David: To be honest, at first I had a prejudice of what the conference was going to be. Because of my past experiences I grew accustomed to the fact that most of the times there was a lot of talking, less actions and very few tangible results. But within this short time of 2 days, this was not the case at all. The whole approach and the focus was to come to concrete and clear results. I think this was a good thing and I am positive about this. We had to take steps to get somewhere. They gave us cases we had to work on and present and come up with some real proposals. “Collaboration,”and “exchange” are all very nice funding words but they have been used so much that now they’re becoming empty words. I have all the confidence that something will happen this time around.
The fact is that we will invite a new person over to IBB from Jamaica, Deborah Anzinger. Her name sounds like a Germain Jamaican, David jokes. She is the director of an art platform called NLS and we will visit her as well on our trip to Jamaica.
During our visit to Jamaica, we will visit the Edna Manley College, an academy of the Visual and Performing Arts, formerly known as the Jamaica School of Art and Craft. They teach also drama, music and dance.
Tirzo: Two things I find very important about the Tilting Axis conference:
The old guard and the usual faces were absent and there was fresh blood there. That was refreshing, to have that fresh blood who are open to new ways, perspectives and visions. Another thing I found interesting was that it wasn’t about the artist as individual but about art itself. About the society, the added value of art for the society and how you can contribute to the development of art education and formation thru social cultural art projects.
David: we sat in work groups or sub groups and got the questions: Are we just here to meet each other or will we do something from now on? They proposed to me too, now that next year we will exist for 10 years, to let our art collection travel within the Caribbean region. Now our network has expanded, with these new people and the idea to have our art travel in the region visiting all the different art platforms, sounds very appealing.
Annalee Davis was here like 3 years ago, talking about networking, and now to me it indeed proved to be very useful.
Tirzo: Collaboration is not necessarily in one form only. It can also be to assist or to support. For example: a lot of art initiatives say they have a lack of financial means. They don’t have money for a website for example. To let some company make a website can costs thousands of dollars, but if for example we at IBB can make a website for another art initiative we can support each other in this way. We can exchange our services, knowledge and capacities to one another, as everyone is good at one thing. It’s much cheaper and by doing this we can also generate funds.
We didn’t know every one at the conference. The people we already knew were Elvis Lopez from Aruba, the Fresh Milk team from Barbados, Nicholas Laughlin from Alice Yard Trinidad & Tobago, the representative from Martinique, Caryl and Holly Bynoe from ARC magazine.
The countries we were pleasantly surprised to have met, because we thought there would be mostly English islands, were Dominican Republic and Brazil.
Tirzo: It was of great satisfaction to meet and speak with people from the French speaking islands, Martinique, and also to acknowledge the presence of a representative from the Dominican Republic.
David: There was a really good vibe and energy. The movie made about the conference truly represented how it was: nice, sweet, a bit soft, with this good message-vibe.
Tirzo: I think that art education was an important detail during the conference, which I find very important. In Martinique there was also a conference that I attended which was specifically about art education in the Caribbean. Art education is a complicated thing in the Caribbean. The references are elsewhere, or the references are absent, the ratios don’t make sense. A lot of artists have studied in Europe or the States but how many people can bring their references on one line here in their home country or in the country where they’re studying, it’s difficult. It’s all in subparts: You have Caribbean art, Latin-American art, Western art, art from the US or art from the East. There are always all the different inputs but it never comes together as a whole.
It’s all fragmented where as in practice it should be more tangible for students who want to study in Europe for example to know their ‘art heritage’ and its position in the whole context of the global art. How do the Caribbean artists that studied in Europe and return, pass on or deal with their knowledge.
I’m from another era, of in which I know for example a lot about Latin-American and Caribbean art. So all the references I had was based on the Latin-American and Caribbean art. But when you go to Europe, it’s all vanished there, it is totally ignored and the only thing they talk about is Western art. So when you get to the Caribbean, to what degree will you find all the mentality, structures, references and materials in the right ratio with reality? Where all the elements, all the components are being brought together. That’s why I always found it odd about Wilfredo Lam. People find him important because he was with Picasso. How does this make it relevant to us here. There is something more, something else. It’s not about the figure or the places. It’s about the art.
It should in a natural way come together. Because what you can learn here, can be lost in Europe. I sometimes hear students say that others see their art as west-european art. This is actually a bad signal. It should be about art, to what extend will you get another element and add it, or ignore it and do as if it doesn’t exist. In Martinique for example they have very different references.
David: It was not only good for me to be at the conference to network as in meeting new people but also to make appointments of intention. To make it official. It was a good energy and why it was so important because we actually don’t really know each other. It’s a large region but everyone lives literally on their own island. We know little or nothing really from each other.
Tirzo: The circumstances might seem similar but we are totally different each one of the islands. We might have some similarities being in certain conditions, as we have all been colonies in the past. Even between Aruba and Curaçao there are so many differences. These two islands, as close as they are, have a different approach towards things. How they deal with their history for example, or how they misuse their history, often.
In Europe it’s the same thing: We share the same history, Napoleon, Charles the Great, all those battles and countries conquered, there are fractions of similarities you share, but if you pick Romania and compare it with Slovakia, they are totally different even though they’re in the same continent. There are links with the language but each one has his own identity, mentality, history and culture. It’s the same in the Caribbean, and it’s actually a beautiful characteristic that we should appreciate more instead as seeing it as a burden.
Tirzo: The Caribbean is not a one thing. The geographical area yes, but the Caribbean identity doesn’t exist. But the Caribbean is an example of the possibilities, mixtures and reality.
David:But there is a layer placed over the Caribbean. The African continent has that too, much stronger. I don’t hear a Moroccan or Egyptian African say this, but as the person gets darker, literally, they say they come from “Africa”. I’m an African, although one is a Nigerian and the other is an Ugandan. They both say they are African. In Europe we don’t do that. We don’t say we are European. They try to get us there, we have the euro, but when you introduce yourself you say you’re Norwegian or Belgium. A person from Aruba won’t introduce himself and say: I’m a Caribbean. Not yet anyways.