October – December 2012
Alberta Whittle is a Barbadian artist, currently based between South Africa, Glasgow and Barbados. She has undertaken residencies at CESTA (Czech Republic), Market Gallery (Scotland), Collective Gallery (Scotland), Fresh Milk (Barbados), Greatmore Studio and The Bag Factory in South Africa.
She choreographs interactive installations, interventions and performances as site-specific artworks in public and private spaces, including at the Royal Scottish Academy (Scotland) and has exhibited in various solo and group shows in Europe, the Caribbean and South Africa, including at the CAS Gallery, University of Cape Town in March 2013 and in ‘WHERE WE’RE AT! Curated by Christine Eyene in Brussels in June 2014. Her practice is concerned with the construction of stereotypes of race, nationality and gender, considering the motivation behind the perpetuation and the different forms in which they are manifested.
Click here for Alberta Whittle’s full blog site about her FRESH MILK residency
Excerpt: Your Body is my Playground…
Earlier this week I went into town to meet up with Alicia Alleyne, a really interesting Barbadian artist to gather some materials for a performance I will be doing at Fresh Milk IX on November 29th. The performance draws from the excessive presentation of male and female roles in dancehall culture, notably in the fete posters.
I have been obsessed with fete posters in Barbados for a long time. The visual language of excessive consumption fascinates me. Posturing, lyrics, performance styles, swagger and masquerade inherent in Dancehall culture, present an image of hypermasculinity and hyperfemininity. Through these actions, sexuality is modelled into an ideal of economic and sexual performance and consumption.
Since I started the residency programme at Fresh Milk, I have been researching the relationships between hypermasculine, hyperfeminine and homoerotic imagery within Hip Hop/Dancehall culture, focusing on dress, body modification, costume and styling. Researching the emergence of new models of personhood, I want to investigate the complex signifiers for contemporary sexuality.
The visual language of the fete posters, which mirrors dancehall lyrics is often highly polarised. The phrases frame the overall appearance of the poster, appear as either spiritual or excessively sexual. When these phrases are taken out of the context from the song, the words often act as aspirational mantras, slogans or invitations for play.
“Ah Wen De Wicked Come With Dem Ways Still Ah Give Thanks and Praise”
“Look Weh Society Do Mankind, Blackman Nuh like Wen Blackman Rise and Achievee De Dolla Coin”
“If It Dont Meh Money, It Dont make Cents”
“Get Gal EEzi”
“Your Body is my playground, Girl let me bounce you up and down yeah”
“Girl you’re my pleasure, I’m your pain, lets do this again & again”
“Cah mi love it when yuh whisper inni mi ears. Mi love di f**k”
“Big up mi Linky Dem, cuz de links inni mi chain dem never end”
“Girlz Mek Ya Body JUMP JUMP JUMP Wine up, Wine Up, Wine Up”
“God Bless your two hands, Mama I love you…”
“Bad Boys Aint no Good, Good Boys aint no fun, ‘I love my Mr Wrong’”.
After Alicia and I parted ways, I walked to the van stand to get a van home. A van stand is a bus station, where you go to get a minibus or ZR Taxi. The van stand is an informal meeting ground, a liming spot, a place of transport, a place to shop, eat, drink and observe people. Amidst the hissing and catcalling from various men to women walking past, I found myself pondering these mating cries of “Ssssssss”, psssst”, “My sexy friend” and even “I love you!” and wondering why these calls are always focused in one direction. Why aren’t there groups of women claiming their presence in the landscape and calling on men? This claim on space and territory appears to situate Barbadian men as active, they are arbiters of taste, beauty, style and value to some degree. But are women passive participants? They walk through this commentary, often not acknowledging it or maybe they revel in it? Why is the street still an arena largely dominated by the male gaze? I am still struggling with coming to any clear answer but strong elements of performance from both men and women still seem to dictate specific codes of behaviour.