Notes from MOU - Points of Intersection

Another week has passed and it is getting increasingly difficult to imagine where the time has gone. It has been an interesting process, to say the least, of trying to balance work and play. Since the residency began, Trinidadian artist, Shanice Smith, and I have been actively gathering information and materials to start production, while still trying to make time for sightseeing tours with friends.

It might sound like a simple enough schedule but we found out the hard way that some things are simple only in theory (and this balancing act was one of those things). There were moments when it felt as though we were struggling to build any significant momentum because there was always something happening that threatened our flow. Nevertheless, in spite of what seemed to be a kind of perpetual exhaustion we eventually managed to carve out a relatively full and uninterrupted week of studio work.

As I mentioned in last week’s article, with most residencies there comes a point when anxiety slowly creeps in. Even the most well thought out plan has just enough room for the kind of self-doubt that could make you second guess your time management skills (granted you have any to begin with). My management skills are hardly brag-worthy but when it comes down to the wire I always find a way to pull everything together in the nick of time (sometimes for fun I like to convince myself that I’m not always scrambling at the last minute).

Even so, as “used to it” as I should be I still found myself wrestling with those feelings and worrying about the final outcome of this residency. There came a point when I was forced to accept the fact that my plans would have to be scaled down quite a bit as I might have been too ambitious with my initial projections. My plan was to complete two large installations and have them both photographed and animated digitally before our presentation at Alice Yard in Woodbrook. However, by the end of the first week it was clear that I would have to make some adjustments.

In addition to scaling down the initial plans for my own projects, Shanice and I both decided to collaborate on another piece after noticing a recent call for art from Fresh Milk, a creative residency space in Barbados. During our time in Caribbean Linked IV in Aruba last year, we had observed similarities in the themes we chose to engage with in our individual practices and often spoke casually of one day working together. So, when this opportunity presented itself, it seemed the perfect time to explore how this joint project could be manifested.

We knew almost immediately which bodies of works we would be drawing material from for this new project: her series titled “Nice ting does be in glass case” completed while in her final year of the BFA program at UWI, and my series “Yesterday, tomorrow, forever” from my time in Aruba. Both series of works (produced last year) addressed the commodification of female bodies and relied on similar techniques to draw viewers in and engage them in an intimate way. So there was a lot of common ground in our works for us to explore.

A few shots of the architectural details of buildings in and around the Independence Square, Port-of-Spain area.

Whenever I’m on a residency I try to always look for connections between “home” and the host country. This time was no different. Trinidad and Guyana have a number of intersecting histories and common threads that link the two territories in a way that is quite distinctive from our other neighbours in the region. I was especially interested in learning more about those connections even if they didn’t find their way in my final work.

While I was conducting my own investigations into those connections, Shanice and I continued mining various texts from the National Library in the hopes of finding any kind of material that would prove useful to our joint project. We’ve also been photographing interesting architectural details in the buildings around Independence Square, looking for common motifs to include in our collaborative project.

Although Trinidad has a strong Spanish influence and Guyana has a strong British influence, we found a number of similarities in the architecture of both spaces. There were similar types of windows, fretwork, wrought iron designs and decorative motifs/molds found on old colonial buildings. Unfortunately, time did not permit more in depth research into this topic but we found enough material to begin what has the potential to be the first of several pieces in a new series of work.

So how exactly will we bridge these two seemingly disconnected themes: the objectification/exploitation of female bodies and details from colonial architecture? Join me next week as Shanice and I prepare to wrap up this residency. By this time our presentation at Alice Yard would’ve passed and we would’ve provided a clearer context for the work we are currently developing.

MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) is a collaborative residency initiative conceptualised and developed by Trinidadian artist, Shanice Smith, and Guyanese artist, Dominique Hunter, after the two met on the fourth iteration of the Caribbean Linked residency in Aruba last year.

The residency, which will take place in Trinidad & Tobago, was designed to strengthen new and existing connections between creative practitioners working in the two countries. In addition to creating a platform for Smith and Hunter to expand their individual portfolios, the long-term vision is to continue explorations between both artists and to foster an ongoing engagement with local artists and artist spaces such as Alice Yard.

This article was first published in the Pepperpot magazine of the Sunday Chronicle newspaper on July 16, 2017. Click on the link to be redirected to their website:

#GuyanaChronicle #DominiqueHunter #ShaniceSmith #MOU #MemorandumofUnderstanding #Guyana #Trinidad

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