Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Put Your Foot Down

Joanna Helfer’s residency journal, week one

On 6 March, 2017, Scottish artist Joanna Helfer began an eight-week stay at Alice Yard, as part of the British Council’s Transatlantic Artists Residency Exchange (#BCTAARE). During her time at Alice Yard, she is writing a weekly journal documenting her exploration of Trinidad and her work in progress.

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Late last Monday night, after around thirty hours of travelling, I arrived at Alice Yard in the Woodbrook neighbourhood of Port of Spain, Trinidad, to begin my residency for the British Council’s Transatlantic Artists Residency Exchange (TAARE).

I left my house in Tayport at 3 pm on Sunday, got a taxi up to my studio on Tannadice Street, then down to the ceramics workshop to leave my keys and all my responsibilities behind. After another taxi to the station, I took the train to Edinburgh to fit in a visit to my grandparents before leaving, quickly sipping tea from antique willow pattern cups. At midnight, I caught the bus to Glasgow, another bus to the airport, then a lot of waiting. I tried to explain through my sleep-deprived muggy mind to friendly and inquisitive Glaswegians what on earth I was doing. I still don’t know. It was a short flight down to London with all the suited business folks on the way to a 9 am meeting in the city, followed by the long-haul from London, touchdown in St Lucia (where all the straw-hatted and linen-shirted tourists disembarked) and a short hop over to Port of Spain. After a simple immigration check (“What kinda art you make?”), I was here. The only thing obstructing my journey was the Trade Winds, causing a bad patch of turbulence across the Atlantic. Perhaps a portent of our times. 



The sense of displacement was profound. My apartment at Alice Yard is different to any space I have occupied before — there are sections cut out of the walls, holes to the outside which sound, smell, voices, and insects travel freely through. One wall is glass — a sheet of fabric barely shielding me from the gaze of all the visitors to the yard, gaps in the wooden slatted blinds rendering me immobile, utterly self-conscious, transparent. The boundaries between inside and outside are almost obliterated. It took me a few days to overcome my crushing anxiety and embrace the fluidity and tension of occupying a location which is a crossroads and citadel at the same time.



I am always where I am.

Port of Spain is listed in the top ten most dangerous cities in the world. I am repeatedly warned to be careful and to avoid walking alone, especially at night. In 2016, there were 478 murders in Trinidad and Tobago, and the recent grassroots mobilisation of activists across the Caribbean for women’s rights has recorded a disturbing rise in violence and harassment towards women and girls throughout the region. My proposal for this residency, which involves walking around the local region, takes on a whole new element, one which is overwhelmingly aware of the fragility and softness of my body, and otherness — my femininity, whiteness, privilege, and ignorance. There is virtually no public transport here, and cars are heavily relied upon for personal transportation, buoyed by the extraction of oil and natural gas in local waters, an industry which defines the island to a surprising (to me) degree.

On Saturday 11 March, six nations across the Caribbean engaged in a women’s rights demonstration to commemorate International Women’s Day. This sprung out of a movement which began in Barbados when women started to share their experiences of sexual harassment and institutionalised sexual and gender based violence using the hashtag #lifeinleggings. This quickly gained traction as women across the region shared their everyday encounters on social media. In Trinidad and Tobago, several activist groups worked together to organise the demonstration and march in Port of Spain. I found the event incredibly moving. There were many younger women and girls present, and the march around the Queen’s Park Savannah was led by all the girls under the age of ten, in a powerful gesture of intent — these girls should not grow up in a world where their rights and safety are compromised.



On Saturday morning, I joined fellow TAARE artist Josh Lu for a trip around Port of Spain (he will be travelling to London in May). Josh’s practice is concerned with the complex history and memory of space and he has conducted a lot of interesting research highlighting the connections between Scotland and Trinidad. The first place we visited was the Lapeyrouse Cemetery, just down the road from me in Woodbrook. The cemetery was used as the municipal dump during colonial times, and Josh has built up a sound knowledge of the various curios to be found there, from cast iron railings and crypt doors from long-lost Glasgow foundries to willow pattern crockery, just like my Granny’s, now reduced to fragments in the overturned earth. I found a piece of salt-glazed ceramic bottle from the H. Kennedy Barrowfield Pottery in Glasgow, a common find in colonial middens all over the island. The cemetery is divided up into various sections, with residents of Catholic, Presbyterian, and Anglican faiths. The gravestones and crypts are left to crumble and fade in the intense Caribbean heat, and are frequently raided for scrap metal, garden ornaments, and building materials. Many of the old crypts also house living occupants alongside the deceased, homeless folks who have used the available shelter to hide away from the harsh sun. Among the epitaphs are precious belongings, clothes drying in the sun, and scattered razor blades. 




One of the first questions I get asked by people is “Why weren’t you here for Carnival?” with a combination of pity and disbelief. Carnival is the must-see event of the year here in Trinidad and Tobago, and I missed it by a week. Most people were in a state of post-Carnival exhaustion when I first arrived, as a result of days and nights spent partying like the world was ending. There are a lot of different Carnival traditions that I’ve not quite got my head around yet, but it’s interesting to try to guess what happened from the collective hangover everyone is experiencing. I spent one afternoon walking to the Savannah, where the main event for Carnival takes place, collecting beads and trinkets left over from the elaborate Carnival costumes.



One Carnival tradition I have managed to get involved in through Alice Yard is stilt-walking. There is a traditional character called the Moko Jumbie — a masked mischief-maker on high stilts that was once a mainstay in Carnival and is now starting to make a comeback thanks to the innovations of local artists and groups. Local practitioners Josh Lu and Kriston Chen are collaborating to hold regular Moko Jumbie sessions beyond Carnival season, teaching the act of stilt-walking to beginners from all over T&T. On Sunday, we spent the afternoon in the yard of a traditional timber-frame house which has recently been renovated. Aspiring Moko Jumbies from all over Port of Spain and beyond came along to learn both stilt-walking and the history of the house, facilitated by a carefully curated intervention by Josh.

Over the past week, as my sense of place has altered, and I find myself less uncomfortable with my outsider status, I am drawn again to one of my favourite poems by the Scottish writer Norman MacCaig. MacCaig wrote of his experiences exploring the wild coastlines of western Scotland, but I think this poem travels with some resonance to Trinidad, and the wild urban landscape of Port of Spain.

Outsider

I watch the lush moon fatly smirking down —
Where she might go, to skirt that smouldering cloud,
Is space enough to lose your image in.

Or, turn my head, between those islands run
Sandpapering currents that would scrub the dull
Picture away in suds and slaverings.

Even this grass, glowered at with force enough,
And listened to with lusting, would usurp,
In its beanstalk way, this walking, talking thing.

I choose it should not go. I turn for these
Paltering beautiful things, in case I see
Your image fade and myself fade with it —

A dissipation into actual light:
A dissolution in pure wave: a demise
In growth of green goodness, sappy and thick —

And think myself a foreigner in this scene,
The odd shape cramped on stone, the unbeastlike, clear
Of law and logos, with choices to commit …

Thump goes the wave then crisscross gabbles back —
As I do now till, wave to wander at,
I come again, to tower and lurch and spill.

From A Round of Applause (mostly 1959–61)

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Joanna Helfer graduated with a BA (Hons.) in Time Based Art and Digital Film in 2009. The past eight years of her professional work have primarily consisted of setting up and facilitating community arts initiatives in Dundee, Scotland. These include Tin Roof, an artists’ collective serving the creative community of the city by providing collaborative opportunities, resources, and space to make work, and Hot Chocolate Trust, a youth work charity working with marginalised young people. Alongside these, her personal practice as a multidisciplinary artist includes filmmaking, photography, performance, sound art, printmaking, and installation. She combine themes found in her community work with her personal practice, particularly in trying to uncover hidden or suppressed histories of people and places through performative exploration and creating relationship-based interactive experiences. She is particularly inspired by the Situationist movement and the practice of the dérive, using walking as a recurring methodology to provoke new work.



Thursday, March 2, 2017

AY/24/7: Richard Mark Rawlins

A Dress to the Nation


From 3 to 8 March, 2017, a new work by artist Richard Mark Rawlins will be installed in the Alice Yard Box and accessible to viewers 24/7.

The artist writes:

This work, created for the occasion of my 50th birthday, is meant to symbolise my feelings about the trust, hope, security, and prayer that in my opinion have been expected of every one of our citizens over the course of my lifetime, but without any real sense of reciprocity.

From as early as I knew myself, I can recall the countless times we as a nation, certainly my parents, my brother, and I, would dash home so as not to miss an announced “Address to the Nation” by the prime minister, or in some cases the president, of the day. Today that is no longer required, and it does not hold such  pomp, circumstance, and authority, as everything is re-broadcast on social media.

While some addresses were often responses to public dissatisfaction over some perceived ill or another, and others still heralded political actions to be taken against an opposition member or sitting member of government (read: sacking), or on the odd occasion the announcement of a curfew or house arrest, for the most part I found them mystifying, in the sense that they left me no better off than before. In recent times they could even be described as befuddling, leaving all but the most sycophantic in a perpetual “WTF” moment.


Every time I hear the words “an address to the nation” now, I can’t help but hear the song from the musical Annie playing in my head. That cute-lily-white-milky-soppiness of sacchrine, that extolls the virtues of looking on to a brighter day. The sun will come out tomorrow. Again. Yeah, allyuh could wait for that....


About the artist:

Richard Mark Rawlins is a graphic designer and artist living and working in Trinidad and Tobago. He is the publisher of the online art magazine Draconian Switch, and collaborator in the Alice Yard contemporary art-space initiative. Noted exhibitions include the Bienal Internacional de Asuncion 2015 (Paraguay); the Jamaica Biennial 2014; Season of Renewal, University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica; The Global Africa Project, Museum of Art and Design (MAD), New York; The General Public, Alice Yard, Port of Spain; and NEO GLOBAL, AHFMB during Miami Artweek 2016. For the past ten years, he has been exploring the cultural poetics and politics of life in Trinidad and Tobago, notions of nationhood, and black identity as presented via a global lens.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Rodell Warner: The Most Corrupting Notion Ever Captured in a Dream

Opens Thursday 16 February, 2017, from 7 pm, at Alice Yard


In recent months, artist Rodell Warner has been making a collection of painted objects exploring relationships between black and white, “as between off and on, living and non-living, figure and ground, the way 1 and 0 signal off and on in transistors / computer language.”

In mid February 2017, Warner will present The Most Corrupting Notion Ever Captured in a Dream, an installation of these new works at Alice Yard. The project opens on the evening of 16 February and runs until the 21st.

All are invited.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Sofía Gallisá Muriente and Nimah Muwakil-Zakuri: Inabordable/Unapproachable

Tuesday 7 February, 2017, from 7 pm, at Alice Yard


Puerto Rican artist Sofía Gallisá Muriente, co-director of the art space Beta-Local, is currently artist in residence at Alice Yard, where she has been in conversation with curator and writer Nimah Muwakil-Zakuri. On 7 February, 2017, they will share their respective projects that engage with complex personal histories through affective archives. The evening’s events will include an installation of archival, visual, and video materials, and a public conversation.

All are invited.


About the projects:

Sofía Gallisá Muriente’s Searching for The Shadow (Buscando La Sombra) is a long-term effort to recover the historical and affective memory of Carlos “La Sombra” Torres Meléndez, founder of the Pro-Inmates Rights Association, or los “Ñetas”, organised in prisons throughout Puerto Rico and the world. The investigation is rooted in the memories of people who knew him, combining their stories and personal archives with documents from formal archives and video works produced during the research process to generate a portrait that incorporates subjectivities, languages, and forms. Through public events, exhibitions, publications and conversations, the project serves as resource and reference, while also amplifying the implications of the subject matter and form, from a current perspective.

Gallisá Muriente is a visual artist who works mainly with video, photography, text, and installation. She earned a BFA at New York University (2008) and has participated in experimental pedagogical projects such as Anhoek School and La Práctica at Beta-Local as student, tutor, and fellow. She was awarded an emerging artist grant from TEOR/éTica in Costa Rica, where she had a solo show in 2015. Her work has also been shown in the Bronx Latin American Art Biennial; San Juan Polygraphic Triennial; at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions; the Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires; and the Walker Art Centre in Minneapolis. She is currently one of the co-directors of Beta-Local, an organisation dedicated to supporting critical and aesthetic thought and practices in Puerto Rico.



Nimah Muwakil-Zakuri writes: “Twenty-seven years ago, a group of young Muslim men attempted to overthrow the government of Trinidad and Tobago. Their story, that story, has been told and retold and told again, but always through the voices of the men involved (on both sides). These men, however, had wives whose stories have never really been told. They are a voiceless group who do have a story to tell. I want to explore ways in which that story can be explored and shared. How can this side of the story be told in a constructive and reconciliatory manner? What methods and approaches are best suited to exploring these difficult topics?”

Muwakil-Zakuri is an art history graduate from the Universidad de Oriente, Santiago de Cuba, and also holds an MPhil in cultural studies from the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine. She held the post of Head Curator at Trinidad and Tobago’s National Museum and Art Gallery for three years, and is now the Curator of the Central Bank Money Museum and Art Collection (2013-present). She has an interest in art archiving as well as the development of museum and art education programmes that may be used to approach difficult social topics and histories.
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Friday, December 30, 2016

Ayesha Hameed: Black Atlantis/A Rough History

Monday 2 January, 2017, from 7 pm, at Alice Yard


 Still from A Rough History

Artist and writer Ayesha Hameed has been in residence at Alice Yard in late December. On January 2, 2017, she will present a series of works in sound and film. Hameed’s work explores contemporary borders and migration, the philosopher Walter Benjamin, and visual cultures of the Black Atlantic. She will be showing parts of two ongoing projects. Some of this will be a response to the space of Alice Yard and her first trip to Trinidad.

Black Atlantis is an audio-visual essay that looks at possible afterlives of the Black Atlantic: in illegal migration at sea today, in oceanic environments, through Afrofuturistic dancefloors and soundsystems, and in outer space. Black Atlantis combines two discourses: Afrofuturism and the anthropocene. While in Trinidad, Hameed has been researching a new chapter of Black Atlantis exploring the relationship between plantation economies and the anthropocene.

A Rough History (of the Destruction of Fingerprints) is a 16-mm film that considers a practice by migrants entering the EU of destroying their fingerprints to avoid detection by in the Eurodac system, alongside other histories of fingerprinting and fingerprint erasures. It looks at the coalescence of skin and data in the collection and destruction of fingerprints, at the life and circulation of the image of the fingerprint, and the different lives of the bodies that produce such images.

All are invited.


Still from A Rough History

About the artist: Ayesha Hameed’s recent presentations and performance lectures include Black Atlantis at ICA London (2015), Labour in a Single Shot at Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin (2015), at The Chimurenga Library at the Showroom, London (2015), Oxford Programme for the Future of Cities, Oxford (2015), Edinburgh College of Art (2015), Goldsmiths MFA Lectures (2016), and Empire Remains (2016). A Rough History (of the destruction of fingerprints) has been screened or presented at Forensic Architecture at the House of World Cultures (Berlin) in 2014, at Social Glitch at Kunstraum Niederoesterreich Vienna (2015), at Pavillion, Leeds in 2015, at Qalandiya International Palestine Biennial (2016), at Ashakal Alwan/Homeworks Space Programme, Beirut (2016) and the Bartlett School of Architecture (2016). She is currently the Joint Programme Leader in Fine Art and History of Art at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Send Love inna Barrel, Kelley-Ann Lindo

Artist in Residence presentation/exhibition 
Monday December 12th at 7.00 pm.



Ebony G. Patterson, in collaboration with Alice Yard, is pleased to support the research and working residency of Jamaican artist Kelley-Ann Lindo,  taking place from November to December 2016. Lindo will present a new multi media work-in-progress, Send Love inna Barrel, this Monday December 12th at 7.00 pm. 
All are welcome.



My  artworks are explorations. They are based often on personal situations. My previous work looked into the memories and visual legacies remaining after years of having experienced repeated flooding. Recently, this has shifted to focusing on the impact of parental absence due to emigration. A new work-in-progress, Send Love inna Barrel, investigates what is referred to as the 'barrel children' syndrome within Caribbean culture.
I want to find a way to make the viewer become part of the work, as a kind of added component to make it happen. I have been experimenting with a silhouette of a young girl’s head derived from my childhood photographs. These drawings were then developed further into silkscreened multiples, wall graphics and assemblages as well as video explorations. I am using barrels as a channel through which persons can engage and communicate over a distance. I like the idea of barrels, as being both cultural and sculptural objects. - Lindo

Kelley-Ann Lindo is a Jamaican-born artist. She attained a BFA in painting from the Edna College of the Visual and Performing Art in 2015. She has worked as gallery assistant at the CAGE Gallery 2014 and as Art Counsellor at the Bellevue Hospital in 2015. She has also worked as a photography and videography assistant for freelancer Alexander Bryan in 2010-2011 and as mural assistant for Martin Harrilal in 2010. Lindo’s work has been exhibited at the Edna Manley College of Visual and Performing Arts Final Year student exhibition in 2015 and at the College’s CAGE Gallery in 2014. Lindo lives and works in Kingston, Jamaica.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

A conversation with Bisi Silva and Ingrid Schaffner

Curators of the Carnegie International

Sunday 18 September, 2016, 7.30 pm, at Alice Yard

Please join us at an informal reception to meet curators Bisi Silva and Ingrid Schaffner, who also will speak about their respective work and the Carnegie International

Bisi Silva                                             Ingrid Schaffner
















Bisi Silva (Lagos, Nigeria) is an independent curator and director/founder of the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos. She was Artistic Director of the 10th Bamako Encounters African Biennial of Photography (2015) in Mali, Co-Curator of the 2nd Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art in Greece (2009), and Co-Curator of the 7th Dak’Art: African Contemporary Art Biennial (2006). She is the curator of Asiko (2010-) the pan-African roaming alternative art school. She co-curated The Progress of Love, a transcontinental collaboration between the Menil Collection (Houston), the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts (Missouri), and CCA Lagos (2012–13) and J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere: Moments of Beauty at the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki (2011). A frequent participant in international conferences and symposia, Silva has published in journals and art magazines including Artforum, Third Text, The Exhibitionist, and Art South Africa. She sits on the editorial/advisory boards of Art South Africa, N.Paradoxa: International Feminist Art Journal, and Contemporary And. She was a member of the international jury for the Pinchuk Art Centre’s Future Generation Art Prize (2014), as well as the 55th Venice Biennale (2013)

Ingrid Schaffner (Curator, Carnegie International, 57th edition, 2018) is an American curator, art critic, writer, and educator, specialising in art history. Prior to coming to Pittsburgh, she directed the exhibition programme as chief curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) at the University of Pennsylvania. Her work often coalesces around themes of archiving and collecting, photography, feminism, and alternate modernisms — especially Surrealism. She is the author of more than twenty books and nearly two hundred articles, reviews, and features, ranging from Salvador Dalí’s Dream of Venus to The Essential Andy Warhol, from an essay on exhibition wall text to an art history of chocolate. Born in Pittsburgh, Schaffner grew up in Los Gatos, California. She attended Mount Holyoke College and attended the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Independent Study Programme, where she was a Helena Rubinstein Curatorial Fellow. She then received a master’s degree in art history at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts. After organising shows for the Drawing Centre, Swiss Institute, Haus der Kunst (Munich), Hayward Gallery (London), Independent Curators International, White Columns, and elsewhere, Schaffner was invited by then-director Claudia Gould to reshape and oversee ICA’s curatorial department.

Monday, September 12, 2016

out of place

Alice Yard • points in between • Granderson Lab September 2016


Out of Place, a curatorial collaboration between Alice Yard co-director Christopher Cozier and artist in residence Blue Curry, seeks to ask the following questions by instigating a series of events around Port of Spain:

How can we shift the encounter of visual objects or actions to more public spaces?

How can we alter or widen the way we understand the visual by dissolving received traditional boundaries between the object or action, its maker, and the viewer — untangling the idea of authorship?

How can we stage and engage the artistic process as a record of a creative or investigative action, as an experiential event available to everyone, rather than as a commodity, exclusively?

For announcements of events in the Out of Place programme, likely to be made on short notice, check the Alice Yard website or Facebook page.

Out of Place is part of YEAR X, a yearlong series of events reflecting on Alice Yard’s past and the possibilities of our future, running from September 2016 to September 2017.