Double Dutch: A Calendar of Conditioning — Charles Campbell + John Cox


Double Dutch: A Calendar of Conditioning (Charles Campbell + John Cox)

Thursday, August 23, 2018
Sunday, October 21, 2018

Double Dutch brings together artists from the region to produce provocative bodies of work through collaboration and exchange. The first project of its kind sanctioned by the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, the project works against ideas of nationalism and the insularity of our creative environs by creating a safe space to explore regional culture and our creative acumen and sensibilities.

For the second iteration, the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas showcased work by Bahamian artist John Cox titled 126/73, which drew on Cox’s former project Filler that began in 2012 at Liquid Courage Gallery before traveling to VOLTANY in 2014. Alongside this was Jamaican artist Charles Campbell’s ongoing series Transporter 8, which was supported in the recently concluded Jamaica Biennale held in early 2015.

Drawing upon aspects of equilibrium, mutability, elasticity and breath, Cox’s work tested how mass and volume relate to conditioning. His media – bicycle inner tubes – were filled with air, which Cox likened to ‘breath’, signifying the outpouring of life’s contents into spaces that are at times rigid, at times deformed or constrained. From the lifeless tubes, black blooms erupted and took shape, exploring the idea of breath as a symbol of life. Just like aging bodies, the tubes emptied out and deflated over time, leading to wilting and collapse in some. Others remained full, exploded violently or shifted shape in other ways.

There were qualities that linked the structure and its relationship to mass and volume. The paring down and minimal quality of the installation pointed directly to release and surrender; the constant change and transformation was an expression of central issues in Cox’s work. Cox became an approximator of conditioning and averages – creating an aggregation of spatial configurations of space and objects, of proximity and comfort. By letting these conditions occupy a certain mass that is unregulated, tere was a cohabitation and interference that creates irregularities. The title 126/73 was taken from one of Cox’s daily blood pressure readings, an entity always, at any given moment, in flux. One could easily read this composition as an impression of the body informed by the typology (representational qualities) of self-portraiture.

Campbell’s Transporter 8, a part of his ongoing The Transporter Project, inhabited the interstices of the artist’s aesthetic and political concerns. A ‘floating’ sphere sat amid a pool of black liquid surrounded by a prohibitive white border. A multi-faceted and complex work, the surface of the three-dimensional form was adorned with unexpected imagery. The repeated figure of a slave canoe marked the black metalic surface, referencing slavery and colonialism and suggesting notions of complicity, compromise and violence. It was both an object from an ungraspable past and unrealized future.

On a larger scale, the sculptural form pointed to Buckminster Fuller’s iconic Geodesic Dome and his notion of a rational utopia. Combining this with the heavily loaded political narrative of slavery, the piece conjured the distortions inherent in our utopian projects and projections into the future. The object’s physical presence, its inscrutable attraction and beauty and the unknowable story woven about its metal facets worked to both engage in and defy pre-existing narratives, using unexpected forms and relationships to contest linear notions of time and the certainty of meaning. The dome was meant to capture the viewer in a “forbidden zone”. The body of liquid created a peculiar pull as well as stillness on the body. This juxtaposition created an object of meditation, paralleling the contents of Cox’s 126/73. There was a sense of bodies being displaced and or disembodied given the subject matter of both studies.

John Cox is a Bahamian artist whose mixed-media works use familiar and ordinary objects to reference distant places and ideas. In addition to his art practice, Cox is also a major part of the Bahamian art scene whose contributions as an educator, curator, cultural activist and founder of Popopstudios International Center for the Visual Arts has helped grow and redefine art in The Bahamas. His work is found in the collections at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, The D’Aguilar Art Foundation, the Lynden Pindling International Airport and the Dawn Davies Collection.

Charles Campbell is a Jamaican-born multidisciplinary artist, writer and curator. His work has been exhibited widely including at the Havana Biennial, the Brooklyn Museum, the Art Museum of the Americas, the Santo Domingo Biennial, the Cuenca Biennial, Alice Yard, the Biennale d’art contemporain de la Martinique, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, Puerto Rico, the Houston Museum of African American Culture, Rideau Hall, Ottawa, the Art Gallery of Mississauga and Duke University. His writing has been featured in numerous publications including The Sunday Gleaner, Frieze Magazine and ARC Magazine, a Caribbean arts journal. Campbell holds an MA in Fine Art from Goldsmiths College and currently lives and works in Canada.

Double Dutch supporters argue that the concept of bringing local and regional artists together to work with a group of ideas personal, political and otherwise is crucial to the development of a contemporary Caribbean identity. These artists are often divided linguistically and geographically, but united by common historical, economic or practice-based conditions. Double Dutch is sensitive to the economy of space and scale as well as the feasibility of transportation and mobility through the region. For this reason, the project attempts to create and maintain ties throughout the Caribbean with the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas as pilot and conduit.