Friday, December 5, 2014

A conversation with Shani Mootoo and Vahni Capildeo

Thursday 18 December, 2014, 7 pm, at Alice Yard

Trinidadian-Canadian writer Shani Mootoo’s most recent novel, Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab, was longlisted for the 2014 Giller Prize. Her other books include Cereus Blooms at Night, the Man Booker Prize–longlisted novel of love, repression, and family secrets for which she is perhaps best known.

UK-based Trinidadian Vahni Capildeo’s newest book of poems, Utter, was published by Peepal Tree Press in 2013. She is the author of four other collections of poems, including the OCM Bocas Prize–longlisted Dark and Unaccustomed Words.

On Thursday 18 December, jointly hosted by Paper Based Bookshop and Alice Yard, both writers will read from and discuss their new work in an informal conversation with Shivanee Ramlochan.

All are invited.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

2014 Alice Yard Prize for Art Writing shortlist

The judges for the 2014 Alice Yard Prize for Art Writing have chosen a shortlist of five writers.

The prize, inaugurated in 2014, is an annual award for an original piece of critical writing on contemporary Caribbean art by a Caribbean writer aged 35 or under. The five finalists, selected from the prize entrants, are:

Katherine Kennedy (Barbados)
Stephen Narain (Bahamas/US)
Brandon O’Brien (Trinidad and Tobago)
Aiko Maya Roudette (St Vincent and the Grenadines/US)
Nicole Smythe-Johnson (Jamaica)

Established by Alice Yard, the prize aims to encourage new writing on Caribbean art and artists, and to identify emerging voices in contemporary Caribbean art criticism. The winner, who will be announced in November 2014, will receive a cash award of US$1,000 and publication in The Caribbean Review of Books.

The 2014 judges for the Alice Yard Prize for Art Writing are:

Krista Thompson (Bahamas/US), chair
Art historian and curator
Associate professor of art history, Northwestern University

Charles Campbell (Jamaica/Canada)
Artist and curator

Courtney J. Martin (US)
Art historian and curator
Assistant professor of the history of art and architecture, Brown University

The Alice Yard Prize for Art Writing is conceived and established by the co-directors of Alice Yard, Sean Leonard, Christopher Cozier, and Nicholas Laughlin, who will administer the prize and support the panel of judges in their deliberations.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Marjorie Le Berre: one-night action

Wednesday 22 October, 2014, 6 to 10 pm, at Alice Yard

Artist Marjorie Le Berre, in dialogue with Alice Yard, invites you to view, for one night only, an installation developed from her collaborative investigations at Maracas Bay.

As suggested by the artist, “Based on the rhythm of the tide and on the ideas of ‘repetition and difference’ of Deleuze,” the project consists of a series of drawings produced over a week in collaboration with fishermen and children at Maracas Bay. The drawings consist of recordings of the movement of the tide, the swell, when the ropes of moored pirogues touch paper placed on the shore, making marks on the paper and in the sand. Local Crown brand blue laundry pigment, which is also used for blue devil performances, was rubbed on the ropes to produce the drawings. The titles reflect the time of day and dates. 

Le Berre is a contemporary artist based in France, and has been visiting Trinidad reconnecting with the site of her childhood memories of living here, contrasting them to her current investigations of the island. She is concerned with nomadism and identity.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Yard Work: Notes on Alice Yard

By Courtney J. Martin, curator in residence,
June 2014

Last June, curator and art historian Courtney J. Martin participated in a short residency at Alice Yard. The notes below, reflecting on Alice Yard’s physical and conceptual space, were written following her visit.

In the extended, multi-part conversation with (some subset of) Christopher Cozier, Nicholas Laughlin, and Sean Leonard that defined my recent visit to Alice Yard, I began to think seriously about what the “yard” as a spatial denomination might mean for art practice. Physically, the yard that forms Alice Yard is a concrete area at the rear end of the house that contains both the residency accommodation and a commercial business (currently a natural grocery and café). The yard connects the house with the other spaces in the complex: a music rehearsal studio, a white cube gallery (the “Box”), a platform stage, a raised terrace, and an additional multi-purpose room (the “Annex”). The yard is the thing that one must pass through, wait in, gather around, or peer into in order to make contact with the larger entity of Alice Yard as a cultural space. To parse out the issue of the yard, is not, however, a way of making something out of nothing. I was struck by the use of the word in Port of Spain as both a description of actual space as well as a conceptual ideal. For example, one might step into one’s own yard on a daily basis, but dare let someone else trespass onto that same yard in word, action, or deed, and it becomes another matter altogether, even if no physical breach is made.

Sean Leonard described the yard as a “laboratory” within public space. And I can see where that kind of idea takes shape, as the yard is one of the main components of forming and maintaining a mas band. But this yard, Alice Yard, has a specific function as the ground on which most of the cultural production at the residency occurs. Artists develop, practice, draw, build, and show within the confines of that space, making every single gesture in it a public one; open for engagement and debate. Few other art constructs realise that kind of democratic ideal.  Unfortunately, democracy is an overused word, one that has taken on a kind of pathology of reverence within the art world. The yard is a construction, the unused excess of the built environment met by the re-construction of the natural world. Interiority and ecology meet in the yard, as do order and disorder. One need only look to the millions of hours wasted across the southeastern United States in attempts to abate the kudzu from turning a well-manicured lawn into an overgrown yard. The ubiquity of the term, yard, was striking for me, as its use seemed to hold none of the same class or aesthetic connotations with which I was familiar. For me, this new yard, neither something to admonish, fix, or move away from, was liberating and curious.

That Alice Yard’s actual yard area extends from and into the white box gallery reflects the symbiotic nature of the two. Ideas revealed in the gallery were often conceived in the yard. This is true at Alice Yard, but it also a truism of white cube production generally. The ways in which we exhibit contemporary art as detached from a source within sterilised, often geometric, spaces works to deny the process by which that art got there.

I am not against the white cube. I like order, and it is a standard, a unit of qualitative art architecture. When Brian O’Doherty/Patrick Ireland problematised the white cube nearly forty years ago, he did so with the full understanding of how the stickiness of modernism led to the clinical chamber. The white cube has been not only a standard of exhibition practices, but also a way to equalise objects.  Presumably every object (regardless of media, material, method, or maker) is the same if it finds its way into the white cube. The democracy of our current art world with its fairs, commercial galleries, and biennales, however, shows us that not all white cubes are created equal. To borrow Christopher Cozier’s term, the white cube does nothing if not reflect and refract the “pigmentocracy” of exhibition practices. Even within the neutral space of the squared-off white walls, we as cultural workers have produced (manufactured) variances and difference to distinguish the good from the bad, quality from quantity.

If the white cube is supposed to give us a level playing ground, what might the yard do to complicate its stated equanimity? I am not sure, but I am certain that there is some value in knowing what came before the object. Theoretically, the yard is unlike the “studio”, but it is not dissimilar from the “archive” as a repository of engagement. Like assemblage’s relationship to the street or Florentine sculpture’s direct route to the quarry, the material-conceptual space of an object is important. The yard holds that kind of significance. I am not the first to come to Alice Yard and be struck by the physical space and its generative possibilities, and I certainly will not be the last. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

A conversation with María Elena Ortiz

Thursday 18 September, 2014, 7 pm, at Alice Yard

María Elena Ortiz is a Miami-based Puerto Rican curator and the 2014 recipient of the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Travel Award for Central America and the Caribbean. In September 2014, she will spend a week at Alice Yard as researcher in residence. On Thursday 18 September, at 7 pm, she will give an informal talk at Alice Yard on her current curatorial interests.

Her talk will focus on examples of video and performance art practices in contemporary art, and the possible roles of the curator. Video artists discussed will include José “Bubu” Negrón, Christian Jankowski, Isaac Torres, Nuria Montiel, and other artists making works about Caribbean dynamics.

All are invited.

About María Elena Ortiz:

María Elena Ortiz currently works as a curatorial assistant at the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM). Previously, she worked as the curator of contemporary arts at the Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros in Mexico City, where she organised several projects, including Carlos Motta, The Shape of Freedom (2013), and Rita Ponce de León, David (2013). She has also collaborated with institutions such as TEOR/éTica, San Jose, Costa Rica; Tate Modern, London; the Museum of Craft and Folk Art, San Francisco; and New Langton Arts, San Francisco, among others. In 2012, she curated Wherever You Roam at the Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, California. Ortiz has contributed to writing platforms including Fluent Collaborative, Curating Now, and DaWire. She has a Masters in Curatorial Practice from the California College of the Arts (2010).

About the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Travel Award:

The Cisneros Award supports a contemporary art curator based anywhere in the world to travel to Central America and the Caribbean to research art and cultural activities in the region. Ortiz will use the award to visit new and established contemporary art centres, artist initiatives, and film festivals in the Caribbean countries of Aruba, the Bahamas, Martinique, and Trinidad and Tobago. She will conduct interviews with local cultural producers and studio visits with artists to investigate film and video practices with the aim of strengthening the ties between art in the Caribbean and the Diaspora in the local community of Miami, as well as nurturing contemporary approaches to film and video in the region.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Introducing Simone Asia

Alice Yard's current artist-in-residence

To mark the end of her stay in Port of Spain, we invite you to an informal gathering on Sunday 14 September at 6 pm, when the work Simone has made at Alice Yard will be available for viewing.

In August and September 2014, Alice Yard is hosting Barbadian artist-in-residence Simone Padmore, a.k.a. Simone Asia.

A graduate of Barbados Community College (BFA in Studio Art, 2011), she is using her time in Port of Spain to make connections in Trinidad’s contemporary art networks, and develop an ongoing body of work.

She writes: “I illustrate by hand, using pen and ink as my prominent media. I am interested in illustrating concepts about the alter ego and developing my own hybrids or characters using line, space, and detail. I am interested in where my journey as an artist will take me and what other things I can learn and explore in this world, so that I can see my art evolve.”

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Trading Tales: a conversation about history and fiction

with Jane Harris, Lisa Allen-Agostini, and Michael Cherrie
Thursday 4 September, 7.30 pm, at Alice Yard 

Writers Lisa Allen-Agostini and Jane Harris

Trading Tales is a residency programme in Scotland and the Caribbean for writers of historical fiction, organised in August and September 2014 by the British Council in partnership with Glasgow’s Mitchell Library. The programme allows two Caribbean writers and one Scottish writer to explore the historical relationship between Scotland and the Caribbean, as part of a programme of activity for the Commonwealth Games.

On Thursday 4 September, from 7.30 pm, Alice Yard will host a reading and discussion with two of the participating writers, who will talk about their current works in progress, the role of fiction in exploring shared histories, and the experience of the Trading Tales project.

All are invited.

About the participants:

Jane Harris is a British writer of historical fiction originally from Glasgow, author of the acclaimed novels The Observations (2006) and Gillespie and I (2011). During her time in the Caribbean, she will visit Trinidad, Grenada, and Martinique, doing research for her next novel.

Lisa Allen-Agostini is a Trinidadian writer of fiction and poetry, and co-editor of the celebrated anthology Trinidad Noir (2008). She is a columnist with the T&T Guardian and edits the newspaper's Sunday arts supplement. She recently spent three weeks in Glasgow, based at the Mitchell Library, researching the lives of two 19th-century Scottish immigrants to Trinidad.

Acclaimed actor Michael Cherrie will also participate in the event, giving a dramatic reading of an excerpt from Harris’s novel-in-progress.

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between them worldwide.

We work in more than 100 countries and our 7,000 staff -- including 2,000 teachers -- work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year by teaching English, sharing the arts and delivering education and society programmes.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

An evening with Ajamu

Tuesday 1 July, 2014, 7 pm, at Alice Yard

Ajamu is a London-based artist, known for his photographs depicting black male sexuality. In June and July 2014, he is participating in the first artist’s residency hosted by CAISO (the Coalition Advocating for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation), with support from Alice Yard.

On Tuesday 1 July, from 7 pm, Alice Yard will host an informal evening to welcome Ajamu and introduce him to members of the local arts and LGBTI communities. This will include a digital installation of some of the artist’s recent work, and a short introduction to his activities in Trinidad.

All are invited.

About Ajamu:

Ajamu is an acclaimed London-based artist, archive curator, and sex activist, known for his fine art portraits and unapologetic imagery of black male sexuality and same-sex desire. He works in large-format black-and-white analogue photography and traditional 19th-century printing processes.

His work has been exhibited in various galleries, museums, and alternative spaces in the UK, Europe, and the United States. His most recent exhibition, Fierce (2013), ran at the Guildhall Art Gallery in London, and included 25 platinum prints of young Black LGBTQ “movers and shakers” and a 20-minute short film with a selection of the sitters.

Ajamu is co-founder of the award-winning organisation rukus! Federation and the rukus! Black LGBTQ Arts and cultural archive. He is one of the UK’s leading specialists on Black Queer heritage.