galvanize graphics by bruce cayone

Thursday, November 09, 2006

"Make a space": Galvanize in the Trinidad and Tobago Review

The following dialogue between Christopher Cozier and Nicholas Laughlin appears in the November 2006 Trinidad and Tobago Review

"What is 'Caribbean' art? ... What should it look like, sound like, feel like? Who decides? Who is paying attention? Is the work of contemporary artists in Trinidad and Tobago really registering with an audience? Where? When? How? Or are these artists 'visibly absent', there-but-not-there, eluded by a meaningful critical response, invisible to conventional expectations of what Caribbean art practice should be?"
-- From the brief statement in the Galvanize leaflet distributed at all events

Nicholas Laughlin: We began Galvanize with questions, and the sense that this whole initiative was an experiment. We emphasised the improvisatory, the spontaneous, the investigative. True, this was partly from necessity -- the whole thing was pulled together with limited resources and often volunteer effort. We were sort of making it up as we went along. As Steve Ouditt and others have suggested, there's a way in which Galvanize was (or is) not a series of events, or an engine for producing artworks, but a kind of collective work in itself, with all the participants as co-creators.

Christopher Cozier: This is how I have always seen contemporary art practice in this country, since the early 80s. At best, the practice could be a reflection of the type of democracy we live in, or ask questions about the prospect of real democracy as a space of possibility: which ideas are allowed, who gets to speak, and under what kinds of circumstances? Who has permission?

For me, the failure or success of Galvanize as a creative process will be determined by what kinds of conversations we will be having next year, and the following.

NL: I suppose the timing -- Galvanize opened a week before Carifesta -- made it inevitable that people would see it as a fringe event. But we tried to make it clear from the beginning that this was an independent effort driven by urgencies with no direct connection to Carifesta. I was fascinated by the reactions of some of the cultural authorities within the Carifesta machine.

"I don't know what Galvanize is about. Even if Galvanize was something of significance within the art world, that is also our arts. In a kind of way, Carifesta has given us the occasion, the focus, and countless peoples in the communities. They can’t be compared. One is a Caribbean festival. Galvanize is a Trinidadian -- and not even a full Trinidad [festival]. What tells us Galvanize represents Trinidad and Tobago?"
— Earl Lovelace, Carifesta IX artistic director, in an interview with B.C. Pires, Sunday Express, 24 September, 2006

"When we don't establish a kind of structure or continuity you have a breakaway almost renegade attitude," he said, making reference to the ongoing Galvanize project initiated by a group of young artists.
He says the project excludes the opinions of the elders and so little can be learnt from its participants....
"We are growing up without mentors because we have trained our minds to be renegades, so we rebel against anything."

— Leroy Clarke, quoted in a feature by Michael Mondezie headlined "At home with the master artist", Sunday Express, 15 October, 2006

CC: You just said it -- they are playing out their roles as "cultural authorities". I know this sounds like a line from Valentino's "Life Is a Stage". Are they continuously marking out a territorial space, like a game of pitch? So they made their ring in the dirt, and their pockets are bulging with marbles. For generations we have been silently watching their game. Perhaps the era in which they grew up created that need to assert and defend that space. But there is a big enough patch of dirt. If they want to continue playing for bokey over there -- fine. Perhaps we want to play Three Hole or Long Dab instead. Maybe current generations are playing Grand Theft Auto and Sim City, and don't want to get their brands muddy.

But when did pursuing an initiative on one's own, rather than just talking and talking, or waiting around on others for handouts, become rebellion?

Galvanize is a modest endeavour that is, for now, looking outwards from Port of Spain. Carifesta was based on the Georgetown conversations in the early 70s, and was an attempt at regional cultural integration regionally, since new flags were going up.

NL: The theme of Galvanize 2006 was "visibly absent", a phrase invented by Peter Doig to describe the contemporary art scene in Trinidad -- it applies as well to musicians, writers, and others -- artists who are very present and hard at work, but somehow not registering with local audiences, local "cultural authorities", the local marketplace. Galvanize tried to create a platform for these "emerging" artists, a space where they could engage with unconventional audiences in unconventional ways.

We took the art out of the gallery space and put it in public locations -- in the Savannah, on walls around town, in a tattoo parlour, the entrance to a dancehall. Conversely, we brought a band that usually plays in dark, smoky bars into a gallery at CCA, and another to a Woodbrook backyard. We asked newspaper columnists to discuss whether their writing could be "literature".

"One of the main problems regarding the audience for contemporary art in Trinidad is the perception that contemporary art is in a hierarchy above other creative production. This myth is supported by the way institutions create a type of inclusion/exclusion of ideas to facilitate their own agendas, therefore retarding the free movement of ideas and criticisms. More importantly, the artists become resentful and lack the confidence to produce. If we dispel this myth, we will see more art production emanating in some very unusual places. When I was in Cuba I was invited to artists' projects in people's living rooms (eg Espacio Aglutinador), on the streets, in hospitals, etc. I believe it is organic by nature."
-- Mario Lewis

NL: I like the distinction you made early on: that we were not grabbing a space -- which implies taking it from someone else -- but making our own.

CC: We are not an emerging or developing culture or context. This is not a little game of catch-up with an allegedly more developed circumstance. To think like that would be to think like Columbus, in the tradition of those scamps throughout our history who arrived here and said there is nothing. Nothing for who?

We are merely moving along with our business as practitioners. The space exists. Artists have been doing the work and building the dialogue, but expectations on the part of the public and local experts have not responded at the same rate. We are doing our thing -- it is not made real by who happens to feel like looking for the moment.

See Galvanize, then, as simply underscoring the fact that there is a history and dialogue and context to which we responding. Where did CCA come from, what created that need? To what questions is it responding, and why? And, by extension, why have Galvanize now?

I was excited to see a new generation of people getting the kind of support and encouragement I did not have when my practice became more investigative and thus ambitious.

NL: "Conversation" has been a key term in Galvanize -- the idea that it's useful to pay attention to each other, for artists to enter into dialogues with each other, artists with writers, musicians with architects, everyone with their audiences. No soapboxes or bestowing of titles like "master artist", but a real curiosity about the work.

CC: In terms of my own practice and the entire contemporary scene, I feel "conversation" is a key word. It looks beyond cultural pedagogy. It's about listening and sharing. The real subject of Galvanize is the collaboration and mutual support among the participants, the process. People came and participated. That is something more than the "nothing" everyone gets well rewarded for advocating.
By the time this text is published, there will have been five thousand visits to the Galvanize website?

NL: From thirty or forty countries at least. The conversation is also happening through our web presence -- the Galvanize blog and Flickr set -- which makes the initiative visible to a much bigger international audience. We used these online tools for expediency in the first place, but we've broken some interesting ground. The UK Guardian ran a story the other week suggesting that curators might soon be using Flickr's image-hosting service to curate online exhibitions. We've already done that.

CC: For contemporary Trinidadian artists, ideas and exchanges are happening on a much larger international platform. Artists from Trinidad are showing and giving lectures in New York, Oslo, South Africa, Japan, Brazil, London, and so on. It's not even news anymore. It's just what they do as professionals. We are simply moving along in that larger historical conversation.

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Conversation: What Next?

galvanize 06 image grid

At the end of its six-week programme, what has Galvanize achieved?

Galvanize 2006 provided a platform for twenty different projects or events, and many hours of conversation, both formal and informal. Hundreds of people joined our audiences, and thousands encountered Galvanize projects in the public spaces of Port of Spain. Many more people engaged with the Galvanize initiative via the blog and Flickr set. What is the lasting value of these interactions? What has Galvanize really meant to its participants? Most important, where does Galvanize go next?

The concluding event in the Galvanize 2006 programme is an open conversation addressing these and other questions. The Galvanize advisory team--artists Mario Lewis, Christopher Cozier, Steve Ouditt, and Peter Doig, CCA director Charlotte Elias, and writer and editor Nicholas Laughlin--will be joined by architect Sean Leonard and critic and curator Kevin Power in an assessment of the 2006 programme and a discussion of possible plans for the future. As at all Galvanize events, audience participation is very welcome. The team particularly hopes that members of the public who have attended Galvanize events will come out to share their opinions and ideas. All are invited.

After the conversation, there will be a chance to relax, hang out, and celebrate the end of the Galvanize 2006 programme.

The Galvanize team is particularly pleased that Dr Kevin Power will be joining this concluding conversation. Power holds the chair of North American literature at the University of Alicante, and is a former sub-director of conservation, research, and outreach at the Museo Nacional Centor de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid. He is the author of numerous books, essays, and articles, as well as four volumes of poems, and has curated twelve exhibitions, including shows focusing on work by Cuban and Puerto Rican artists.

What Next? Galvanize Post-Mortem will be held on Thursday 2 November, 2006, at 6.30 pm, in the InterAmericas Space at CCA7

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Date change for "What Next?"

The final event in the Galvanize 2006 programme, the conversation titled "What Next?: Galvanize Post-Mortem", has been postponed from Thursday 26 October to Thursday 2 November. The time and place remain the same: 6.30 pm, at the InterAmericas Space at CCA7. Further notes on "What Next?" will be posted soon on the Galvanize blog.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Conversation: Monsters and Other Animals: Poems and Fictions

james aboud
vahni capildeo
anu lakhan

James Christopher Aboud, Vahni Capildeo, and Anu Lakhan

"Without Lagahoo, water has no shape,
But Lagahoo takes his shape from the water...."

"The innocence of Monsters is that they are born old...."

"In the early stages her skin seemed to be shrinking, an insistent tingling accompanied the sensation that her skin no longer fit.... A network of lines appeared. Like a net, said Mother. No, she said, like scales...."

"Monsters and Other Animals: Poems and Fictions" brings together poet James Christopher Aboud and poet and fiction writer Anu Lakhan to read from their recent work, and engage with Nicholas Laughlin in a public conversation. The event will also include a reading from the poems of Vahni Capildeo, who is unable to appear in person, but who will have a virtual presence through her work.

Why have these writers chosen their particular forms, and what are their influences? Where do they fit in the tradition of Trinidadian or Caribbean writing--if they do fit? Why does the theme of the "monster", of metamorphosis, recur in their work? Who is the "monster"? Is every writer a "monster" of some kind?

Bios: James Christopher Aboud has published two collections of poems: The Stone Rose (1986) and Lagahoo Poems (2004). * Vahni Capildeo has published one full-length collection of poems, No Traveller Returns (2003), and a poetry chapbook, Person Animal Figure (2005). * Anu Lakhan writes about books and food for The Caribbean Review of Books and Caribbean Beat. She also writes fiction and poems.

Monsters and Other Animals: Fictions and Poems will be held on Thursday 19 October, 2006, at 6.30 pm, in the InterAmericas Space at CCA7

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Monday, October 16, 2006

Performance: "Meta-Osmotica": Akuzuru

akuzuru atonement in progress

Akuzuru at work on her Galvanize project Atonement for Our Transgressions

"Meta-Osmotica", a "sculpture performance" by artist Akuzuru, is a continuation of her recently mounted public installation Atonement for Our Transgressions.

"'Meta-Osmotica' seeks to deal with the beginnings. It will be a dark performance, a sculptural interplay between corporeality and the cosmos. The artist will be attired completely in black, surrounded by a mound of 'umbilical rope' made from pieces of used clothing tied together, with a lone lit candle, trying to 'birth forth'. An excerpt from John Coltrane's classic 'A Love Supreme' will pervade the spatial texture to unite with gesture. This is a sensorial piece which deals with past experiential associations, political stagnation on the part of the people, unnecessary material excesses, and of course atonement."

Meta-Osmotica will be performed on Tuesday 17 October, 2006, at 6.30 pm, on the outdoor stage at Form and Function Design, 5B Gaston Johnston Street, Woodbrook.

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Retrospective: Design Works by Illya Furlonge-Walker

illya slow wine

"Slow Wine", a conceptual sketch from the notebooks of Illya Furlonge-Walker

Illya Furlonge-Walker (1967-2006) pursued graphic design with one eye on the classic line-work of Lubalin and Chermayeff and another on the liberating potential of the computer. His work was perfectly capable of speaking for itself, but in a world cluttered with faux art and computer assisted design, Illya articulated his vision with increasing fluency and persuasive power to a growing range of clients who benefited from his passion for clarity in communication.

In a short but intense life, he began as a freelancer, hand-painting stylish and witty t-shirt designs that embraced the styles of the day and deftly turned them upside down with his quirky sense of irony. He went on to work in television, styling computer graphics for the new CCN TV6, pushed further into graphic design, and finally, paring away all except the essential, settled into adulthood as a father and husband, founding Form and Function Design as the vehicle for his vision of art in the service of commerce.

His legacy is a remarkable and mature collection of corporate ID designs, annual reports, posters, and album jackets that demarcate a high-water mark in the design evolution of Trinidad and Tobago. He was influenced in his career path by the photographer Mark Lyndersay, and artists and designers Eddie Bowen, Steve Ouditt, Christopher Cozier, and Russel Halfhide.

A retrospective of Illya Furlonge-Walker's work, from completed design marks and annual reports to quirky sketch materials and concept ideas from his many notebooks, will be on display at Form and Function Design, 5B Gaston Johnston Street, Woodbrook, from 17 to 26 October, 2006. The exhibition, curated by Mark Lyndersay, opens with an informal launch on Tuesday 17 October at 6.30 pm.

illya furlonge-walker [lyndersay]

Illya Furlonge-Walker, photographed by Mark Lyndersay

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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Visibly Absent 1.3: Griffith, Noel, Smailes

At the core of Galvanize is "Visibly Absent", a series of nine artists' projects. The final three, Doppelganger by Marlon Griffith, The Black Eye Project by Nikolai Noel, and Back in Times by Alex Smailes, opened on 12 October, 2006, and run until 26 October.

marlon griffith doppelganger still

Marlon Griffith's Doppelganger is a multimedia installation tackling questions about law enforcement and public profiling, inspired by his own encounters with the police. The work is installed in the Art Room at CCA7 (open Tuesdays to Fridays from 12 to 5 pm, Thursdays from 12 to 8 pm, and Saturdays from 10 am to 5 pm).


black eye project at cca 1

Nikolai Noel's Black Eye Project includes graffiti icons at outdoor locations around Port of Spain, and an installation in the Art Room at CCA7 (open Tuesdays to Fridays from 12 to 5 pm, Thursdays from 12 to 8 pm, and Saturdays from 10 am to 5 pm).


back in times 1

Alex Smailes's Back in Times is a series of portrait photographs taken at the monthly "Back in Times" parties at the SWWTU Hall in Port of Spain. The photographs were installed at the SWWTU Hall for an actual "Back in Times" party on 7 October, and then reinstalled at CCA7 (open Tuesdays to Fridays from 12 to 5 pm, Thursdays from 12 to 8 pm, and Saturdays from 10 am to 5 pm).

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"Too local for rock, too rock for local"

make a holy noise 5

Gary Hector and Damon Homer of jointpop performing for a small but enthusiastic audience at the Galvanize event "Make a Holy Noise", on Saturday 14 October, 2006, in the InterAmericas Space at CCA7. The performance was preceded by a public conversation between Hector and Homer and writer Jonathan Ali, ranging over issues of origins, influences, audiences, "songs you may never hear on the radio", and the challenges of writing and performing rock music firmly rooted in the Trinidadian consciousness and vernacular

make a holy noise set list

The set list from "Make a Holy Noise"

See more photos from "Make a Holy Noise" in this Flickr set

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Friday, October 13, 2006

Sound & Lyrics: "Make a Holy Noise": Gary Hector and jointpop

jointpop at anarchy 5

jointpop, with Gary Hector at far right

On 14 October, Gary Hector and Damon Homer of jointpop, the groundbreaking Trinidadian rock band, will perform an acoustic set at CCA7, preceded by a public conversation between Hector and writer Jonathan Ali.

Gary Hector: "Most of [the band's] great performances were in underground situations, because that is what we were, that is what we were best suited to. We don't belong in the big venues, in the fetes ... we've never really been a band you can dance to, we're a band you listen to."

Read Tracy Assing's interview with Gary Hector in this feature on the Trinidadian rock music scene from Caribbean Beat magazine.

Make a Holy Noise: Gary Hector and jointpop will take place on Saturday 14 October, 2006, at 8 pm, in the InterAmericas Space at CCA7.

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