Tilting Axis 2: Caribbean Strategies held at the Pérez Art Museum Miami

The inaugural edition of the Caribbean-driven visual arts conference Tilting Axis took place last year at The Fresh Milk Art Platform Inc. in Barbados. This initial encounter saw thirty-two arts professionals spanning the Anglophone, Francophone, Hispanic and Dutch Caribbean convene for the first time on Caribbean soil alongside a number of international participants. Building on this, Tilting Axis 2 took place at the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) on February 19 and 20, 2016, with more than double the previous number of attendees coming together to discuss this year’s topic ‘Caribbean Strategies’.

Tilting Axis was originally conceived by Fresh Milk and ARC Magazine, who have continued to collaborate with core partners Res Artis and PAMM for the second iteration in Miami. As a city that not only aspires to be a vital art centre in the 21st century, but that also acts as a hub between the Caribbean and the global North with a large diasporic population and, in many ways, a shared history, Miami was a strategic location for the conference to travel to.

The participants of Tilting Axis 2

The participants of Tilting Axis 2

In her introductory remarks, Annalee Davis, Founding Director of Fresh Milk, emphasized the value of the first meeting having taken place within the region: “This notion of ‘tilting the axis’ refers to shifting the focus of our gaze and harnessing our collective power to make this sector more visible and sustainable in ways that resonate with our lived realities in the Caribbean.”

Although this concurrent gathering happened physically in the USA, it is critical that the heart of Tilting Axis and the commitments made by all those in attendance continue to act “as a counterpoint to many decisions often made about the region from external locations.”

Holly Bynoe, Director and Editor-in-Chief of ARC, reiterated these sentiments, and expressed thanks to the team at PAMM for facilitating a larger conference and making the museum’s network and resources available to the region: “As we work to make new connections with individuals and entities who want to work with the creative Caribbean, figure out our best practices and become more regionally conscious, projects like Tilting Axis can become one of the fertile seeds of this transformation.”

Introductory remarks at Tilting Axis 2

Introductory remarks at Tilting Axis 2

Tilting Axis 2 was anchored by three modules that emerged from the first meeting: exhibitions and programming, artists’ movement and mobility, and education. Table 1 on Exhibitions and Programming was moderated by Holly Bynoe, and looked at curatorial projects that reimagine tropes of the Caribbean. The three presenters were Veerle Poupeye, Director of the National Gallery of Jamaica (NGJ); Art Historian at Northwestern University Krista Thompson; and Johanna Auguiac-Célénice, Director of the Biennale Internationale d’Art Contemporain Martinique (BIAC-Martinique).

Poupeye highlighted the shift in the NGJ’s approach to curating from “teaching a lesson to encouraging conversations,” giving examples of exhibitions the gallery has held in recent years. Thompson spoke about the increasing interest in Caribbean art over the last decade, and how her curatorial projects seek to counter the often monolithic view of the region. Through her work at the BIAC, Auguiac-Célénice expressed the need for us to think about Caribbean culture differently, embracing our differences and favouring a rhizomatic system over hierarchy.

Veerle Poupeye’s presentation about the National Gallery of Jamaica

Veerle Poupeye’s presentation about the National Gallery of Jamaica

Table 2 addressed Artists’ Movement and Mobility, and was moderated by Tobias Ostrander, Chief Curator of PAMM. Presentations were given by Joëlle Ferly, Director of L’Artocarpe in Guadeloupe and Marcel Pinas, Founder of Tembe Art Studio in Suriname about their respective platforms, experimental approaches to residencies and issues in the mobility of artists working in and from the Caribbean. Both speakers see their organizations as fulfilling a necessary role in their countries, with Pinas’ sharing his strong stance on using the arts as a way to generate “awareness and value of ourselves and our culture,” and give back to the community.

Donette Francis, Rene Morales and Gean Moreno in a group discussion at Tilting Axis 2.

Donette Francis, Rene Morales and Gean Moreno in a group discussion at Tilting Axis 2.

Moderated by Annalee Davis, Table 3 looked at alternate models of arts education. Panelists included Gean Moreno, Curator of Programs at ICA, Miami; Pablo Guardiola, Co-director of Beta Local in Puerto Rico; and Paulo Miyada, Director of the Entropic School at Instituto Tomie Ohtake in São Paulo, Brazil.

Moreno discussed the alternate education programming of research.art.dialogue (r.a.d.) in terms of mapping a variety of learning structures and advocating for non-traditional methodologies of knowledge exchange. Guardiola spoke about the importance of alternate education in the arts co-existing alongside cultural institutions and schools to ensure a breadth of experience for students. Beginning his presentation by giving a background in Brazilian art, Miyada went on to outline the Entropic School’s vision of being a space of experimentation and addressed the gap between formal art education and professional placement in Brazil.

Group discussions at Tilting Axis 2

Group discussions at Tilting Axis 2

Deborah Anzinger, Jason Fitzroy Jeffers, Tumelo Mosaka, Deb Dormody and Blue Curry in a group discussion at Tilting Axis 2

Deborah Anzinger, Jason Fitzroy Jeffers, Tumelo Mosaka, Deb Dormody and Blue Curry in a group discussion at Tilting Axis 2

Open clinics were held to determine how attendees could realistically use the range of skills and knowledge at the conference to commit to a series of actions around the three target areas. Some of these included co-creating educational programmes; the potential of forming an advocacy group to liaise with governments on behalf of artists; initiating residencies and exchanges between a broad spectrum of cultural professionals; and designing an exhibition programme which could happen simultaneously in a number of territories, while having scholarship on the exhibitions written from within the region and disseminated widely.

Also built into the two-day conference were three ‘artist intermissions’, featuring short presentations by Haitian-born, Miami based artist Adler Guerrier, Bahamian-born, London-based artist Blue Curry and St. Martin-born, Martinique based artist David Gumbs. Interspersing the dialogues with opportunities to see what a few artists connected to the region are producing created a space for rejuvenation and inspiration. Along this same vein, a group visit was organized to Cannonball Studios, where Blue Curry and ARC Magazine’s Senior Arts Writer Marsha Pearce had been taking part in a residency leading up to the meeting.

Adler Guerrier presenting about his art practice at Tilting Axis 2

Adler Guerrier presenting about his art practice at Tilting Axis 2

Blue Curry’s studio at Cannonball studios, Miami. Photo courtesy of the artist

Blue Curry’s studio at Cannonball studios, Miami. Photo courtesy of the artist

The closing event of the conference was a public talk given by Pablo León de la Barra, a curator at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum for the Latin American phase of the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative. His presentation examined the structure and function of museums in contemporary society. León de la Barra discussed some of his curatorial work which explores different ways of creating agency and visibility for cultures that are often erased from the established canon of art history.

Overall, Tilting Axis 2: Caribbean Strategies made significant strides in its aims to fortify networks through knowledge transfer, provide avenues for critical conversation and form action plans to extend the reach of arts and culture throughout the Caribbean. The next edition of the meeting is slated to take place in early 2017, hosted by the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands (NGCI).

To find out more about the organising institutions and funders visit the ARC, Fresh Milk, PAMM and Res Artis websites.

Tilting Axis 1.5 Report

At the invitation of Videobrasil’s director, Solange Farkas, the core organizations of Tilting AxisFresh Milk, ARC Magazine and the Pérez Art Museum Miami – had the opportunity to participate in the Public Programme at the 19th Sesc_Festival in Sao Paulo on October 8th, 2015 to present Tilting Axis 1.5.

L-R: Solange Farkas (Director of Videobrasil), Maria Elena Ortiz (Assistant Curator at PAMM), N'Gone Fall (Founding member of GawLab), Annalee Davis (Founding Director of Fresh Milk) and Holly Bynoe (Director and Editor-in-Chief of ARC Magazine). All images courtesy of Videobrasil

L-R: Solange Farkas (Director of Videobrasil), Maria Elena Ortiz (Assistant Curator at PAMM), N’Gone Fall (Founding member of GawLab), Annalee Davis (Founding Director of Fresh Milk) and Holly Bynoe (Director and Editor-in-Chief of ARC Magazine). All images courtesy of Videobrasil

Earlier this year on a trip to São Paulo, ARC’s director and co-founder of Tilting Axis, Holly Bynoe, met with Solange and Thereza Farkas, Director and Program Director of Videobrasil, to speak about opportunities available at the 19th Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil scheduled to take place during the 5-10 of October. During that initial meeting, Solange expressed interest in opening up the public programming while also being acutely aware of the of the way in which the Caribbean is being positioned in the continuum and discourse around the Global South.

Solange Farkas

Solange Farkas

Conceived as a mid point meeting, Tilting Axis 1.5 acted as a discursive moment to continue circulating the collective’s core methodologies. Goals included addressing the Caribbean’s peripheral position within larger global art conversations, generating awareness and sensitizing cultural practitioners in the Global South to Tilting Axis.

With an audience of about 30 members, the intimate gathering took place on the 8th of October at Sesc_Pompeia’s Theatre. Solange welcomed the panelists and remarked “It is a great pleasure to be part of this promising encounter Tilting Axis is providing. The Caribbean, despite its global relevance as a tourist destination, has yet to gain recognition as an inexhaustible source of visual art to its full potential and production. There is a clear difficulty in overcoming the ocean that surrounds this archipelago and Tilting Axis has a fundamental role in the unification of the region by hosting meetings and discussions and thereby increasing worldwide interest in the artistic production of the Caribbean.”

N'Gone Fall

N’Gone Fall

The conversation was chaired by N’Gone Fall, independent curator and founder of GawLab (Senegal) who framed the conversation and the larger platform as moments to think about factors tied to the invisibility and visibility of the Caribbean in the larger art world. The panel comprised Annalee Davis (Fresh Milk), Holly Bynoe (ARC Inc.) and María Elena Ortiz (PAMM).

Annalee gave background to Fresh Milk’s interest in Tilting Axis, spoke to why and how Tilting Axis developed and presented an overview of the inaugural 2015 meeting which took place at Fresh Milk in Barbados. Davis made comparisons between the 1st Mercosul biennial – curated by Federico Morais 20 years ago with a mandate to rewrite “the history of Latin American art from a non-Eurocentric perspective”; the Habana Bienal that began as a vital event to place Cubans and other artists from the Global South on the world map and the São Paulo Biennial originating with a goal to establish that city as an international art centre.

Annalee Davis

Annalee Davis

She acknowledged the 19th Festival as another cry to the world from the Global South, as Tilting Axis is a collective shout out from the Caribbean to the world, creating visibility and awareness of contemporary visual arts practices from the region. These platforms redirect the tilt to more horizontal axes of discourse which facilitate our listening to the polyphonic voices across the many art worlds, challenging the notion of one centre and one voice. Tilting Axis is contributing to this global chorus.

Holly spoke to ARC’s interest in Tilting Axis, the outcomes of the gathering and gave a synopsis of the four clinics along with the platform’s goals. Opening with the promise of an ongoing commitment to transferring institutional knowledge, developing exhibitions and programming opportunities regionally and globally; the core organizations involved have entered into a collaboration that is expected to help accomplish multi tiered levels of sustainability and organic growth for the platform and its deliverables.

Holly Bynoe

Holly Bynoe

Highlighting Tilting Axis’ presence, Bynoe reiterated that it is not to eradicate but to alleviate, calm and decentralize certain pressures linked to creative production by giving creative bodies agency and a framework to reestablish connections with each other. The connections forged from the meeting become less formal and more organic, engendering corroborative actions that are negotiated without scrutiny and leading to a continuation of works that expand upon the industry; its momentum and emergence.

María Elena spoke about PAMM’s interest in participating in Tilting Axis, as well as hosting the upcoming event in Miami in February 2016. PAMM started collaborating with Tilting Axis in 2013 as an effort to reconsider Miami as part of the Caribbean. María Elena explained that at first glance this could be seen as problematic, however, Miami has a significant position within Caribbean communities as a cultural hub. She also described how the decision to host the event in Miami actually came from the group at the first meeting in 2015. María Elena gave an overview of the next iteration, which will continue exploring the main issues raised in the first iteration in Barbados, specifically in the areas of Exhibition and Programming; Education, and Artists’ Movement and Mobility.

Maria Elena Ortiz

Maria Elena Ortiz

For PAMM, it is extremely important to address the concern of the local Caribbean community, which will also be reflected in the upcoming event in 2016. Tilting Axis 2.0 will continue to explore notions raised in the first iteration and make connections with Miami as a pivot to the Caribbean. The name of the 2016 program, Caribbean Strategies, considers possible strategies in the identified areas that could be shared, questioned, or reinterpreted across a transnational Caribbean.

As a result of the TA 1.5 conversation at the Festival, strong interest has emanated from the South African based quarterly publication, ART AFRICA, who have already discussed the possibility of including Tilting Axis in their THAT ART FAIR programme for 2017. In addition, they have expressed interest in offering a partnership to Fresh Milk to participate in an exhibiting capacity. Furthermore, ART AFRICA are looking to extend their network of contributors, and have asked if Fresh Milk and ARC would be interested in contributing a Caribbean perspective to their publication.

Also in attendance was Sharjah Art Foundation President, Sheikha Hoor Al Qasini and Tumelo Mosaka, independent curator of projects such as Infinite Island, Brooklyn Museum (2007) along with Till Fellrath, co-founder of ART Reoriented, a multidisciplinary curatorial platform based in Munich and New York.

The panelists at TA 1.5

The panelists at TA 1.5

MOVING FORWARD

  • Tilting Axis 2 will be held at the Pérez Art Museum Miami from February 19-21 2015. PAMM and Cannonball have confirmed a partnership which includes two residencies during February. Trinidad-based Marsha Pearce – scholar, researcher, educator and emerging curator – along with London based Bahamian visual artist Blue Curry will spend four weeks at Cannonball.
  • Fresh Milk is deepening connections with the São Paulo office of the Goethe Institute who is interested in fostering a collaboration with Casa Tomada to create possibilities for exchange between Brazil and the Caribbean. To this end, discussion is under way to potentially partner in the 2016 iteration of the Transcoeanic Visual Exchange project to platform experimental film between Brazil, the Caribbean and Germany.
  • The National Art Gallery of the Cayman Islands (NGCI) has confirmed that they will host Tilting Axis in February 2017. Natalie Urquhart, the gallery director states: “By bringing together arts professionals from across the region, Tilting Axis has provided an unparalleled platform for collaboration and exchange, which has already translated into several important initiatives. We are looking forward to continuing the conversation at TA 2 at PAMM, reporting on outcomes that have arisen out of the initial meeting and expanding opportunities further under the Caribbean Strategies program.

The NGCI is then committed to hosting TA 3 in 2017, the focus of which will be determined by the 2016 gathering, and to help keep the momentum generated by Tilting Axis moving forward.”

  • Another outcome from Tilting Axis 1 which was platformed at the conversation included the Arts Mentorship Programme, a one-year trial to be run in a partnership between the Cultural Skills Unit of the British Council Scotland and independent curatorial project Mother Tongue, the Cent­re for Contemporary Arts Glasgow (CCA) and David Dale Gallery and Studios. The geographical remit of the programme covers the entire Caribbean, regardless of language, and regional partners will be sought to assist the delivery of the initiative. It has been developed out of exchanges between Scotland and the Caribbean in 2014/2015, and therefore aims to directly target areas of need raised during scoping visits and the first Tilting Axis conference. The project will be aimed at artists, curators and writers at all levels: those in education, recent graduates, emerging practitioners and artist-led spaces; to professional platforms, organisations and institutions.

In the first year, the mentorship programme will deliver the following pilot projects which will be used by the organisers to assess the impact of the first year’s activity, and as case studies to apply for further funding beyond the trial. This partnership will offer two shadow curatorial placements at the Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow, working with curator Remco de Blaaij. Additionally, between 2 and 4 remunerated internships will be granted to students and recent graduates in Barbados through an open call to work on the production and delivery of the exhibition Rum Retort. Programming will also be developed, including but not limited to exhibitions with David Dale Gallery in Glasgow, Scotland.

The British Council, independent of the mentorship program, has also begun initial conversations around a research curatorial trip scheduled to take place in Glasgow, Leeds and London in November, creating various platforms and opportunities for promoting a better understanding of collaborative and exchange possibilities emerging out of Scotland. Several curators from the Caribbean, Brazil, Mexico; including Holly Bynoe, who is currently Chief Curator at the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas; have been invited to participate in this research trip.

Tilting Axis 2 will take place at the Pérez Art Museum Miami on the 19- 21st of February 2016.

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Read the Tilting Axis 1.5 report on the Tilting Axis website here.

Tilting Axis 1.5 to take place in collaboration with the 19th Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil

The Tilting Axis 1.5 conversation, in collaboration with Southern Panoramas, 19th Contemporary Art Festival, Sesc_Videobrasil takes place at 11am on October 8th with Holly Bynoe from ARC MagazineMaría Elena Ortiz from the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), Mario Caro from Res Artis and Annalee Davis from Fresh Milk. The conversation will be moderated by N’Goné Fall from GAWLab.

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Tilting Axis aims to promote greater conversations and engagement between professionals working within artist-led initiatives and institutions across the wider Caribbean region, build and redefine historical relationships with those in the North, and establish open dialogue with strong networks emerging globally in the South.

The first meeting was hosted by Fresh Milk in Barbados in February 2015 and Tilting Axis 2.0 will take place at the Pérez Art Museum Miami in February 2016.

Malaika Brooks-Smith-Lowe shares her reflection on Tilting Axis: Showing up as Caribbean creatives

Malaika Brooks-Smith-Lowe, artist, activist and co-founder of Groundation Grenada, shares her reflections on the conference Tilting Axis: Within and Beyond the Caribbean – Shifting Models of Sustainability and Connectivity which took place at Fresh Milk on February 27-28, 2015. Read an excerpt from her report below:

Malaika TA report2

‘I think it’s an act of rebellion to be a whole person… It’s an act of rebellion to show up as your whole self, and especially the parts that are complex, that are unfinished, that are vulnerable.’ – Courtney Martin

Two weeks before traveling to Tilting Axis: Within and Beyond the Caribbean – Shifting Models of Sustainability and Connectivity at the Fresh Milk Art Platform in Barbados, I listened to a podcast titled The Inner Life of Rebellion, a conversation which included Courtney Martin. During my presentation at Tilting Axis, about the vision and work of Groundation Grenada, I shared the above quote by Martin. Her reflections on the power of being able to make progress even with full recognition that we are imperfect and always in-the-making resonated with me deeply. It is this kind of ‘showing up’ as a whole complex person that Groundation Grenada seeks to support. As an organization our aim is to create safe spaces for people in our communities to explore the fullness of their experiences and express themselves in an environment that honors our differences. Tilting Axis was a unique moment to connect with founders and directors of initiatives that similarly work to support and enhance the growth of the Caribbean’s vast array of voices & creative visions.

Tilting Axis, held from February 27-28, 2015 aimed 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.

The space that the organizers Fresh Milk Art Platform Inc., ARC Inc., Res Artis and Pérez Art Museum Miami were able to create was a rich opportunity for discussing challenges and envisioning collaborative solutions.  They brought together several of the region’s arts initiatives to engage in face to face conversations. Also present were a number of professionals from outside the region interested in working with Caribbean-based initiatives such as Solange Farkas, founder and director of Videobrasil (Brazil), and N’Goné Fall, a founding member of the Dakar-based collective GawLab (Senegal). For a complete participant list and other details read the official post-conference press release (here).

There were many existing relationships and partnerships in the room and many possibilities for new collaborations discussed in formal sessions and during tea breaks. Technology has been an invaluable tool in facilitating the growth of what feels to me like a tangible movement in the region via the visual arts. Being in the same physical space as such a dynamic group of artists, curators, writers and organizers, and being able to have real conversations, was an invigorating experience. We all showed up as our full selves, open to discussing the complexities we are working with and through. It was an intergenerational setting with cross-pollination between organizations that were founded decades ago and seedling organizations that are now taking root and beginning to bloom.

Read the full report on Malaika’s website here.

Intervention IBB Magazine shares Tilting Axis

Instituto Buena Bista (IBB), Curacao shares an article through their Intervention IBB Magazine about the 2015 Tilting Axis conference, which took place on February 27-28 and brought together a number of contemporary arts initiatives from around the Caribbean along with a few international entities to devise an action plan for advancing the region’s creative sector. Read an excerpt from IBB co-founders Tirzo Martha and David Bade below:

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First impression

David: To be honest, at first I had a prejudice of what the conference was going to be. Because of my past experiences, I grew accustomed to the fact that most of the time there was a lot of talking, less actions and very few tangible results. But within this short time of 2 days, this was not the case at all. The whole approach and the focus was to come to concrete and clear results. I think this was a good thing and I am positive about this. We had to take steps to get somewhere. They gave us cases we had to work on and present and come up with some real proposals. “Collaboration” and “exchange” are all very nice funding words, but they have been used so much that now they’re becoming empty words. I have every confidence that something will happen this time around.

Tirzo: Two things I find very important about the Tilting Axis conference:

The old guard and the usual faces were absent, and there was fresh blood there. That was refreshing, to have that fresh blood who are open to new ways, perspectives and visions. Another thing I found interesting was that it wasn’t about the artist as individual but about art itself. About the society, the added value of art for the society and how you can contribute to the development of art education and formation through social cultural art projects.

David: we sat in work groups or sub groups and got the questions: Are we just here to meet each other or will we do something from now on? They proposed to me too, now that next year we will have existed for 10 years, to let our art collection travel within the Caribbean region. Now our network has expanded with these new people, the idea to have our art travel in the region visiting all the different art platforms sounds very appealing.

Tirzo: Collaboration is not necessarily in one form only. It can also be to assist or to support. For example: a lot of art initiatives say they have a lack of financial means. They don’t have money for a website for example. To let some company make a website can costs thousands of dollars, but if for example we at IBB can make a website for another art initiative we can support each other in this way. We can exchange our services, knowledge and capacities to one another, as everyone is good at one thing. It’s much cheaper and by doing this we can also generate funds.

It was of great satisfaction to meet and speak with people from the French speaking islands, Martinique, and also to acknowledge the presence of a representative from the Dominican Republic.

Read the full article on Intervention IBB Magazine here.