T&T artist Alex Kelly, a UWI graduate and part of the Granderson Lab initiative, recently participated in Caribbean Linked III, experiencing three weeks of connections, exchanges, and productivity with 11 other young artists from throughout the Caribbean region.
Caribbean Linked is a residency programme and art exhibition organised by Ateliers '89 Foundation in collaboration with ARC Inc and The Fresh Milk Art Platform Inc, its organisers said in a press release.
Its main sponsor is Stichting DOEN with additional support from the Mondriaan Foundation and the Prince Claus Fund. Since 2007 the foundation Ateliers '89 has created opportunities for young artists to follow their dreams by providing exchanges where they can develop their own work through the artist in residence programme, the teaching programme and by organising symposiums with local and international artists, critics and curators.
Caribbean Linked is an essential means for building awareness across the artistic community of the Caribbean, the release said. This residency project focuses on the sustainable development, regional integration and critical education of younger artists by exposing Anglophone, Francophone, Hispanic and Dutch Antillean Artists to each other.
T&T "needs a facility like Ateliers '89 which has the necessary space and resources to house such an ambitious project as Caribbean Linked III," the release quotes Kelly as saying. "But not merely for the benefit of [T&T]. Rather, for its potential to benefit the region. Much of my thought recently has been occupied with how I might facilitate the movement of artists regionally. Particularly how one might go about acquiring the necessary spaces for projects like Caribbean Linked III to exist in T&T.
"I understand now that my work does not only remain relevant in the context of my own country but it can serve as an examination of the region. Perhaps what is more important, is the realisation that whatever efforts I might make to further the cause of serious art making in T&T will potentially have far reaching regional and global consequences."
Kelly's work interrogates the social space of T&T, and pieces that were produced for the Caribbean Linked III exhibition continued to explore the country's over-accelerated political and economic development post-independence.
One detail of the final installation–referred to by Kelly as #forceripe–featured 18 brown sandwich bags lined in rows of three on a pallet board. This visual alludes to the ritual of placing fruit such as an avocado in a brown bag to encourage it to ripen at a faster pace. The symbolism of the piece lies in probing how T&T has also gone through various practices to explicitly quicken the "ripening" of its nation.
The notion of "Caribbeanness" also fed into the expansion of this theme during the residency, something that was ignited by the bond made with fellow diverse residents and the similarity of the "force ripe" notion across the different countries.
This prompted Kelly's heightened awareness of the need for policy makers to understand the importance of cultural aspects such as stimulating public art in the T&T space to facilitate critical social thinking. The connections of his artistic ideas and social practice with those he was working alongside became sites of opportunity for non-traditional regional exchange in the future.
"What my eyes have been opened to," Kelly is quoted as saying, "is the potential for my country to be part of a regional community that is not just loosely connected by political commitments but that has a shared interest based on the understanding that a stable community will undoubtedly benefit the individual."