Versia Harris travels to Casa Tomada, Sao Paulo

We are excited to announce that Barbadian artist Versia Harris will be going to Sao Paulo, Brazil for seven weeks on Sunday, May 24, 2015 for a residency with Casa Tomada.

This collaborative programme organized between Fresh Milk and Casa Tomada will see Versia working alongside Brazilian artist Janaina Wagner, interacting with arts professionals, producing and showcasing her work, exploring the Brazilian art scene and looking into the possibility of furthering her studies in Sao Paulo.

Congratulations, Versia! We look forward to keeping up with your residency as it progresses!

About Versia Harris:

 Versia Harris is a Barbadian artist living and working in Weston, St, James, Barbados. She received her BFA in Studio Art in 2012 and was awarded The Lesley’s Legacy Foundation Award, an annual prize given to the top graduate. She participated in her first residency with Projects and Space in 2011 and has since completed a residency with another  local organization called Fresh Milk, followed by a residency at the Vermont Studio Center, and residencies at the Instituto Buena Bista, Curacao and Alice Yard, Trinidad in late 2013. In 2014, Versia’s work was featured in the IV Moscow International Biennial for Young Art themed ‘A Time for Dreams’. She was also apart of the follow up exhibition ‘MOMENTUM_InsideOut screening of ‘A Time For Dreams’, Berlin. Her animation ‘They Say You Can Dream a Thing More Than Once’ was awarded ‘Best New Media Film’ at the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival, 2014. Versia tackles perceptions of fantasy in contrast to the reality of her invented characters.

About Casa Tomada:

Founded in 2009, Casa Tomada is an independent space for practice, research and reflections of artistic nature. Concerned with the entire process, instead of focusing exclusively on the final work of art, Casa Tomada encourages discussion about emerging contemporary art, not only stimulating the development of artistic and theoretical practices motivated by shared experience, but acting as a catalyst for experiences and connections between artists, researchers, and other independent artistic initiatives. During these years, Casa Tomada organized 8 residences, 2 in partnership with Videobrasil, and one international exchange between São Paulo and London with the Delfina Foundation. Casa Tomada has also run other kinds of programs, all based on young artistic production, connections between different spaces and interdisciplinarity.

Walking / Writing for Rebirth – #CCF

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This week I chose to review A Philosophy of Walking by Frederic Gros; a book drawing attention to how walking has been an integral factor in the lives of many great thinkers, and the role it plays in the creativeness of the mind. I specifically concentrated on Chapter 14: Regeneration and Presence. It focuses on the pilgrim’s long journey as he encounters various landscapes and ‘holy places’, shedding his old self and creating anew. My response to this chapter was to write it out multiple times, all the while stripping it of words each time I rewrote it. The last re-write is representative of the rebirth of the pilgrim.

The above description is from Versia Harris’ response to A Philosophy of Walking by Frederic Grosthis 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, look out for our #CCF responses and see the great material we have available at Fresh Milk!

Fundraising for Versia Harris’ Residency at Casa Tomada

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Barbadian artist Versia Harris will be going to Sao Paulo, Brasil for a two-month residency with Casa Tomada beginning June 1, 2015.

To raise funds to help cover the living costs of this collaborative programme organized between Fresh Milk and Casa Tomada, Versia will be selling reproductions of stills from her original animations leading up to the residency.

To view available pieces for sale, click here.

Please email Versia at versia.abeda@gmail.com for payment methods and shipping fees.

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