galvanize graphics by bruce cayone

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

(Towards a statement of purpose)

What is "Caribbean" art? ("Art" in the widest sense, encompassing the visual, the musical, the literary, the performative etc.) Who decides? What should it look like, sound like, feel like? What should it be trying to do? Forty years after the "Independence moment" of the 1950s and 1960s, these are increasingly crucial, troubling, and stimulating questions for artists in the Caribbean, as well as their audiences.

There is a sense in which those artists who were in their prime during this "Independence moment" scripted--and continue to script--the narrative of Caribbean art. They devised the models, they created the mythologies, they cleared spaces, their works and their personas came to define what art in the Caribbean can and ought to be and do. But the Caribbean has changed radically in the last forty years. Are the celebrated models and definitions still relevant? Can they be adapted? Must they be replaced? By whom? For whom?

These are questions no single person can answer, and the familiar method of making soapbox declarations and issuing manifestos seems to lead to antagonisms and misunderstandings. What we need, perhaps, is to engage more consciously in a process of conversation, where everyone is both a speaker and a listener, where problems and questions are tackled from many directions at once, where above all we pay real attention to each other, make a real attempt to engage in understanding.

The ultimate aim of Galvanize is the establishment of a regular (annual or biennial?) series of arts programmes based in Port of Spain and tackling the above questions and many others by bringing artists, critics, and audiences into fruitful conversations. The presence of several hundred artists and arts administrators in Trinidad in September 2006 for Carifesta IX is the stimulus for starting this project--you could say we've been galvanised into action by the resurrection of Carifesta--but this project is best thought of as an independent effort aimed at addressing precisely those questions that Carifesta, with its "Independence moment" origins, seems blind to.

Galvanise 2006 is a modest effort to get the conversation started--call it a prototype.

Focusing on art in Trinidad and Tobago, to start with, the Galvanise team/collective will coordinate a series of exhibition, performance, and discussion events in which a selected group of artists, writers, musicians, performers, and critics will get the conversation going, with the hope of staging a larger, more ambitious event along similar lines in 2007.


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