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

FRESH MILK XIV: Tobias Ostrander’s Presentation

Chief curator at the Pérez Art Museum Miami, Tobias Ostrander, giving his presentation. Photo by Dondré Trotman.

Chief curator at the Pérez Art Museum Miami, Tobias Ostrander, giving his presentation. Photo by Dondré Trotman.

Fresh Milk invites you to view this four part documentation of the presentation by Chief Curator at the Pérez Art Museum Miami, Tobias Ostrander, who spoke at our public event FRESH MILK XIV, which took place March 20, 2014.

Tobias addressed the new Miami museum’s design, current and upcoming exhibitions, and research and programming related to the Caribbean, including the upcoming presentation of the exhibition “Caribbean: Crossroads of the World.”

Tobias also discussed his interests in developing future collaborations with art institutions across the Caribbean region as part of his thinking on a “Strategic Regionalism” which seeks to create increased dialogue between the Southern United States, Caribbean basin and Central and South America.

Take a look at the videos below:


Art historian and writer Jessica Taylor reviews Fresh Milk’s last event, FRESH MILK XIV, which took place March 20, 2014 at The Milking Parlour Studio.

Photographs by Dondré Trotman.

Chief curator at the Pérez Art Museum Miami, Tobias Ostrander, giving his presentation. Photo by Dondré Trotman.

Chief curator at the Pérez Art Museum Miami, Tobias Ostrander, giving his presentation. Photo by Dondré Trotman.

The inaugural event held at the Fresh Milk Art Platform for the year 2014 brought together two interesting discussions concerning the production and exhibition of artworks within a global context. The first of these took up the role that artists’ residencies play as valuable sites of artistic growth and production, but also as sites that encourage cultural mobility and the negotiation of difference, where artists are able to freely adapt to new spaces and perspectives. These talks were conducted by three local artists – Mark King, Nick Whittle and Versia Harris – who have participated in multiple residencies within the region and internationally. This was followed by a presentation from the Chief Curator at the Pérez Art Museum in Miami, Tobias Ostrander, who explored the notion of a new regional museum. Reinforcing the emphasis that Fresh Milk places on the importance of cross-cultural collaboration, the speakers at FRESH MILK XIV provided audience members with an expanded view of Caribbean regionalism, intending to provoke greater consideration of the need to work across geographical boundaries in order to develop relationships with other institutions across the globe.

For Barbadian and British artist Nick Whittle, the problem with residencies is that eventually they come to an end. This notion of the artist residency as a safe space in which to experiment, explore, develop and even make mistakes resounded throughout the presentations given by the three speakers. For artists, a residency is an opportunity to produce work in a space away from their usual environment and obligations, often accompanied by other artists, and thus creates a community of reciprocity. Since there is not one specific model, residencies offer different environments and different creative frameworks.

Nick Whittle, Queen Emma Bridge, Curacao, 2013

Nick Whittle, Queen Emma Bridge, Curacao, 2013

Nick recently attended a residency at the Instituto Buena Bista (IBB) in Curaçao. The language barrier that Nick experienced inspired him to take up the issue of exclusion in his works, which acquired the form of nesting boats made from large sheets of Dutch newspaper. With the words “this is not my land, not my island” written on his back, Nick staged a live performance in Curaçao in which he sat in a long newspaper boat on a bridge, forcing viewers to consider what his presence in that context meant historically and geographically. Subsequently, Nick has produced a short film with his daughter, artist Alberta Whittle, extending these themes of exclusion and belonging, presence and absence, forced encounters and cultural dislocations.

Versia Harris, a Barbadian artist, was able to trace both the transformation of her artistic style and the development of her confidence towards her production process through her experiences at four artist residencies. Beginning at Fresh Milk, she saw this opportunity as a test run for her first international residency at the Vermont Studio Center, where her intention was to focus on printmaking because of the facilities available at the Center. By the time Versia finished her next residency at the IBB in Curaçao, her work had taken a fascinating turn, experimenting with the incorporation of photographs and live footage into her animations.

Versia Harris, Fantasy Land Seperation, 2013

Versia Harris, Fantasy Land Seperation, 2013

In Trinidad, under the guidance of Christopher Cozier, co-director of Alice Yard, Versia began to revise pervious animation projects, and through the process of re-editing was able to produce a multi-screen installation on the exterior walls of the Alice Yard building. This creation of a strong, new work from fragments of older works was an impressive manifestation of Versia’s development as an artist during her time at the four residencies, and stands as a testament to the importance of reflecting on progress over time, and anticipating what is to come from this young artist.

While Versia’s development was first and foremost aesthetic and stylistic, artist Mark King’s development was intrinsically based in the theory behind his works. Although trained in photography, Mark felt that the medium was limited in its ability to communicate the issues that he wanted to address. While attending residencies at Alice Yard, Fresh Milk and Ateliers ’89 in Aruba, Mark used the mediums of photography, drawing, installation, sculpture and collage to respond to what was happening around him. Inspired by geometric forms and the practice of origami, Mark has created a series of beautiful and complex line arrangements on paper that are the result of algorithms made from books on the 2009 economic crash, overall banking history and culture, memoirs, autobiographies, and financial industry related news articles.

Work by Mark King from the CABTW series, (2013 - ongoing) exhibited at FRESH MILK XIV. Photo by Dondré Trotman.

Work by Mark King from the CABTW series, (2013 – ongoing) exhibited at FRESH MILK XIV. Photo by Dondré Trotman.

Underlying these intricate and delicate designs is a strong criticism of the CEOs who were responsible for the financial crisis, and he recognizes an interesting connection between the uncertainty of the shape that the algorithms take when converted into the vectors that make up his work and the uncertainty of the stock market. In this series, and in his installations in Aruba, Mark has altered familiar structures in ways that enabled him to respond to social norms in coded and often satirical ways, free from the restrictions of one specific medium.

The value of attending multiple artists’ residencies as part of a larger process of artistic development comes from the global reality of our contemporary art world. Residencies, both regional and international, should be seen as part of a wider network of institutions that stands to connect artists and foster cultural exchange. This dialogue was continued by Tobias Ostrander, who spoke of his work as chief curator at the Pérez Art Museum Miami, which opened December 2013 in a new building designed by Herzog & de Mueron. Given that Miami functions as a transitory space between North, South and Central America and the Caribbean, the addition of this large-scale museum to a quickly maturing city, previously best known for the temporary art fair Art Basel, positions Miami as an interesting space in which to explore the possibility for a long-term relationship between the Pérez Art Museum and Caribbean art institutions.

FRESH MILK XIV. Photos by Dondré Trotman.

Speaking of a larger project of “strategic regionalism,” intended to increase the dialogue between these regions over time, Tobias emphasized the importance of seeing this a process of resolution, rather than a quick solution to the lack of visibility that Caribbean artists experience. Recognizing the curatorial issues inherent in exhibitions like Caribbean: Crossroads of the World, which will be shown at the Pérez Art Museum this year on a smaller scale than was shown in New York in 2012, Tobias positions this exhibition as a potential starting-point for dealing with these issues, and the first stage in a greater project of collaboration.

Underlying the discussion was a distinct frustration that ultimately exhibitions, like residencies, are temporary. The challenge that we face now is how to extend the wider horizons afforded by these events to effect meaningful change to the infrastructure within which Caribbean artists work on a daily basis.


About Jessica Taylor:

Jessica Taylor

Jessica Taylor

Jessica Taylor recently graduated from McGill University with an undergraduate degree in Art History and Philosophy and hopes to begin a graduate degree in Curatorial Studies in 2014. Her focus is contemporary Caribbean art.


FM XIV Flyer 2

FRESH MILK is pleased to invite you to our first public event of 2014, FRESH MILK XIV, which will be held on Thursday, March 20th 2014 from 6:00 – 8:00 pm at the Fresh Milk Art Platform Inc., St. George, Barbados. See our About page for directions.

The Value of Artist Residencies

FRESH MILK XIV welcomes Nick Whittle, Mark King and Versia Harris to give artist talks, all of whom took part in a number of artist residencies locally, regionally and internationally last year at Fresh Milk, the Instituto Buena Bista (Curacao), Alice Yard (Trinidad), Ateliers ’89 (Aruba) and the Vermont Studio Center (USA). The artists will share the work they created while in residence and talk about the overarching impact of these experiences on their practice, framing residencies as free spaces for artistic growth, experimentation and cultural mobility and exchange. We are also excited to announce at this event, the chosen recipient of the Fresh Milk ‘My Time’ Local Residency 2014 selected from our recent open call. This Barbadian artist will be awarded a one-month residency on the platform and a $1,000.00 stipend towards artistic production.

A New Regional Museum

We are very pleased to feature visiting Chief Curator at the Pérez Art Museum Miami, Tobias Ostrander, who will speak to the new Miami museum’s design and program with the Barbadian audience. He will discuss from a curatorial perspective the opening exhibitions and projects currently on view, and the museum’s current research and programming related to the Caribbean, including the upcoming presentation of the exhibition “Caribbean: Crossroads of the World.” Tobias will also discuss his interests in developing future collaborations with art institutions across the Caribbean region as part of his thinking on a “Strategic Regionalism” which seeks to create increased dialogue between the Southern United States, Caribbean basin and Central and South America.

The event is free and open to the public. RSVP on Facebook here.

About the Presenters


Nick Whittle:

Nick Whittle is a Barbadian/British artist. His work is that of a diarist: regardless of scale or medium his practice explores geographical and historical encounters. Through a stream of consciousness process, he reveals feelings of alienation and connectedness. Much of his work is inspired by what was once described as “an ongoing interest in the narrow strip of land between high and low water.” His practice is interdisciplinary and encompasses sculpture, poetry, video, installation, painting and printmaking. He has recently concluded a residency program at the Instituto Buena Bista in Curaçao.

markus king

Mark King:

Mark King is a multidisciplinary Barbadian visual artist who explores archetypes and social norms. Interested in notions of topography and megalography, Mark makes coded, often satirical work, that highlight social phenomena. The son of a former diplomat, Mark has called several places home. Growing up in The Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, and the United States has left Mark with a unique perspective that directly influences his artistic practice.

Mark holds a Masters of Fine Arts degree in Photography from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, California. In 2011 the Lucie Foundation handpicked Mark for their apprenticeship program. During the same year he participated in a screen-printing residency at the Frans Masereel Centrum in Kasterlee, Belgium. In 2012 he took part in an artist residency at Alice Yard in Port of Spain, Trinidad. In 2013, he participated in two residencies; Fresh Milk in Saint George, Barbados, and most recently Ateliers ’89 in Aruba for the Mondriaan Foundation’s Caribbean Linked ll. Last year he released his first monograph Plastic through MOSSLESS publishing at The Newsstand in New York. Plastic has gone on to The 2013 New York Art Book Fair at MoMA PS1, The 8Ball Zine Fair, the 2013 I Never Read Art Book Fair in Basel, Switzerland, and The 2014 LA Art Book Fair in the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA.

versia black and white

Versia Harris:

Versia Harris is a Barbadian artist living and working in Weston, St. James. She graduated from the Barbados Community College with a BFA in the Studio Art programme in 2012, with an award from The Leslie’s Legacy Foundation. She participated in her first local residency with Projects and Space in 2011. Within the past year she has completed four residencies, beginning with a local residency at Fresh Milk, followed by her first international residency at the Vermont Studio Center, and two regional residencies at the Instituto Buena Bista, Curacao and Alice Yard, Trinidad in late 2013. In her work, Versia tackles perceptions of fantasy in contrast to the reality of her original character. She uses Adobe Photoshop to manipulate her pen drawings to create the animations.

tobias head

Tobias Ostrander:

Tobias Ostrander has served as Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs at the Miami Art Museum since 2011 (now the Pérez Art Museum Miami), where he oversees the program for the institution’s new Herzog and De Mueron designed building, which opened in December 2013. Prior to working in Miami, from 2009 to 2011 he was the director of El Museo Experimental El Eco in Mexico City. From 2001 to July of 2009 he served as the Curator of Contemporary Art at the Museo Tamayo in Mexico City. During his eight years at the Museo Tamayo, Ostrander developed an extensive program of international exhibitions. Prior to his work in Mexico City Ostrander was the Associate Curator for inSITE2000/01 in San Diego and Tijuana. He served as an assistant curator on the XXIV Bienal de São Paulo. He has a Masters in Curatorial Studies from the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College.