Benchmarking (2011)

Laser engraved purple heart benches. Photo credit - Annalee Davis




The title of the work, ‘Benchmarks’, is borrowed from a business term which refers to reference points or standards against which something can be measured or assessed. This work reproduces various acts of legislation from the eighteenth century through to the twenty-first century to benchmark the sentiment of the state towards those who are deemed illegitimate in some way. Benchmarks is an evolving suite of laser engraved purple heart benches referencing the degrading practice of placing CARICOM nationals to ‘sit on the bench’ at the airport in Barbados while Immigration determines if they can enter the country. The benches are engraved with texts from the 2009 Green Paper on legislative reform which speaks to ‘harbouring’ and ‘monitoring’ non-nationals, as well as legislation from the 18th & 19th centuries which speak to harbouring and documenting the population. One bench borrows an ad from the Bridgetown Mercury & Gazette Paper of 1806 offering a reward to anyone who can prove that a White or free Coloured person 'harboured' a Run Away. The images of rats on the bench recall legislature passed in Barbados in 1745 which offered a reward of two pence for each rat caught so as to reduce the plague on the island. In Barbados today, it is alleged that there is a bounty on the heads of undocumented CARICOM nationals.