Friday, December 4, 2015

“A time of letting go”

Haitian artist Tessa Mars arrived in Port of Spain in October 2015 for a three-month residency at Alice Yard, supported by a travel grant from the French Institute (“Visa pour la creation” programme/Afrique et Caraïbes en Création). She offers some reflections on her time in Trinidad thus far.

Tessalines, a fictional alter ego created by the artist

My time in Trinidad and Tobago has from the beginning been a time of intense discovery. Everything around me is new and different, from the food to the vegetation and wildlife. The flashes of familiarity I often experience during my day-to-day dealings with local culture are altogether too brief. Though excited, I find myself at times overwhelmed by the newness.

But instead of retreating from this sudden influx of information and sensation, in the early days of my stay, I spontaneously created an alter ego figure named Tessalines to deal with it for me. Tessalines allows me to keep my distance from the world around, filtering the immersion experience through the lens of her self-fullness, reducing it to key moments of my stay, as insignificant as they may be, for easier consumption (or assimilation).

My work has thus taken a completely surprising and unexpected turn. I am holding on to Tessalines while trying to better understand who we are together here, and develop us even further. Because, although her main reason for coming into being was to offer me a safe and unchangeable haven, her existence cannot be reduced to this only function. Tessalines has a name, attributes, a personality, and a past that I intend to explore. It is an exciting journey that begins here at Alice Yard. A long work of reflection, research, and questioning starts here, that will continue past the time I return to Haiti. For Tessalines will surely continue to surprise me in my homeland.                                                                  

My stay at Alice Yard has so far been a time of letting go. Letting go of the “project”, accepting that it is evolving, adapting, that plenty needs to be reconsidered, thought about again. Letting go of the idea of having a clean finish, of having an answer to the riddle of my stay. I have taken the time to be a spectator of my own creative process, to sit back and observe the slow unfolding of an idea from day to day. To be surprised and to be both indecisive and in control in turns. I truly believe I can only grow as an artist from this process.

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