Double Dutch brings together artists from the region and diaspora to produce provocative bodies of work through collaboration and exchange. The project works against ideas of nationalism and the insularity of our creative environs by creating an experimental hub to explore regional and diasporic culture, our creative acumen and sensibilities.
Re: Encounter brings together Dominican-born, New York-based artist Joiri Minaya and Bahamian artist Dede Brown, who have developed new works that continue the trajectory of their practices that speak towards issues of being postcolonial subjects. Each artist uses feminised forms of representations found in nature and the female body to confront patriarchy, the rigidity of history and the stronghold and cautions of colonial narratives. Brown and Minaya will work with the open plan of the NAGB ballroom to create pathways which complicate the viewership and the audience’s relation to the work. These barriers allow for particular readings of their unique installations in playful, coy and performative ways.
Dede Brown will continue to develop and refine her body of work, which our public has come to know very well with her recent installations in the 7th and 8th National Exhibition Exhibition (NE7 and NE8), 2013 and 2015 respectively, along with previous workshops conducted at the NAGB and several public commissions across New Providence.
During an artist residency in the U.K. in 2011, Brown encountered the work of Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, which left a lasting impression as the spatial and interactive dynamics in his practice provided many questions for her regarding perspective and use of the material. This fascination birthed an interest in working with aluminium, a material that she continues to grapple with, shaping it to be more descriptive of the emotional landscape that we often struggle with and through. The material extends itself and becomes a story, the geometric patterns and their repetition akin to the nature of our lives, our behaviour, routines and the things that constitute our everyday.
For her installation Tessellation, Brown develops and weaves patterns and forms that move between abstraction and figuration. These forms—though abstract at times—often reference busts and portraits drawn from and influenced by colonial statues in New Providence, including the iconic statue of Columbus at Government House along with different bodies and in particular the outlines of heads. Tessellation in art was made famous by the Dutch graphic artist M.C Escher who used odd and impossible depictions, mostly of nature and natural elements or animals, to confuse the surface of the art he was making. In our modern day world, we see these as 2D-rendered surfaces that incorporate paint and tile into fine graphics and 3D work in cinema that allows for the rendering of space on the x and y-axis.
These surreal and oftentimes visually overloaded tropical patterns interweave in the portraits to create surfaces that comment on the nature of how it feels to be an artist working in an island nation with a prevalent tourism industry. Exploring aesthetics that can at times fall into a discourse of beauty of feminised subjectivities, the installation forces us to confront various stereotypes, interactions, misunderstandings and or discrimination that ends up occurring naturally outside of the gallery space. The pathway created in Tessellation aligns closely with experimentation as Brown continues her investigation into human behaviour, experience and existence.
US-based, Dominican artist Joiri Minaya’s practice examines otherness, post-colonialism and feminine consciousness, inspired and fueled by social hierarchies. Minaya develops a body of work that uses popular tropical patterns to speak of the commodification and domestication of nature, and the insertion of American and European Imperialism on the wider Caribbean. In the video Labadee, Minaya’s offers a counter argument to how Haiti is portrayed within the Western consciousness. As the site for the first Black revolution in 1804 and now one of the most poverty stricken countries in the world, Haiti has struggled to form a positive outward identity with its immediate neighbours, notably the Dominican Republic and The Bahamas. The landscape doesn’t exist within the wider public consciousness as a place of paradise or a place with touristic ventures. But it is and what that absence says about our biases and xenophobia is equivalent to the erasure of these deeper historical affinities. The cautionary tale of Imperialism and the guise of Independence is the fine line in which we navigate this trepidatious and constructed landscape of consumption.
Labadee incorporates footage from a cruise ship with dialogue taken from the diary text of Columbus before he made landfall in 1492 in the New World. Minaya merges that with a contemporary account of a typical tourist visit to Labadee, Haiti. Labadee is a port located on the northern coast of Haiti within the district of Cap-Haïtien in the Nord department. It is a private resort leased to Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. until 2050. Royal Caribbean has contributed the largest proportion of tourist revenue to Haiti since 1986, employing 300 locals, allowing another 200 to sell their wares on the premises for a fee and paying the Haitian government USD 12 per tourist.=
Labadee is the site of an all-inclusive and interchangeable Caribbean tourism landscape. Here in The Bahamas, we can look towards Resort World, Bimini, Grand Lucayan, Freeport, Fowl Cay Resort in Exuma or our very own Atlantis on Paradise Island which straddles the delineation of what an all-inclusive is. In many ways, the privatisation of these lands and the economic exchange and inequity lends to the unsustainable development of tourism in the wider Caribbean. We see how the short and long-term ravages of the tourism industry have impacted national development, along with the effects on the psychology of the Bahamian public.
Minaya’s gaze is contemplative and quiet, often lingering too long on scenes of this exchange, a strange behaviour and action. The Black bodies here perform; they sell, they entertain, they contort and shake. They are reduced to being signifiers of service. They are the noise and backdrop of a good time. The first things to fall away and the last thing to remember. We see young boys occupy hills, gather and watch privilege and excess, older artisans and musicians peddling their wares and gyrating to the tunes of creole infused tropicalia. All of this is diluted, ambivalent. On the edge of Labadee, we see twisting walls, the barbed wire fences; the barriers and the removal and emptying of freedom from that space.
The conversation around exploitation and exhaustion are extended. Re: Encounter offers us a moment to reconstruct and think critically about the things we choose to be witness to in our daily lives. The work reckons with the immersive qualities of the condition of our colonial environment and the long lasting and powerful impact on our economic and national development. Minaya and Brown challenge meaning-making within post colonies; they bring sharp focus to our definition of self and the means by which the Caribbean countries are coming into our decolonisation and its failures and small triumphs.
Dede Brown (1984) is an interdisciplinary artist who works in painting, photography, mixed media, sculpture and installation. Her work often focuses on depicting emotionally driven thoughts and narratives through portraiture and figurative drawings and paintings or sculpture. Many of her compositions are inspired by images of women in popular culture. More recently, she has begun exploring new subjects and mediums, venturing further into more experimental and conceptual works, which investigate various topics relating to human behaviour, experience and existence.
Joiri Minaya (1990) is a Dominican-American multi-disciplinary artist whose work deals with identity, otherness, self-consciousness and displacement. Her work navigates binaries in search of in-betweenness, investigating the female body within constructions of identity, social space and hierarchies. Born in New York, U.S.A, she grew up in the Dominican Republic. Minaya graduated from the Escuela Nacional de Artes Visuales in Santo Domingo in 2009, the Altos de Chavón School of Design in 2011 and Parsons the New School for Design in 2013. She has been a resident artist at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Guttenberg Arts and Smack Mellon, and has participated in the Bronx Museum’s AIM Program and the NYFA Mentoring Program for Immigrant Artists. Minaya has exhibited across the Dominican Republic, New York and New Jersey, and her work is in the collection of the Museo de Arte Moderno in Santo Domingo and the Centro León Jiménes in Santiago, Dominican Republic.
Double Dutch supports the concept of bringing local, regional and diasporic-based artists together to work with a group of ideas personal, political and otherwise is crucial to the development of a contemporary Bahamian identity. These artists are often divided linguistically and geographically but are united by common historical, economic or practice-based conditions. For this reason, the project attempts to create and maintain ties throughout the Caribbean, the wider diaspora, with the NAGB as pilot and conduit.
The show opens in the NAGB Ballroom on Friday, October 13 through Sunday, November 12, 2017.