OTHER TEXTS BY ANNALEE DAVIS


Self-recognition: The Shock of Seeing Yourself in the Mirror
Annalee Davis

This article originally appeared on ARC Magazine's online platform on August 31, 2015

Annalee Davis, co-organizer of Caribbean Linked III as the Director of the Fresh Milk Art Platform Inc. alongside Ateliers ’89 and ARC Magazine, reports from this year’s programme in Aruba. As a long-time dream of Davis’, the realization of a regional residency that offers a thriving environment for Caribbean artists to meet, bond and recognize themselves in one other across cultural and linguistic boundaries is a beautiful thing, but it also allows for serious contemplation on the issues our islands face, offering a chance to create meaningful work around these challenges. Read more below:

My last Caribbean residency experience was on the north coast of Trinidad in 2001. It was organized by CCA in collaboration with the Triangle Arts Trust and I was part of the residency committee working with Charlotte Elias, CCA’s director, along with committee members Sean Leonard, Adele Todd and Richard Bolai. I put forward the idea of organizing a residency only for Caribbean artists, but given the relationship with Triangle Arts Trust, this was not feasible at the time.

Fast forward ten years and while installing work for an exhibition at the Fondation Clement, Tirzo Martha, co-founder of the Instituto Buena Bista (IBB) invited me to be a part of their organisation’s lustrum celebrations, marking their fifth anniversary.

While on the ground in Curacao later that year, I spoke with IBB students about using aesthetics to build connections with artistic communities across the Caribbean by developing a collaborative project with their regional counterparts – my students at Barbados Community College. I was surprised when the Curacao students said that they weren’t Caribbean, they could not imagine a connection with young artists on another Caribbean island and that they were Dutch.

However, later that week, we set up a Skype meeting between the two sets of students via Skype to begin a dialogue. The Dutch Antilleans expressed surprise after the meeting – “They look just like us” is what they said. There was a shock of recognizing themselves in the virtual mirror.

Fast-forward four more years, my involvement in this residency is as a founding partner of Caribbean Linked with the aim of simply linking the Caribbean through the experience of making art and erecting mirrors where we can see ourselves, functioning as a catalyst for basic self-recognition.

The experience over the past week, being in conversation with the young artists, reminds me of an experiment developed by psychologists to determine when infants develop self-concept. The ‘mirror test’ carried out in the seventies, placed infants ages 6 to 24 months in front of a mirror with rouge on their noses and asked “Who’s that?” Initially, those between 6 and 12 months think the reflection is a kid they want to play with; between 1 and 2 years old there seems to be some withdrawal; while at 24 months, they recognize that the image in the mirror is the self – they point at the rouge on their nose. Research reveals that in order to connect with others, we must have some sense of who we are – however limited that notion is.

Caribbean Linked is a ‘mirror test’ of sorts – the artists show up, we put rouge on their noses and ask them to look at each other. Like the young infants in the ‘mirror test’, they want to play as they did in the Quadirikiri Caves, at Arikok National Park, or in shared studio spaces. Some experienced a ‘disconnect’ at times, but as the days and weeks rolled on, there was a sense of recognition in the other. Several artists have spoken about this experience as one that is creating enduring connections and providing a renewed sense of belonging in and with the Caribbean.

I had my own experience of seeing myself in the mirror. Yesterday evening, I traveled to Arikok National Park to participate in Diego Espinosa’s portrait project and to work on a collaborative sound work in ‘Fontein’, an abandoned plantation house. On entering the space, I saw myself in the tiles on the floor by recognising the same pattern on tiles in the house where I grew up in Barbados.

For several of the artists in Caribbean Linked’s residency programme, they have had little or no travel experience to another Caribbean island; their identities are often rooted in a national landscape more so than a regional one. Alex is a Trinbagonian, Simone a Bajan. While for others, their location in the diasporas of the Global North makes their connection to the region more tenuous at times – a Vinci in Brooklyn, for example becomes absorbed in her daily life in the metropole, interrupted by her temporary reinsertion into the region, reawakening a bond with what feels like a familiar space. For the artists, familiarity was palpable, there was a graceful easiness to receiving each other.

And yet, this sense of recognition I witnessed might belie some of the more difficult material being processed through the various projects. Alex Kelly from Belmont, Trinidad has three works in the exhibition hall – a palette installed on the tiled floor with carefully folded brown paper bags, a small square drawing and a large totem-like image boasting a tower of oil drums with palettes precariously perched atop. Standing under this ominous drawing I couldn’t help but think of Trinidad’s pending elections slated for next month and a sense of vertigo was brought on; the very unstable column that this twin island’s republic is balanced on might be about to collapse.

 

Leasho Johnson, working out of Kingston, Jamaica, shares his installation Promise Land, introducing a new character to Aruba installed in the exhibition hall, with a wheat paste version sitting proudly on an abandoned building on Dominicanessenstraat, just around the corner from the Ateliers. Promise Land, a female avatar, references dance hall culture and daggering – her body bumps and grinds, a luscious landscape entertaining the loud beat, presenting her self with a wince or a wink.

Caribbean Linked is a large polyglot drawing with many authors. Our last delicious supper on Saturday evening in the open courtyard of the Ateliers took place under a beaming full moon. Generously prepared by Aruban creatives, Jess Wolff and Velvet Zoe Ramos, we all ended by singing Happy Birthday to Alex in English, Spanish, Papiamento and Dutch. Caribbean Linked is a new anthem of sorts, a multilingual hymn, marking our continued birth and growth, complete with growing pains.

Next year, we turn four.

 

Notions of common/wealth versus single/wealth
Annalee Davis

This article originally appeared in The Cyprus Dossier, Issue 07, August 2014, p. 80-82.

“Global art is not only polycentric as a practice, but also demands a polyphonic discourse. Art history has divided the world, whereas the global age tends to restore unity on another level. Not only is the game different: it is also open to new participants who speak in many tongues and who differ in how they conceive of art in a local perspective. We are watching a new mapping of art worlds in the plural which claim geographic and cultural difference.”

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The Fresh Milk Art Platform Inc., founded in 2011, is located on a dairy farm on the island of Barbados in the Southern Caribbean. We are one of several artist-led initiatives continually emerging across the archipelago supporting contemporary art production and the shaping of critical communities in the region. The local contexts these Caribbean artist networks respond to is the lack of formal institutions to meet artists’ needs, such as a national art gallery or a museum of contemporary art with a mandate to support the production, discussion and visibility of contemporary practice.

Artists in the region are functioning in an arena with relatively small local audiences, underdeveloped primary art markets and, in most cases, non-existent secondary markets for contemporary art works with very few spaces to exhibit. A challenge this poses is that much of the artwork produced in the region is exhibited, appreciated and valued outside of the region where more developed creative environments function, creating a gap between artists and their domestic audiences. Artist-led initiatives have been working to bridge this gap by creating opportunities for creatives to engage with local audiences.

Fresh Milk responds by (i) offering residencies for local artists to produce work and nurture critical thinking, (ii) expanding the reading room to acquire material focusing on contemporary practice from within the region and around the world, not available anywhere else on the island, (iii) activating the reading material through establishing mentoring opportunities for young people who write critical reviews of the book collection shared through the Tumblr page - Fresh Milk Books – The books that make us scream! (http://freshmilkbooks.tumblr.com/), and (iv) staging public events providing local audiences and artists moments to engage with each other, along with other activities.

While recognizing the importance of nurturing the local environment, Fresh Milk is equally committed to participating in larger and more diverse conversations regionally. Common obstacles rippling throughout the region’s creative sectors act as unifiers, giving rise to geographical connections among artists across the Caribbean who share in these frustrations and resulting in the formation of many of these artist-led initiatives and collaborations.

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Fresh Milk’s online interactive mapping project reconfirms our regional identity and functions as a transnational exercise demonstrating the presence of a myriad of arts entities across the Caribbean from the nineteenth century till now – refuting the fact that we are a divided space as determined by former colonizers who used dominant languages to separate the region linguistically. Consolidating regional art spaces into one, the readily accessible online map also acts as a crucial educational and research tool for locating historical and current data about Caribbean art, broadening both local and international knowledge, awareness and collaboration. Mapping becomes an act of resistance as we become our own cartographers, insisting on connection rather than division and relationship as opposed to discord. The map also resists the notion that there is a central and singular art world of which we are peripheral.

While it maybe true that, as Amanda Coulson wrote in the Frieze April issue, ‘The idea that anything intellectual happens here is anathema to the brand we have projected to the outside world’, this map opposes the reductive way in which the Caribbean has been branded repeatedly as an exotic playground for people from elsewhere.

Fresh Milk has worked with partners in the region to establish a regional residency project called Caribbean Linked. This project brings artists throughout the region to make and exhibit art, engage in critical dialogue and build relationships, while using the arts to foster a more unified Caribbean.

As our relationships spread beyond the insular Caribbean, our programming expands to reflect the shifting dynamics of our engagements. Nurturing our core foundation in the Caribbean equips us to build robust, meaningful connections internationally - not seeking validation, but rather mutually enriching cultural exchanges. Fresh Milk is continually fostering critical conversations with entities throughout the Caribbean, in the Global South and traversing the North/South axis of the world to holistically realize a healthy cultural ecosystem.

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INTERNATIONAL ARTIST INITIATED

The invitation from David Dale Gallery in Glasgow, Scotland, is an example of how Fresh Milk is provided with opportunities to engage with international artist networks, in this instance, from the Commonwealth of Nations. In July 2014, we will join the Clark House Initiative (India), The Cyprus Dossier (Cyprus), Fillip (Canada), RM (New Zealand), Video Network Lagos (Nigeria) and David Dale Gallery (Scotland) in Glasgow to collectively make a series of critical interventions for their project, International Artist initiated (IAI). The IAI project reaffirms art as a polycentric practice and is creating this significant platform for a truly polyphonic discourse.

Fresh Milk’s contribution to IAI is in two parts. The first will see the installation of works by three emerging artists on a billboard, external walls of buildings, on railings and on the surface of the sidewalk. The artists include a recent graduate from the Barbados Community College, Ronald Williams, whose crisp digital montages critique the stereotype of the black athlete; Mark King who will share a suite of beautiful linear works, inspired by geometry and origami with patterns derived from algorithms generated from the 2008 banking crisis, and Alberta Whittle’s fête (party) posters. Alberta performs as both man and woman in her critique of gender stereotypes through her engagement with the local fête posters often seen posted throughout Bridgetown, Barbados’ capital city. The posters will be reproduced in multiples and plastered throughout the streets of Glasgow.

Fresh Milk’s second contribution will be a discursive project titled “common-wealth / single-wealth”. This dialogical component will provide a platform for representatives of the seven specially invited networks to participate in conversations with each other and the Glaswegian audience. The aim of the conversations will, in part, be to unpack ideas related to the Commonwealth of Nations – the association under which countries gather every four years to celebrate sport – in Glasgow in the summer of 2014.

BACKGROUND TO THE COMMONWEALTH

The Commonwealth of Nations comprises of 53 independent countries associating voluntarily within this umbrella organization. Most of these nations are former colonies of the British Empire who generated wealth for a single kingdom, brutally extracted from labour and raw materials derived from colonies flung far across the globe. The Commonwealth of Nations is a diverse association including some of the largest and wealthiest countries as well as some of the smallest and poorest, more than half of which are small island states. The origin of the term was mooted in 1884 when the British empire was described as a Commonwealth of Nations by Lord Rosebury while he visited Australia.

In 1926, at an Imperial Conference, the UK and its dominions agreed that they were "equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations." In 1949, “Commonwealth prime ministers issued the London Declaration, which changes membership from one based on common allegiance to the British Crown to one in which members agree to recognise the British monarch as head of the Commonwealth, rather than as their head of state.

In 1971, the Singapore Declaration of shared principles was adopted to include commitments to individual liberty, freedom from racism, peace, economic and social development, and international cooperation. In 1991, the Harare Declaration added democracy, good government and human rights to the Commonwealth's shared principles.

But the background to these now politically correct, supposedly globally shared egalitarian principles is rooted in something entirely different…the fundamental values that made the Empire so powerful were greed, enslavement, corruption, invasion, racism and pure wickedness – basically a ‘get whatever you can in the most horrendous way’ philosophy, and then run with the spoils, laughing all the way to the bank. What in fact we all have in common is the colonial experience, that terrible encounter which now makes us somewhat familiar, one to the other. That baptism by fire and the English language is what we all share.

The war of Independence and subsequent de-colonization, may have been fought, and won, on a blueprint of self-determination from the colonial masters, lauded and welcomed universally. The mirrors of international recognition, independence and self-governance, however, flattering though they appeared, were already fractured with partial images, half-told tales and misrecognitions that the young state, drunk with the joy of its own birth, had been turning a blind eye to.

The Commonwealth of Nations really began as the British Empire back in the 16th century with Britain’s invasion of many lands all over the world. Ideals such as international cooperation were not in fashion in 1625 when Barbados, for example, became a British colony. As the centuries passed and the British Empire’s dependant nations became less profitable, they were slowly granted independence beginning in 1931 with Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. India became independent in 1947, Nigeria and Cyprus in I960, and Barbados, once England’s richest colony, became independent in 1966 at a point when it stopped generating masses of wealth for the mother country through the production of white gold, commonly known as sugar.

The English language has become so well laundered that we are encouraged to believe that we all play on an equal and clean playing field. Dig a little below the surface of free trade agreements however, such as the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) – an agreement between Europe and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states – and the dirty laundry surfaces again. Nigerian economics professor, Charles Chukwuma Soludo argues that the EPA is Europe’s second scramble for Africa, while accusing China and India of invading or exploiting Africa.

Professor Norman Girvan, in a workshop on Alternative Trade at St. Mary’s University in 2013, posited that the EPA is a way for Global Europe to neo-liberalise relations with the Global South in order to maintain access to ACP resources and markets while competing for market control against China and the USA. He writes that as the ACP countries continue to export raw materials, food and consumer services and import manufactured goods and producer services, the same colonial model that Britain used centuries ago, albeit now consolidated with its European partners, continues to be repeated over and over again. Although Africa continues to put up a fight against the signing of the EPA, the Caribbean eagerly signed, rendering our own efforts at regional integration null and void, sidelining our best interests in order to secure Europe’s ability to compete globally.

Once we were colonies, raped and pillaged at will. Now with apparent ‘self-governance’ we are supposedly decolonized, established as free and equal members of the Commonwealth of Nations. The English language, our colonial past, democratic principles, human rights and the rule of law unite us. We recognize Queen Elizabeth II as the Head of the Commonwealth.

The British Empire transformed into the British Commonwealth, which became the Commonwealth of Nations, commonly known as the Commonwealth, with the Commonwealth Games as its most visible activity. And here we are in 2014, gathering to celebrate sport (and art) in the Motherland as one big, happy Commonwealth family.

THE DISCURSIVE PROJECT FOR THE IAI PROJECT

Drawing a line back to Fresh Milk’s proposed framework for the proposed discursive component, we intend to explore the context of the IAI, as a gathering of Commonwealth Nations, and delve into how that relates to the work we all do as artist led initiatives. In the Vancouver based Fillip publication, in its 2012 issue called Institutions by Artists, Peta Rake asks if artist run spaces “attempt to address their structures as alternative modes of artist collective organizations, (and) in what ways do these Artist Run Initiatives (ARIs) take into account the specific location and contingent relationship to the local context”. Rake asks if provincialism arises out of colonial processes or geographic location, or might it be more an attitude adopted by an individual given their position within the system of art, which forces subservience to externally imposed hierarchical values.

Similarly, for the purposes of Fresh Milk’s discursive component, the concern is to unpack the Commonwealth as a macro, historical entity and understand our relationship to it, if any, and all that entails. Interrelated are ideas about the definition of wealth and value, both single and common, in our local contexts. We will meet in Glasgow from Auckland, Bombay/Mumbai, Bridgetown, Lagos, Nicosia and Vancouver. We have English in common, yes, but we hail from nations of people who also speak Marathi, Maori, dialect, Yoruba, Greek and Turkish.

Questions Fresh Milk will invite participants to consider include the following:

What does single wealth and common wealth mean or evoke to each of the seven initiatives?

As former British colonies and in relation to this gathering under the umbrella of the Commonwealth of Nations, are there concerns of being central or peripheral? What constitutes the centre, and who or what are we peripheral to? Is there anxiety about provincial versus metropolitan environments related to physical location, creative production or critical thinking?

How do we engage nationally, regionally and trans-nationally? Do we have allegiances with the Global South, and how do they affect or relate to more traditional interactions with the North?

Do artist-led institutions contribute to artists choosing to remain at home, seeing these networks as viable spaces from which they can create and contribute to, within their own context, rather than viewing emigration as the most viable option?

Given that those working in the diaspora sometimes struggle with exclusion in local communities in the metropolitan centres and are increasingly looking homeward as potential spaces to re-engage with, what is our responsibility to artists in varying diasporic communities who feel simultaneously connected to and disconnected from, both the original homeland and the adopted homes?

Are issues of economic viability for artist led initiatives a core concern, and should alternate models of sustainability be considered and developed? Are decisions to operate outside of formal institutions or away from the market influenced by our positions as More Developed Countries (MDCs) or Lesser Developed Countries (LDCs)? What is the responsibility of MDCs in relation to LDCs?

How can we take advantage of this IAI gathering to germinate longer-term relationships among these networks? How, for example, might digital technology support transnational collaborative opportunities among IAI participants? How do we move forward from here?

 

Belting, H. et. al. (eds) (2013) The Global Contemporary and The Rise of New Art Worlds, MIT Press, p.184.
Coulson, A. (2014), 'Island Life', Frieze, Frieze Publishing Limited, No.162, April 2014, p.133.
http://freshmilkbarbados.com/caribbean-linked-ii/; accessed on 27 May 2014.
http://thecommonwealth.org/about-us#sthash.JrUvIL9b.dpuf; accessed on 27 May 2014.
http://thecommonwealth.org/our-history#29; accessed on 27 May 2014.
Ibid.,
Aristodemou, M. (2012), ‘Crisis, Beyond the Comfort of Anxiety and Fear’, The Cyprus Dossier, Issue 03, July 2012, p.20.
http://www.normangirvan.info/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/EPA-AS-SECOND-SCRAMBLE-FOR-AFRICA-11.pdf; accessed on 27 May 2014.
http://www.normangirvan.info/category/epa-text-and-commentaries/; accessed on 27 May 2014.
Rake, P. (2012), 'Inclusivity and Isolation', Folio Series, Institutions by Artists, Volume One, Edited by Khonsary, J. and Kristina Lee Podesva, K., Fillip Editions / Pacific Association of Artist Run Centres, pp.151.


Drawing Lines - Counterpoints from inside the plantation, State(s) of Emergence(y) and crises of belonging at home
The Perez Art Museum Miami, USA. April, 2014.

By Annalee Davis

This paper was presented as part of a symposium at the PAMM in Miami in celebration of the Caribbean: Crossroads of the World exhibition. The Caribbean Crossroads Symposium: Transnational Histories took place on April 25th and 26th 2014. Transnational Histories consisted of four panels corresponding to the central themes of the exhibition: Fluid Motions, Counterpoints, Shades of History, and Kingdoms of this World. Each panel paired a scholar and artist who presented and discussed their work in relation to the theme. I shared the platform with curator Rocio Arando-Alvarado from El Museo del Barrio and chief curator at the PAMM, Tobias Ostrander who moderated our panel - Counterpoints. Caribbean: Crossroads of the World is at the PAMM from April 18th to August 17th 2014. It explores the diverse history of the Caribbean and its diaspora, highlighting over two centuries of rarely seen works dating from after the Haitian Revolution to the present. The Miami presentation was curated for the PAMM by guest curator, Elvis Fuentes.

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Annalee Davis next to her piece 'Sweet Island Cookie Cutters: Sweet Fuh So!' on display in the exhibition Caribbean: Crossroads of the World. Image courtesy of the PAMM

I guess I should start with the obvious and make reference to the word we are supposed to be unpacking this evening. The term ‘counterpoint’ originates from the Latin punctus contra punctum meaning “point against point”. My point sitting next to yours - putting two things together to show how different they are from each other, emphasizing the juxtaposition.

The title of my presentation is ‘Drawing Lines- Counterpoints from inside the plantation - State(s) of Emergence(y) and crises of belonging at home’.

The plantation is a space often understood in a perpetually fixed manner determined by its history as a site of trauma. The plantation is what I know best. I was born and raised on sevreral sugar plantations. My current home and studio are located on a working dairy farm that was operational originally as a sugar plantation from the 1660s. My experience of and commitment to this contested site, however, might well differ from familiar preconceived notions of the plantation and the single story that we are all familiar with.

Theodore Zeldin in his book ‘An intimate History of Humanity’ wrote, “Playing with gloom has produced some fine art, but otherwise it has been a waste of energy.” (An Intimate History of Humanity pp 296)

BACKGROUND

The Caribbean has gone through a series of shipwrecks over the past five hundred years, and today much of the region experiences failed leadership, mass corruption, rising unemployment, poverty, lack of opportunities for excellence, environmental degradation and an increase in crime. Migration has always been a viable option, staying has always been more difficult.

For those of us who choose to remain, reconciling ourselves to the history of the plantation and to the land is critical as is rejecting Naipaul’s apocalyptic vision of the region as a house of death, which must be challenged.

The Caribbean can be a difficult place to live and work in - it’s history casts long shadows across an archipelago much of the world knows only as a bright and exotic paradise, an escape from where real life happens in the metro poles. My interest as a visual artist is to shed light on history’s shadows so that the gloom loses its power and the lines that I draw might shift that waste material to become a renewable energy source that compels affinities, the likes of which we have never seen before…a hark to Walcott’s broken vase being reassembled.

MY WORK

My current body of work explores the plantation and race. Given that I am working within a Caribbean context, I am offering a counterpoint to the fixed constructs of the plantation and the white Creole which are often limited and outdated, and I am interested in other possibilities and positionalities for both.

This evolving body of work comprises a suite of drawings; a social practice component that is now three years old; a collaborative project currently at the planning stage with archaeologists set to begin in June and a dialogical project.

The context for this body of work is (i) the physical site where I live and work and related archives from the early nineteenth century (ii) the mining of my own family archives (iii) legitimate and illegitimate family trees and (iv) the reconciliation of my lived experience which contrasts official narratives of the space I live and work in as a white Creole Barbadian investigating where and how biography and history intersect.

My father and his father before him were both planters. I spent my childhood living on plantations and can trace a line back to 1648 to our earliest recorded ancestor, one Leonard Dowden, who came to Barbados as a ’10 acre man’ – one who was at the lower end of the socio-economic ladder along with small traders, tavern keepers and crafts people arriving from the UK in the mid seventeenth century, to seek his fortune having acquired four acres of land in the northern parish of St. Lucy.

Two hundred and seventy years later, in 1920, my paternal great-grandmother, Edith Gertrude Davis, acquired a sugar cane plantation, which, after her, was managed by her son, my grandfather and now my brother who oversaw its transition from a sugar plantation to a dairy farm.

When I look at the plantation as a model that shaped the region and its far reaching effects, I think not so much about the physical manifestation or remains of the plantation houses and outbuildings, most of which are in a state of disrepair or abandonment, but I see the vestiges of a more insidious complex – one of a psychological nature that relates to the human mind or spirit, brewing for centuries and affecting both the individual and the entire society. It’s what I call the plantation complex and it lives on in our interactions with each other, playing itself out in notions of legitimacy and illegitimacy. It reinforces hierarchies. It teaches us to know our place. It breeds insecurity about who belongs and who doesn’t. It determines notions of human worth within contemporary Caribbean society. It can be vicious and vitriolic.

For me, the studio is where conversations about complex historical moments take place. It is where I attempt to engage with the chaos of our history and explore new possibilities. It is in the studio where the daily grind of confronting a muddled past allows us to deal with the mess of living with a history that is never closed. It is where I locate myself within the turmoil and use art as a medium to engage with what has gone before, what happens now and to imagine what can be shaped in the future. What we do to each other now matters and how we interact with each other now matters.

THE FAMILY ARCHIVE

The white population of Barbados has been understood in a very limited and fixed way, based on a very particular kind of construction that speaks almost exclusively to privilege and one that is often understood in isolation and as part of an historic power struggle to render human relations between people of different races in the Caribbean as non-existent. As Chimanada Ngozi said, there is never a single story for anything or anyone in the world. Single stories are dangerous and misleading and we must be open to multiple perspectives, even and especially if they force us to shift our thinking. The whites of Barbados and the Caribbean are not a homogenous group, immune from the differences of class, gender, religion etc.

In the context of Barbados, I am white. In Jamaica, I am a browning, in Trinidad I am a red gyal, in the US, I am read as Hispanic or black. Barbados is the only place where I am white. I position myself alternately as a white Creole woman. As Joscelyn Gardner, my friend and colleague, here in the audience today, wrote in her 2004 exhibition catalogue, “The term “Creole” is used…to refer to someone born in the Caribbean. This term originated in the seventeenth century to differentiate whites born in the newly settled colonies from those of European birth. Despite their similar British ancestry, such a distinction was found necessary in order to assert the cultural difference between Caribbean-born whites and those from the British Isles.” End quote. No one in my family would ever call themselves white Creole. For me, it is a survival mechanism. I use it to create space for myself.

As a white Creole woman, I am interested in other positionalities and in creating detours that weave themselves through the binaries, forcing them to open up to other possibilities, alternate ways of seeing, understanding and behaving.

THE FOUR INTER-RELATED PROJECTS

Phase One - THE DRAWINGS

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I began this body of work by drawing a piece of Queen Anne’s lace on the wall of my studio, taking the pattern from a piece my mother had been crocheting intermittently over a fifty year period as a gift for my older sister. Next to it, I drew a rattoon of a sugar cane plant with an exaggerated rhizomatic root structure which looked like the inner workings of a pair of lungs. The sugar cane plant started to breathe. And then, I noticed that the two forms began to negotiate their boundaries and reach out to each other. The images rerouted themselves to suggest in a Glissantian way that identity is not solely within the root itself but it becomes something more alive when it develops a relation with the other. This after all is what life is about- being in relations with each other.

What I had in fact drawn was a portrait of my parents- my father was a planter and my mother was a bookkeeper and homemaker. And as my mind continued to wander through the narrative of my immediate family and our history I saw what was most familiar to me, and I began to draw those lines.

The next set of lines began to shape the familiar porcelain teacup used every day by our parents in our household at 3 o’clock. The teacup sits beautifully atop the Queen Anne’s lace. Then emerges the roots of the rhizomatic cane plant which floated over the top of the tea cup and it began to drip into the cup. At this point, some discomfort emerges. It’s a counterpoint. One point sitting next to another. What is the relation here?

The line migrates to another piece of paper. The line becomes a broom. It gestures to sweeping stuff under the carpet. It’s a carpet of Queen Anne’s lace. The broom has been sweeping stuff under the carpet for three and a half centuries.

The line migrates to yet another piece of paper. Queen Anne’s lace interrupts the base line. An aerial view of Cliff Plantation comes into sight revealing the yard surrounded by the contours of the fields. This is the place where I grew up, happily. This is the place we loved. An aerial perspective view of a tea cup, a mountain of sugar, a tea spoon. As a young girl, I wondered about those who had come before, who had lived here long before, of those who labored here before. It was a conversation my family never had over dinner or anywhere. I pondered on my own, a solitary activity.

And now, another piece of paper… The line draws the contours of another plantation yard and its fields, a family portrait of paternal grandparents getting married, Queen Anne’s lace. At the base, sits the great house atop a subterranean layer of soil.

In the gully on the farm, my niece, daughter and I hunt for shards. The gully, once a dumping ground for broken ceramics, finally demonstrates the physical presence of the voiceless- the indentured and the enslaved. Their ceramic broken bits and pieces were made in factories in England in the 1780s, 1810s and 1820s and brought to Barbados. Another line is drawn around the patterns, across the land, through history, connecting that time to this time, then till now, them to me. Glissant’s poetics of relations inhabit this place and these drawings. The line forms the contours of the sugar cane plant - Saccharum officinarum. The planting, tending, reaping, processing and exporting of this plant are why we exist in the Caribbean. It is why Lloyd Best says that we are the only region in the world where the economy preceded the society. Saccharum officinarum is a rhizomatic plant. The rhizome suggests that identity is no longer completely within the root but also in Relation. Pp73 or 75

Not telling the story in order, all of a sudden, the lines go back in time to draw the words taken from a will in 1815 written by Thomas Applewhaite, a previous owner of the land on which I now live. Applewhaite and Davis are not family by blood, but connected by place, by house and by land, through history. Thomas Applewhaite wrote his last testament dated the 26th of September 1815. The first time I read the words in my studio late in the night, they take my breath away. The lines on the will, cracked and yellowed form these words, ‘It is my will that I do hereby direct that at the expiration of six years after my decease my little favourite Girl Slave named Frances shall be manumitted and set free from all and ill manner of servitude and slavery whatsoever’.

The lines on the page of his will make me pause, not because I didn’t know, I know, we all know. But there was something about her being named. I tried to draw a line between the words ‘favourite’ and ‘girl slave’. I cannot get that line drawn. I draw another line. She, Frances, lived here then, in 1816 where I, Annalee, live now, in 2014. That line has been drawn.

Phase one is complete.

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Phase Two - The Social Practice Component

The Fresh Milk Art Platform Inc. is a social practice project. It is located on Walkers Dairy- the site where I live and work. My studio is located here. Fresh Milk is a counterpoint from within the plantation, in a continual state of emergence, responding to states of emergency. It is a daily act of resistance using the creative imagination to draw numerous lines to the countless different possibilities constantly surfacing between ideas and projects and among people on the island, across the region, with the Global South and further afield.

From a larger perspective, Fresh Milk works to alter the very chemistry of our own soil by choosing to go against the grain of what we were taught by colonization. Drawing lines from one human being to another and then another and yet another - is critical. Drawing these lines reinforces Glissant’s poetics of relations and ignores what we were taught about drawing lines of boundaries to separate human beings based on race, class, history, gender, sexuality or language.

I take the time now to reflect on another line. This line is a long, long line - three hundred and fifty-four years long. The line scrawls itself, aching through forced and voluntary migrations, invasion, settlement and emigration; struggles for freedom, abolition, emancipation, the 1937 riots, federation, independence, CARICOM and the post-colonial period we currently live in.

The line stops. I draw a period. A full stop. The line stops. Stop that line. That is a painful line that has been drawn over and over and over again. I am tired of that line of seeing, tired of that line of thinking, tired of being inside that line. Stop. That. Line.

I recognize the need to draw a new line. The line I draw here and now is a new line.

How do I describe this line? It is not a fractured line, nor is it a tormented line. It is not a broken line. It is a nurturing line, a nuanced line, sometimes it’s a tentative line, cautious, afraid at times because we were not taught to draw this kind of open, expansive line.

This new line refuses to accept that all potential lines have already been drawn before. New lines are waiting to be drawn. Fresh counterpoints are waiting to be connected, one lying next to the other, one line touching the other line. Then I notice that somewhere in the line emerges something that resembles empathy, wonder, curiosity, affinity, dare I say, beauty. Are we allowed beauty?

And then, all of a sudden, I notice that another line appears. I did not draw that line. It’s a different line. It’s not my line. There is another line, and yet another. There are now many lines. There are 55,000 lines. There are too many lines to count.

I don’t want to count the lines we draw. I stand in awe and look at all the beautiful lines. This is where I want to be. Inside of all of these lines that are each a counterpoint to the master narrative, weaving new affinities all the time, confirming multiple states of emergence while we continue to draw and through the act of drawing, we are emerging and becoming who we are, enjoying the infinite possibilities of connection.

This is what Fresh Milk is. Located on a place that was once closed but is now open, a plantation that was once exclusive is now inclusive, what was a place of trauma is now a place of nurturing, the yard with a great house with a bar filled with glasses for drinking rum, now instead we have a library filled with books. Phase two continues to evolve.

pamm 4

Walkers Dairy Today. Images courtesy of Cherise Ward

Phase Three

The conceptual basis for this third phase is based on the scientific model called Phyto remediation which offers us a way of thinking that affirms our ability to alter the chemistry of our soil by propagating new growth. This model denies the existence of a single root, but rather presents the rhizome and the rhizosphere – which is the zone surrounding the roots of the plants - as a model for human interaction. For me, the rhizosphere becomes a representation for the psychological space we inhabit in relation to our understanding of our history and how that in turn informs or determines our relations.

In terms of my own work, the rhizosphere includes all branches of my family tree (both the legitimate and illegitimate), the sugar cane plant, Fresh Milk, the plantation including the yard, the barns and the fields and the wider context of Caribbean history and human interaction therein.

My interest in unpacking the plantation from the ground up requires a literal digging in to the soil. Arrangements are falling into place for collaboration with US and UK based field archaeologists who work in Barbados in the summer months. Test pits willbegin at Walkers in June. The goal here is to look for evidence of those who have been left out of history and who will hopefully come to the surface of this landscape so that the story about this space does not reflect only the privileged experience or voice but is inclusive of all who lived here. The digging of the pits and the findings will be documented and become part of the project unfolding, revealing itself to me in its own time.

Phase Four

Phase four comprises a dialogical component that will also commence in the summer. Conversations will be arranged between two people at a time. There is no audience. The conversations will be documented.

Patterned on Theodore Zeldin’s ‘Oxford Muse’, the conversations will draw lines between and around us, poetics of relations will emerge in spite of the states of emergency that we find ourselves in. Zeldin reminds us that, “the most important networks are those of the imagination, which cross from the conventional to the unconventional, refusing to accept that what exists is the only thing that is possible. The most important skill, which underlies all creativity and all scientific discovery”, he writes, “is the ability to find links between ideas which are seemingly unconnected.”

Engaging in meaningful discourse is one way of developing empathy and affinity. Participants will be selected and open calls made for participation. Questions might include the following: What is the most difficult conversation you have ever had? What is your relationship to the colour of your skin? Have you ever crossed boundaries in love? Have you felt pain because of your race? Where do you belong? Define home. Who are you?

We will drink a cup of tea. The tea cups will sit on a table covered with a piece of Queen Anne’s lace. I’ll draw a line between people’s varied stories, opening spaces for communication to build empathy and understanding. Diversity is a notion that many people have difficulty with, in part because it represents the unknown. The idea here is to cultivate openness to different experiences and different ways of thinking and as Grant Kester writes, to “Use the process of dialogue and collaborative productionto transform human consciousness.” Pp 153. The medium in this phase is conversation, becoming an aesthetic device in shaping civil society.

My intention is for these four phases of this body work, culminating in private/public conversations, to demonstrate elasticity so that the words which spill out, might allow us to imagine new ways of being with one another and equip us with the skill to keep drawing lines, yes, even from within the plantation. To move from the current state of emergency which include crises of belonging to ourselves and with each other, to feel at home as we lay side by side, my counterpoint right next to yours.


Unrecognised Affinities
Reflections from Videobrasil

By Annalee Davis
Published on ARC Magazine's online platform.
Edited by Holly Bynoe & Katherine Kennedy

unrecognised 1

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

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’ on November 10, 2013.

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.

unrecognised 2

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.

unrecognised 3

Panel on Hospitality and the Politics of Mobility. Participants from L-R: Anznalee Davis, Aaron Cezar, Amilcar Packer and Koyo Kouoh. 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.

unrecognised 4

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.”

read the original article on ARC Magazine's website.


A Visual Essay – Art Building Community

Compiled by By Annalee Davis

Edited by Marielle Barrow
Published by Caribbean in Transit, George Mason University, Virginia, USA
Issue No. 3

Labarbata Jumbies
Laura Anderson Barbata, 'Jumbies,' 2011

How do we consider the value of visual culture within a given context and how do creatives meaningfully engage with collective space and a common audience? What is our relationship to the commons and how might the public engage with aesthetic interventions?

This visual essay responds to Caribbean InTransit’s call to contemplate the transformative potential of art in the contemporary world. The selection of works, culled from artists who work in the Caribbean or have a relationship to the region, expose a variety of contexts in which makers interface with public space and the contemporary moment while building audience through networks of communication. The suite of images reveals direct interventions into the public space, commentary on topical issues such as violence, performative actions and community-based projects. In many cases the works are temporal in nature, allowing us to observe the elasticity of practices emerging throughout the region - adjusting to the constantly shifting communities we are continually becoming. The seven artists include Laura Anderson Barbata (Mexico/USA), Mark King (Barbados/USA), Ebony Patterson (Jamaica/USA), Sheena Rose (Barbados), Adele Todd (Trinidad & Tobago), Rodell Warner (Trinidad & Tobago) and Alberta Whittle (Barbados/UK).

1. Laura Anderson Barbata was born in Mexico City. She live and works in New York City and Mexico City where she is a professor at the Escuela Nacional de Escultura, Pintura y Grabado La Esmeralda of the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, México. Since 1992 she has worked primarily in the social realm and has initiated projects in the Amazon of Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, Norway, the USA, and Mexico.

‘GRAS is a papermaking project that started in 2001 and takes place within the local school of Grande Riviere. The school adopted papermaking into their curricula, creating the possibility for children to develop their creative skills and be involved in art through recycling. These young people were invited to lead a number of workshops in schools throughout Trinidad and successfully taught and shared their papermaking knowledge with over 200 hundred children and adults. The goal of the project was to become a self-sustaining producer of fine quality 100% natural fiber paper, recycled paper, and block prints. This project provides the people of Grande Riviere an empowering alternative for generating a means of revenue without having to leave their village in search for a job in the city, where their quality of life would be greatly diminished. GRAS is an extension of Barbata’s work that began in the Amazon of Venezuela, where she initiated a paper and bookmaking project with the Yanomami people in 1992.’

‘On November 2011 in New York, Barbata collaborated with the Brooklyn Jumbies to present Intervention: Wall Street – a performance that took place on Wall Street in New York City’s Financial District. Intervention: Wall Street was conceived as a response to the dire economic crisis that became most evident in 2008 afflicting Americans and impacted 99% of the global population. Financial speculation and banking abuses by the largest and most powerful institutions on Wall Street have brought misery to individuals, institutions and to entire countries. In this public performance which took place in November 2011, Laura Anderson Barbata and the Brooklyn Jumbies brought to the Financial District of New York a world-wide practice to remind viewers of the global impact of this crisis and the urgent need to elevate and change the values and practices of the New York Financial Industry. Anderson Barbata and the Brooklyn Jumbies towered over the Financial District in a performance that incorporated stilt dancers wearing 12ft high business suits, music and a collaborative spirit. The public was invited to join and support the intervention/dance wearing a business suit and participate in the 30 minute performance.’

Mark King
Mark King, 'Call and Response Series,' 2012

2. Mark King is a Barbadian artist who has lived and worked in the US, Canada, Belgium and the Bahamas. He graduated with an MFA in Photography from the Academy of Art University, San Francisco. Having recently returned to live in Barbados after spending most of his adolescence and adult life off the island, King is reading the social space anew, interfacing with and documenting the street through his photographic practice. King teaches photography and art production at the EBCCI, Cave Hill campus, UWI.

‘For Call and Response, I wrote directly on a few of the 'Jesus is Coming!' signs that decorate the Barbados landscape. The intervention was a reaction to the wheat-pasted and hand painted signs I passed just about everywhere I went in Barbados. I felt compelled to add some humor to the heavy message being broadcast. Armed with a king size permanent marker I offered added instructions, which were to be read while walking on Pine Road in the Belleville district.

Step 1: Jesus is Coming!; Tuck your chain
Step 2: Jesus is Coming!; Look busy
Step 3: Jesus is Coming!; Wait here

The reaction to the images was mostly positive. I even caught wind of a few people who had seen the signs before they were taken down. With religion being such a sensitive topic in Barbados, it was interesting that most people who experienced the work in picture form or on the street actually found them cheeky. I assume those who posted the 'Jesus is Coming!' signs in the first place did not.

Ebony PattersonEbony G. Patterson, Artist in residence at Alice Yard, Trinidad

3. Ebony Patterson was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1981. She graduated from the Edna Manley College with an honours diploma in painting and pursued her MFA in printmaking and drawing from the Sam Fox College of Design & Visual at Washington University in St. Louis. She has taught at the University of Virginia and is currently an Assistant Professor in Painting at the University of Kentucky.

‘During my two week residency in Port-of-Spain, sponsored by Alice Yard, I made nine coffins – one for each person that died in a little over a week during my visit there. The piece was made to recognise the lives lost during the course of this period of the visit, and to call into the urgency of a spiraling murder and crime rate in Trinidad. Coming from a similar experience in Jamaica I thought it was a worthy project, understanding the circumstances of the current climate of Trinidad. The project has taken the form of a 'bling funeral', which is strongly informed by dancehall and I dare to even say, Revivalist and Baptist cultures. In a ‘bling funeral’, loved ones who have ‘passed are truly celebrated in fine style, with shrine like coffins and 'bashment' patrons/ mourners.’ While at Alice Yard, I collaborated with the internationally recognised Rapso Group, 3 Canal for a sound portion of the project which led the procession of coffins through the streets of the Woodbrook neighbourhood.’

Sheena Rose
Sheena Rose, 'Sweet Gossip Series,' 2012

4. Sheena Rose is a Barbadian based artist who has recently completed residencies in Kentucky, South Africa, Trinidad and Suriname. She works with painting, animation and more recently performance art. Rose represented Barbados at the 2012 Habana Biennial and is the founder of an artist led initiative, Projects and Space (2011) which creates the possibility of coordinating art projects in public spaces throughout Barbados.

‘Sweet Gossip is a collaborative project with photographer Adrian Richards and writer Natalie McGuire. The project looks at the Pop culture of Barbados and the phrases or comments that Barbadians use when gossiping or in a certain situation. The intervention into the streets of the capital city of Bridgetown included the artist posing with her paintings like roving broadsides. The illustrated text used by the artist in the suite of paintings reflected the vernacular heard on the street. The performative actions of carrying these images into the shops on Swan Street reflected the dialect back into the public space and provided the public with a humorous reflection of itself.

Viewers, curious about these performances, interacted with those of collaborating with Rose, adding comments to the phrases they saw on the paintings. Most viewers found the project very humorous and relatable.

Sweet Gossip has developed through a number of formats and stages: first there were paintings, then live performances and public interventions, and subsequently photography.The project “Sweet Gossip” will now be showing in many different social network sites where persons gossip and comment. The internet has become the gallery space.’ (Extracted from text by Natalie McGuire)

https://vimeo.com/48307222

Adele Todd
Adele Todd, 'Police and Tief', 2009

5. Adele Todd is a Graphic Designer, Fine Artist and Lecturer of the Visual Communications Design Associate Degree Programme at John S Donaldson Technical Institute. She holds a degree in Graphic Design from Pratt Institute. Adele’s work focuses on the intricate and intimate technique of embroidery, though is not limited to this process. She also works with silhouetted shapes, found objects and any media suited to her subject of interest, which is predominantly pulled from current headlined events in the pages of newspapers of Trinidad and Tobago.

‘Police and Tief is my response, along with the work, ‘Patrimony’, to "domestic" violence in Trinidad and Tobago as it relates to how we react and respond to each other in society. With ‘Police and Tief’, I specifically separate the pieces into four sections, police, tief, judiciary and victims. I ask that we look at ourselves, look at the way we embroider into the fabric of society certain attitudes, morals and mores. We stand observing, completely impotent, wondering what went wrong and why we cannot fix the mess we have helped create.’

Rodell Warner
Rodell Warner, 'Common Room,' 2011

6. Rodell Warner is a photographer and graphic designer working in Trinidad and Tobago. His photographs range from images of community-based environmental protection and enhancement programme workers to an exploration between public and private spaces. Filled with energy, creativity and excitement, Warner’s photographs provide a specific take on memory and experience. Often working collaboratively, Warner also creates and executes his own projects, consistently exploring and presenting new conversations about the ways we see ourselves. He has recently completed residencies in South Africa and Barbados. Common Room is a project that developed both in Trinidad and South Africa.

‘In 2009, sensing an overwhelming discomfort with making eye contact with anyone in Port of Spain, and wondering if this extended to others, I had some friends help me to get strangers to stand for a photo together, asking them to make eye contact. We did this on a busy Saturday morning on the Brian Lara Promenade. The pairs of people in the photos, who hadn't met before, were asked to participate as they passed by. The result is this photo series - a record of the range of responses to having to look at someone unfamiliar in Port of Spain.

In Johannesburg, in 2011, as part of my first major exhibition, 'Common Room', which was made of a number of works concerned with public-to-public communication, I again had help to create and record the situation in the CBD.

In Port of Spain my friends and colleagues Michelle Isava, Brianna McCarthy, Stefan Simmons, Dave Williams, and my brother Russell were the friendly faces that got the pedestrians to participate. In Johannesburg I was lucky to have the assistance of friends, the artists Donna Kukama and Ezra Wube, and the curator Portia Malatjie, especially considering the sometimes problematic language barrier.’

Alberta Whittle
Alberta Whittle,'Pikswart,' 2012

7. Alberta Whittle is a Barbadian artist based in Glasgow. Since graduating with an MFA from the Glasgow School of Art, Whittle has participated in residencies in Berlin, the Czech Republic, Poland and South Africa and is about to begin a ten week residency at the Fresh Milk Art Platform Inc. She choreographs interactive installations, interventions and performances as site-specific artworks in public and private spaces. 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.

“Pikswart” is an Afrikaans word that means pitch black. During a residency in Wellington in South Africa, I paint this phrase repeatedly on different surfaces in the rural landscape. Using thick blackstrap molasses that glistens in the sunlight, both disgusting and appealing, this performative gesture recalls the industry of slavery, land, forced migration and boundaries and its impact on notions of blackness. Its smell attracts insects and baboons. Referring to the colour black as a social construct referring to race as well as its painterly attributes, I hope to use the audience’s experiences and knowledge of the past to inform my work, where they can make sense of the clues from the past and the suggestion of shared histories.

Located in the Boland, a rural wine making community and witnessed by local residents and other artists, the molasses was painted on different surfaces throughout the Hawequas mountains. The etymological roots of the phrase, Pikswart, were discussed. Pikswart is from the Dutch words, Pik and Swart. Pik means both penis and pitch. Swart means black. Suggestions were made to paint the phrase on phallic structures like trees and felled tree trunks, reflecting the rape of the land by European explorers. Discussions pertaining to land, lust and territory were undertaken as well as curiosity about the significance of the molasses. The molasses can be taken as a reference to the landscape being devoured by man.’


Connecting, disconnecting and intersecting at the Biennial of the Americas
Denver, Colorado USA. July 8-13 2010

By Annalee Davis

Edited by Amit Mukhopadhyay
Published by artetc., Emami Art Pvt. Ltd, Kolkata, India
Vol 2. No. 2.

connecting

I spent a week in Denver, Colorado in July 2010 as a guest speaker at The Nature of Things Speaker Series curated by Lauren Higgins. This series of journal entries logs my days at this month long, hemispheric event focusing on innovation, creativity, community and sustainability as the lens through which to look at the state of the Western Hemisphere.

Connecting…

DAY 1
I met Richard Saxton with his M12 colleagues – a collective of artists, designers and creative professionals that operate as a non-profit and an NGO. They create and facilitate research and education projects, exhibitions and commissions. M12 shared Redisenar los Campitos! for the Biennial. Campito, a Spanish term for a sheep wagon, houses migrant workers from Bolivia, Peru, Chile and Mexico, who work in Colorado as herders on ranches for up to three years. Men live in wagons without electricity, running water or a bathroom. M12 executed Redisenar los Campitos as a public art action focusing on collaboration, mobile design, landscape and social responsibility. M12 sees itself as a community resource for evolutionary thinking, exploring how contemporary art becomes a steward for innovative communication and effective global solutions. M12 designed prototypes to allow herders to live with access to a heated shower, compost toilet, solar energy platform, moveable garden, and global communication system. M12 will source funding to build one prototype. As an extension to M12, founder, Richard Saxton, teaches a course, The Baseline Group at the University of Colorado as a way to expand on ideas of sustainability, innovative thinking and social responsibility.

Disconnecting…

After conversing with Richard, his students, an activist and lawyer, I entered the Ellie Caulkins Opera House to attend the Americas Roundtable - the primary component of public dialogue throughout the Biennial. Debates included ten to twelve participants who discussed Climate Change, Philanthropy, Trade, Energy, Education and Women as Drivers of the New Economy. I attended the Roundtable on Poverty Reduction: Politics and Strategies...

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Of People and Place
The Work of Annalee Davis

By Annalee Davis
Published by artetc., Emami Art Pvt. Ltd, Kolkata, India
Edited by Amit Mukhopadhyay
Vol 2. No. 1.

up-rooted

A bit of context

I was born in the Caribbean basin at a moment of transition from British colony to independent nation state. A menagerie of people imported from the four corners of the globe, our predetermined role was to provide labour for, or manage, the agricultural economy for absentee landowners. Unusually, these societies were contrived to support the economy, creating the first globalised space in the world, right here, in the belly of the Americas. Three and a half centuries later, as newly independent states, we were given the mantle to build a vision that would support our own aspirations. Lacking an autochthonous population for the most part, many of these newly independent island states in the early sixties had no indigenous context from which to define themselves. More than four decades on, one might question the degree of success to which our vision for independence has been realized.

From my location in the Southern Anglophone Caribbean, critical art as a resistant practice is transforming the contemporary creative arena though a proliferation of informal networks. Visual artists are linking with creative writers and critical thinkers to shape spaces of possibility – giving permission to make things, share ideas and provoke debate...

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IDENTITIES WITHHELD BY CHOICE June 26 - 2008

A Small Axe Visual Arts Project



Identities Withheld by Choice
is a special project I formulated for the academic journal, Small Axe in Issue No. 26, June 2008. It is linked thematically to On the Map.

An error was made and two of the images were omitted from the printed journal. Visit the link below to see the complete project on Small Axe's website.



Questions for Team Barbados and the Panelists on David Ellis’ Down to Brass Tacks Programme on Migration, Sunday, June 21 2009

Note: I submitted the article below to the Nation newspaper on June 23rd, since it has not been published I am posting it here.

by Annalee Davis

Current regional debate on the issue of intra-regional migration is expanding the discussion and forcing us to address some of the more complex issues surrounding the state of the CSME and intra-regional Caribbean migration. Given statements made by some of the panelists on Sunday’s Brass Tacks and in the Sunday Sun of the same date, where our Prime Minister denied knowledge of ‘house raids’ in Barbados, I thought it would be useful to pose questions to the panel, the relevant authorities and Team Barbados, in an effort to further contribute to the debate. Read full article here

 


Thoughts on Prime Minister Thompson’s New “Amnesty”
By Stabroek staff | May 25, 2009 in Features

In the Diaspora

By Annalee Davis (Annalee Davis is a Barbadian Visual Artist, living and working in Barbados on a series of forty-five artistic projects that investigate the impact and anxieties of intra-regional Caribbean immigration. Please view www.creole-chant.blogspot.com to complete the questionnaire if you have a migratory experience you would like to share or www.annaleedavis.com to see her work.

On Tuesday, May 6th 2009, Prime Minister David Thompson politely informed Parliament of the policy determined by the Subcommittee on Immigration set up in June 2008. Non-nationals have one month to turn themselves into Immigration to regularize their status or be “removed” from December 1 2009... read complete article here

immigration

guyana workers

Note
In the Diaspora is one of a series of fortnightly columns from Guyanese in the diaspora and others with an interest in issues related to Guyana and the Caribbean morning, June 10th 2009.




Hiding and Seeking with Tonya Wiles (2009)

By Annalee Davis

tonya wiles
‘tongue’ 2008. Porcelain wash basin, leather, tongue. Dimensions variable.

I initially saw Tonya Wiles’s work at her first solo show, which opened at the Zemicon Gallery in Bridgetown on June 7, 2009. One week later, I attended her talk at which, according to Tonya, she wanted to “explain” her body of work to the Barbadian audience.

Her exhibition Hide and Seek played with established local norms about viewing art in a gallery space. I asked Tonya how different it was for her to locate her work in Barbados versus situating it in the UK, where she had spent the last three years. She felt that given the greater exposure of a UK gallery culture predisposed to understanding contemporary work, returning to Barbados forced her to ask the question, “Is art viewing universal?”

She wondered if the work made sense in a Barbadian context, and we spoke about how the work functions differently in the two spaces. UK-based viewers might be well exposed to, and therefore more comfortable interacting with, objects like Tonya’s in a gallery space, whereas in the Barbadian context the work reveals a tension. Hide and Seek exposed the conformity of a small, conservative, insular island society that prefers to know the rules of the game before playing. Members of the audience, Tonya told me, not sure what to do with her work, sought explanation from her before engaging or participating.

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Annalee Davis on JOSCELYN GARDNER (2004)


by Annalee Davis

Panel Discussion at the Barbados Museum & Historical Society in response to Joscelyn Gardner’s Solo Exhibition “White Skin, Black Kin: Speaking the Unspeakable”, May 19, 2004.

“The shaman is the person, male or female, who in his late childhood or early youth has an overwhelming psychological experience that turns him totally inward. It’s a kind of schizophrenic crack-up. The whole unconscious opens up, and the shaman falls into it…

The artists are the mythmakers of our day…they are today’s shamans who communicate myths for contemporary society, recognizing and rendering the “radiance” of all things, as an epiphany showing forth their truth.” Taken from Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers in The Power of Myth.

Tonight, I would like to speak about this exhibition as “an epiphany of showing forth” our truths and to suggest that Joscelyn Gardner is a contemporary Barbadian shaman and that this exhibition represents a watershed in our ongoing and fractured development of cultural production.
First I would like to speak about the show from the point of view of this work being a creative body of work. These ideas are presented to us as art as opposed to any other format. Secondly, I would like to speak about the idea of schizophrenia as it relates to the work. And finally I would like to address the idea of wholeness. I am speaking about schizophrenia and wholeness both within the context of what we deem to be unspeakable.

It would be remiss of me as an artist not to address the technical expertise that Joscelyn so beautifully and proficiently displays. The process of physically making the work is something that Joscelyn enjoys as she very carefully renders, embroiders, writes, draws and prints these ideas into a form that is accessible to us – the thirsty audience. You should be aware that the pillow cases are made by Joscelyn, the embroidery is sewn by her hands, as are the topsy-turvy dolls. The photocopies of the prints that are hanging in the hallway pale in comparison to the limited edition, fine art lithographs that are on display at the Zemicon Gallery. Those carefully rendered drawings of black hairstyles are lithographs which are printed on frosted mylar. They are exquisitely beautiful and one should not miss the opportunity to see these works in the flesh.

I particularly appreciate the idea of Joscelyn using the Museum’s galleries as her canvas. I think it is a bold and daring venture to take what is a hallowed national arena and dance around the icons that reek of status, privilege and puffed up patriarchal chests, and suggest a topsy-turvy plantation space that begins to create a language which defines this nation’s history. Instead of a static display of inanimate objects, we now have movement, sound, rhythm, and voice; we have an animated space which breathes life into our history and honours the fact, with compassion, that we are bound to the vein. The Caribbean has propagated centuries of shame around our stories. We have been taught to be uncomfortable when history shows up at the back door, stating claim to our blood line. But now, thanks to Joscelyn’s careful words and works, we have a creative language that is starting to fall from our lips, we can begin to speak about the unspeakable.

As a result of this exhibition, the BMHS has become an even more provocative space and it might be interesting for the BMHS to actively involve artists in engaging with the space on a regular basis, to allow the cultural producers of this country to respond to the displays so we can continue to speak the unspeakable.

Secondly, I would like to speak about schizophrenia as it relates to the works on display. Schizophrenia is a mental disease marked by disconnection between thoughts, feelings and actions. The word makes me think about madness – a disordered mind, as well as it makes me think about schism - a split, rupture or division.

This show allows us to explore the tangled threads of history in an attempt to unravel the postcolonial mess we have inherited. Barbados, like the rest of the Caribbean, has been part of one of the world’s largest experiments in hybridity and its resultant creolisation. An innate part of this experience is the schism, schizophrenia or madness Joscelyn references in her catalogue by mentioning Jean Rhys’ character, Antoinette Cosway. I wanted to extend this schizophrenic schism to Joscelyn’s exhibition and suggest several areas where the splits can be seen in the works.

1. In a formal sense, the juxtaposition of what is on the surface with what is underneath – the schism between the beautifully and carefully rendered braided hair with the brutal torture implements.

2. The schism between the fixed portraits of the white Creole mistress and her children versus the fluid movements of the ghostly house slaves.

3. The division in the female sound works which talk about the various forms of oppression to which all women at this time were subject - .hearing in a ruptured way, the snippets of monologues and dialogues that are connected by circumstance but disconnected by hierarchy.

4. The schism of the topsy-turvy doll – a single doll divided at the centre of her being – a sweet, soft, cloth doll demonstrating an unresolved, split identity.

5. The schism of Pinky – the young white Creole girl who was sent to England to be civilized, who needed to perform as dictated by the colour of her skin, who then came to represent, ironically the epitomy of civilization, this White Creole. Joscelyn repatriates this girl by placing her in a Barbadian pastoral landscape, extending the schism even further.

6. The schism of how we see ourselves versus how others see us. The division between how a white Creole artist who sees herself as Barbadian; a native with the right to speak as a cultural producer about things of national significance, but who is often seen by others as an other. (Every one of us seems to have an other!)

7. The schism between an elite academic language versus the experiences to which we refer and which are lived by the average Barbadian. The division between the arenas in which these common experiences are written about and thought about versus the relative inaccessibility of these thoughts and words for the average person.

And finally, I would like to speak about the idea of healing as it relates to wholeness.

In the catalogue, Joscelyn states that the white postcolonial Creole woman “is charged with actively negotiating the re-construction of her own identity…”

I would like to extend this mandate to every member of our society, on both an individual and a collective basis. Healing is about making a choice. Reconstructing, or rebuilding our identity puts us in a position of power. This exhibition provokes us to think about the construction of our future in relation to our past, and some of the questions that we may ask are; how do we move forward, what is our next move? What steps have been taken by our postcolonial government to heal the wounds and move beyond the cycle of guilt and the polarity of superiority/inferiority complexes? How different or similar are we as a society today from the society to which Joscelyn refers in her work?

Nations can make steps towards healing which recognize at the national level that there has been rupture and we need to heal. Some examples of this at the national level are seen by the USA who created Affirmative Action as a healing mechanism. South Africa had their Truth & Reconciliation effort. Many Caribbean islands have become independent and some have become republics. Free education for all, is another step towards healing. Barbados formed a Committee for National Reconciliation in 1999 which has produced a report with suggestions for ways in which we can heal as a nation and move forward. This exhibition is an individual effort at healing which has been offered as a national gift for others to heal as well.

I wonder if the notion of healing, becoming whole beings who are healthy, happy and successful is a choice that is truly unspeakable.

Are we willing as individuals to heal and to become whole? Do we have a government that can choose to heal the wound and close the gaps?

I would like to close my presentation by recalling an article I read a few years ago when South Africa was undergoing their Truth & Reconciliation exercises. There was a story about a poor black SA woman from one of the townships who was in court at the trial of a white SA policeman who had brutally murdered her husband and only son in the most heinous way. The judge asked her to offer her comments about how this man should pay for what he had done to her family. She stood in the courtroom and she said; firstly, I want to forgive you. Secondly, I want you to come and visit me every month, because you have taken away my entire family and I need someone to spend time with me. And thirdly I want to adopt you as my son, because I have none left. The policeman feinted at the stand.

That woman, on that day, as an individual, demonstrated wholeness. And her leader, Nelson Mandela was a national example to her, as a whole person.

This is the unspeakable truth. To be whole is unspeakable. In a society that is heavily rooted in values which are oriented towards an external saviour, it is a challenging notion for many to think about taking the responsibility to claim a power to save themselves.

To affirm;
I am whole.
I am complete.
I am happy.
I am healthy.
I am the other.
The other is me.
I am.

This is speaking the unspeakable.
Thank you.

 
 

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