Hustle de Money’ by Alberta Whittle (‘aka Big Red aka General outta Glitter Zone’).

The performance ostensibly responded to a familiar dilemma, not just of the socially engaged artist, but of every conscientious contemporary citizen: how do we negotiate the daily challenges to our personal sensibilities and residual morality? How do we, as women, respond to stereotyping, objectification, predatory behavior and what might be perceived as other women’s self-degradation? Are chauvinistic dancehall lyrics and lewd comments from the rude boy on the street inexcusable, ignorant or the self-defense of a wounded masculinity? And if it is – do we denounce it, patronizingly describe the ‘perpetrators’ as victims or withdraw from commenting on what we do not understand? In ‘Hustle de Money’ Alberta Whittle instead set out to ‘try it on’!

The event was preceded by the circulation of a number of witty ‘mock-posters’ in which the artist appeared as both male and female icons of popular culture. In sexually suggestive outfits and postures, Whittle thus advertised the event, but also exposed the fixation on sexuality, which infuses a range of contemporary industries, from music to tourism.

The performance itself, however, changed the tenor from that of benign satire to that of a deliberately contrived ritual. Whittle’s open-air stage was the front yard of the Fresh Milk main house and the audience was standing in a semicircle across from the front-patio, leaving enough space for the performance to unfold around a door-sized screen. In the background, presumably to set the scene, two small tv-screens ran looped video-sequences of male dancers.

For the 10-minute duration of ‘Hustle de Money’, the artist enacted movements and recited phrases suggestive of the over-wrought and fetishistic machismo of Caribbean ‘fete-’ and street-culture. Each sequence started and ended with the artist emerging from or returning to the cover of the screen, where she would adjust her costume (alternating between male and female identities: torn up black tights for the female, simple track-pants for the male).

The moves were caricatured – Whittle edged, inched, wriggled, wined and crept across the ‘floor’, but the incantatory enunciation of insistently cocky and provocative rude-boy (or -girl) phrases (‘Get gal easy ’, ‘I beat me chest, ‘cus I know I is the best’ or ‘Bad boy no good. Good boy no fun. I love my Mr. Wrong’) was without theatrical effort as if she was merely tasting the words or trying to appropriate another person’s mantra: the voice laid distance to (or vainly tried to evoke) the meaning of the words, but also put forward the possibility – and this was to my mind the biggest scoop of the performance – that such phrases, also in their regular usage, may serve the purpose of deflective self-distancing.

The morally neutral inflection of the verbal mimicry thus alternated with a less detached irony, which not only came across in the caricatured movements, but especially in the sequences involving an exchange of bananas between the artist and members of the audience. As a phallic symbol, the banana was an obvious reference to the cultivation and insecurities of extreme masculinity, but it also put the more scathing ‘monkey-metaphor’ on the table and thereby lost mimicry’s strategic advantage of ambiguity.

This apparent ambivalence induces the question of objectives: did the artist invite the audience along in an attempt at coming to terms with popular culture, or did she seek to ‘talk back’ and show chauvinism up to itself? And this is where certain problems arise, for in the latter case, the location of the performance is clearly mistaken, and, in the former, the message and its reception becomes circular – Whittle and her audience will be unified in their common uncertainties and redouble the distance to the ‘other’. Moreover, in the cerebral environment of a venue like Fresh Milk, an event of this nature always, in the final analysis, becomes its own subject-matter – and the danger is for the aesthetic to make a mere pretext of the message.

Whittle’s ‘Hustle de Money’ thus exposed the tragic predicament of artists, who – fervently and nobly – seek to reach beyond the confinement of their discipline, but invariably are returned to it. The critical subtext of this event was therefore not, after all, how we should understand or respond to rude-boy calls and hisses, but whether art, if it can only ever gesture towards problems it cannot transcend, must keep trying all the same?

Therese Hadchity, December 2012

All photographs © Dondré Trotman