Tilting Axis brought together practitioners in the international cultural space to discuss and lay plans for increasing cultural exchange between the Caribbean and the rest of the Global South. This paradigm shift from the Western centric spheres of influences can only benefit artists and the organisations that support them in regions that are still too often overlooked by the supposedly global art world. As China Residencies’ co-founder & program manager, I joined the conversation to bring insights from China’s similarly remote and emerging art ecosystem, as well as to learn from Fresh Milk’s role as a mapping and connecting force amongst independent organisations in the Caribbean region.
Although tilting the world's axis is an enormous undertaking, this inaugural edition set in motion an irreversible nudge in the right direction. The conference itself ran seamlessly, hosted in a beautiful and congenial setting in Fresh Milk’s reading room, which led to respectful and engaged discussions. By bringing together local organisations, curators, and artists and inviting outside perspectives from South America, Africa, Asia, as well as Europe and the US, Tilting Axis spawned discussions about resilience and self-reliance, the collective ignorance of history and the need for self-determination in former and present colonial territories. The intimate setting led to bitingly honest conversations about the shortcomings and needs faced by all, and brought about a legitimate framework on top of which solutions could be built.
As a newcomer to the region, I was impressed by the vibrant energy generated by leaders of spaces like Groundation Grenada, IBB and NLS that embrace atypical structures and adapt to best serve their communities while striving to encourage and support the most cutting-edge young artists. Equally impressive were the genuine efforts on behalf of national art galleries like The Bahamas and Cayman Islands to bring in newcomers who previously felt excluded from elitist institutions. Breaking into workgroups brought about very concrete and actionable solutions for supporting arts writing, forging stronger links between the region through residency exchanges, as well as increasing educational support and exposure for all artists from the region. Last but in no way least, a strong consensus built around convening for a second edition of Tilting Axis, and participants agreed to share online and offline efforts to conserve momentum by tackling specific tasks based on each individual’s expertise and available resources.
The Caribbean is a very unique region with its own set of challenges and opportunities, yet the parallels with China’s independent art scene are surprisingly numerous — from relatively newness of the field spurred by innovative and unconventional artist-led initiatives, to the difficulties in both soliciting funding and attracting audiences from the local communities. Spaces in China also tend to look outwards towards the conventional West for financial and institutional support, and also tend to encourage the most promising students to leave their country for higher education in Western art academies.
There’s a similar isolation between organisations that occupy the same physical space but rarely, if ever, communicate in person due to geographic and linguistic barriers. I hope to model future meetings between China Residencies’ partner organisation after the enlightening and deliberately future-oriented discussions facilitated by Tilting Axis.