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.

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

Tilting Axis: Within and Beyond the Caribbean – Shifting Models of Sustainability and Connectivity

The two-day conference ‘Tilting Axis: Within and Beyond the Caribbean – Shifting Models of Sustainability and Connectivity’ will be held at The Fresh Milk Art Platform, Barbados on February 27-28, 2015. This meeting aims 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.

Organized by Fresh Milk, ARC Inc., Res Artis and Pérez Art Museum Miami, Tilting Axis sees the founders/directors of several of the region’s artist-led initiatives coming together to engage in face to face conversations, along with a number of professionals from outside the region interested in working with Caribbean based initiatives.

The objectives of the two-day engagement are to:

● Create opportunities for more integration, awareness, and collaborations to take place across the Caribbean and between international foundations, cultural organizations, and practitioners;
● Enable local, regional, and international artist networks to reflect on lessons learned and share best practices, methodologies, and ideas;
● Develop an action plan for continued collaboration and for moving the Caribbean out of a peripheral position in the global art conversation.

Directing Organizations: ARC Inc., and Fresh Milk Art Platform Inc.
Associate Partners: Res Artis and Pérez Art Museum Miami
Supporting Partners: Arts and Sport Promotion Fund Committee (Barbados), the Davidoff Art Initiative, the British Council and the Prince Claus Fund.

Participants:

Annalee Davis – Founder/Director, The Fresh Milk Art Platform Inc. (Barbados)
Holly Bynoe – Co-founder/Director, ARC Inc. (St. Vincent & the Grenadines)
Mario Caro – President, Res Artis (The Netherlands)
Tobias Ostrander – Chief Curator, Pérez Art Museum Miami (USA)
Solange Farkas – Director, Videobrasil (Brazil)
N’Goné Fall – Co-founder/Director, GawLab (Senegal)
Katherine Kennedy – Assistant to Directors, The Fresh Milk Art Platform Inc. & ARC Inc. (Barbados)
Versia Harris – Visual Artist/Volunteer, The Fresh Milk Art Platform Inc. (Barbados)
Sammy Davis – Videographer/Volunteer, The Fresh Milk Art Platform Inc. (Barbados)
Deborah Anzinger – Executive Director, New Local Space -NLS (Jamaica)
Malaika Brooks-Smith-Lowe – Co-founder/Director, Groundation Grenada (Grenada)
Caryl Ivrisse-Crochemar – Director, 14Nº61ºW (Martinique)
Nicholas Laughlin – Co-founder, Alice Yard (Trinidad & Tobago)
Marsha Pearce – Senior Editor, ARC Inc. (Trinidad & Tobago)
Amanda Coulson – Director, The National Art Gallery of the Bahamas (The Bahamas)
David Bade – Co-founder, Instituto Buena Bista – IBB (Curaçao)
Tirzo Martha – Co-founder, Instituto Buena Bista – IBB (Curaçao)
Elvis Lopez – Director, Ateliers ‘89 (Aruba)
Natalie Urquhart – Director, The National Gallery of the Cayman Islands (Cayman Islands)
Raquel Paiewonsky – Artist and Co-Founder, Quintapata (Dominican Republic)
Kira Simon-Kennedy – Program Manager/Co-founder, China Residencies (New York City)
Maria Elena Ortiz – Associate Curator, Pérez Art Museum Miami (USA)
David Codling – Director Arts, Americas, British Council (Colombia)
Remco de Blaaij – Curator, Centre for Contemporary Arts (Scotland)
Jessica Carden – Curator, Mother Tongue (United Kingdom)
Max Slaven – Co-Director, David Dale Gallery, Glasgow (Scotland)
Ellie Royle – Co-Director, David Dale Gallery, Glasgow (Scotland)
Janice Whittle – Curator, The National Cultural Foundation (Barbados)
Joscelyn Gardner – Visual Artist (Barbados)
Therese Hadchity – Art Historian (Barbados)
Llanor Alleyne – Visual artist (Barbados)
Tonika Sealy – Independent Cultural Producer (Barbados)

Image credit: Mark King, Untitled Grid Fields, paint on concrete, 2015. Photo by Llanor Alleyne

Unrecognised Affinities: Reflections from Videobrasil

The founding director of The Fresh Milk Art Platform Inc., Annalee Davis, was invited to participate in the 18th International Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil – 30 Years + Southern Panoramas in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Videobrasil has established itself as one of the most important organizations for video and contemporary art practices in the geopolitical South and included a cross section of curators and critics from arts institutions worldwide, and artists largely from the global South. Davis presented in the 3rd Focus group of the festival’s public programming, which centered on artist residencies. The following is an edited version of her presentation ‘Unrecognised Affinities’ delivered at the panel titled ‘Hospitality and the Politics of Mobility’, originally published on ARC Magazine’s website.

Panel on Hospitality and the Politics of Mobility. Participants from L-R: Annalee Davis, Aaron Cezar, Amilcar Packer and Koyo Kouoh. Image courtesy of Sabrina Moura.

Panel on Hospitality and the Politics of Mobility. Participants from L-R: Annalee Davis, Aaron Cezar, Amilcar Packer and Koyo Kouoh. Image courtesy of Sabrina Moura.

I was asked to speak about my work as a creative activist in Barbados and the formation of the artist led initiative called The Fresh Milk Art Platform Inc., of which I am the founding director. As a tutor at the Barbados Community College in the BFA programme, I decided some years ago to respond to the fact that none of our graduates continued making work after graduation. This is, in part, because there is not a developed creative economy that can provide a supportive space for emerging practitioners. Fresh Milk was born in 2011 to foster young talent and is named such because it is located on a dairy farm, as well as relating to the act of women turning their blood into milk to nurture their young.

The network responded to a specific local need to harness the talent of our young creatives – to be a safety net to catch artists as they fall into the real world after art school. Now, two and a half years later, graduates are continuing to make work because Fresh Milk is opening up opportunities and doors of exchange.

Fresh Milk is located on the premises of a former plantation built in the mid-1600s. It has been functioning as a dairy farm for several decades. My home and studio are located on the farm, and I have turned my studio into Fresh Milk’s headquarters. Due to the island’s brutal history rooted in indentureship and the slave trade, the physical location of Fresh Milk has raised concerns as to whether it is a legitimate or appropriate setting to carry out its work. Traditionally, the plantation was an exclusive venue, hospitable only to a white elite planter class who oversaw the inhumane treatment of an enslaved and indentured population.

The Fresh Milk Studio. Photograph by Mark King.

The Fresh Milk Studio. Photograph by Mark King.

I am interested in this debate about the plantation as a fixed space, defined perpetually by conflict and division. I see this location as a site for investigation; an environment which I am unpacking from the ground up. By literally digging into the soil to find ceramic remains, reading through documents related to the former plantation, including conveyances, wills and deeds from the early nineteenth century, I am thinking about the potential for transformation and reconciliation. Through creative intervention via my own practice as well as the development of critical programming at Fresh Milk, the historical divisions within the plantation are reconsidered.

The idea of transformation is linked to hospitality, which originates from the Latin word ‘hospes’ meaning “guest” or “stranger’.  I am concerned about the stranger or enemy among us and within our national boundaries, the region and the wider world. Certainly, there has been much debate within the insular Caribbean about belonging and ownership, which plays itself out most disturbingly at many of our national borders. There is a precedent of xenophobia which has come to define how Caribbean people think about citizenship and the landscape. The failure of CARICOM to provide a conduit for real integration after forty years of operation attests to this. For real change to occur, we need to be hospitable to ourselves first, work to ‘to open ourselves up, share ourselves out’ with the stranger in our midst, which we can do through the arts, creating safe, critical settings for exploration, innovation, connection, excellence and production.

Fresh Milk reacts to our needs at the moment in Barbados and the wider Caribbean by building  a robust creative community within the local context. Our geographic consideration of the Caribbean is always shifting. The normative definition is the archipelago that stretches from The Bahamas in the North, to Trinidad in the South, moving on to Suriname and the Guianas. Its extension into the coastal rim of Central and South America and out to the diasporic outposts including Amsterdam, London, Toronto, Vancouver, NYC etc is evidence of the Caribbean as a broad and dynamic area.

Annalee Davis introducing the Fresh Milk Map of Caribbean Art Spaces. Image courtesy of Sabrina Moura.

Annalee Davis introducing the Fresh Milk Map of Caribbean Art Spaces. Image courtesy of Sabrina Moura.

What is radical about this notion of hospitality in our Caribbean context, is the relationship to the history of plantations. By transforming this territory once grounded in hostility and prejudice into a welcoming, creative, critical arena, Fresh Milk is indeed a defiant undertaking. Our programming works in opposition to the traumatic history of abandonment and points to new possibilities by offering harmonious acts rather than ones of obstruction. Instead of reading Fresh Milk’s presence on this site as problematic, we propose an alternative reading, and suggest that an adjustment is both necessary and possible.

I see the work I am doing as an artist, unpacking and redefining the plantation, as work which is altering the very chemistry of our own soil. This practice is rooted in scientific ideas around phytoremediation. Phytoremediation is the removal of toxins from the earth by cultivating plants whose roots have the capacity to extract toxins from the soil, thereby allowing the soil to be replenished and to grow something again.

I believe that we have the ability and the responsibility to alter the course history, contributing to a healthy cultural ecosystem by nurturing creative production and producers. By establishing the Fresh Milk platform and executing its programming, functioning locally, regionally and internationally with inclusive and open projects, we are building relationships with other human beings and offering a real connection to a known locale of isolation and privilege that has been timed out of opportunity and significance.

Being hospitable in the historical context of the Caribbean is a radical gesture. To nurture one another, to consciously reject what we were taught by the colonial past and a consumer oriented present, to choose to convert these historical sites of abuse, torture and neglect into sanctuaries that revel in the creative imagination, to take care of and look after the emerging talent; these are all revolutionary actions. I have faith in the capacity we all have as human beings to envision and manifest alternate possibilities through the forging of relationships with others which may offer something beyond perpetual conflict.

The building of the Colleen Lewis Reading Room, which provides free and accessible research material to the Barbadian public, is a critical statement in a region where reading is not always a popular activity. This is a testament to the powers of the colonial system where bars for the consumption of rum were more common on the plantation than libraries. The availability of the reading room allows a way for us to think about using knowledge and scholarship to open and challenge minds, inspiring intellect while developing new modes of thinking.

The Colleen Lewis Reading Room. Photograph by Dondré Trotman.

The Colleen Lewis Reading Room. Photograph by Dondré Trotman.

The interactive Fresh Milk Map of Caribbean Art Spaces contests the ways in which the hegemonic powers historically segmented the region linguistically and created artificial boundaries to separate us from fully understanding our similarities. This is a myth and one that should be denounced categorically from a cultural and political perspective. The construction of this virtual map reinforces linkages across linguistic and geographic divides in the region, insisting that we are indeed interconnected.

Fresh Milk is building connections with other human beings through residencies, the Colleen Lewis Reading Room, the Map of Caribbean Art Spaces and its activities, contributing to our goal of transformation – all the while believing that we can alter the chemistry of our own soil, creating new paradigms of thinking and behaving, engaging in hospitable acts, or the most radical gesture of all – loving each other.

I close with a quote from the author Theodore Zeldin which inspires what we do at Fresh Milk – “The meeting of ideas which have never come together before…the art of making life meaningful and beautiful, which involves finding connections between what seems to have no connection, linking people and place, desires and memories…discovering unrecognized affinities between humans holds out the prospect of reconciliations and adventures which have so far seemed impossible.”

See the original article on ARC Magazine.