From inside Centro Léon, Santiago, Dominican Republic, we introduce Tilting Axis, a roving arts initiative that aims to bridge the geopolitical gap between Caribbean territories by sparking creative collaborations and cultivating cultural connectivity. Organizers Annalee Davis, Natalie Urquhart, Sara Hermann and Joel Butler talk about the genesis of Tilting Axis, why they’re here and what will unfold during the fourth annual gathering. About Tilting Axis 4: The 2018 convening in the Dominican Republic is a collaboration with the curatorial studies program Curando Caribe and two institutions — Centro León, Santiago, and Centro Cultural de España, Santo Domingo. Exploring the theme Caribbean Cultural Ecologies: Connecting Pasts, Presents and Futures, artists, curators, stakeholders, instigators and activists debate ideas about the Caribbean’s interdependent future, reimagining the
Tilting Axis Curatorial Fellow 2018
Bahamian Natalie Willis, awarded!
Written by Dr. Ian Bethell Bennett
As people who view art from outside, we are usually blind to all the moving parts that make art and bring it to us. We tend to think when we hear the term “public art”, for example, that this springs organically from the artist who is simply in his or her studio being creative. As Bahamians and members of an incredibly conservative mindset, we see art as something that will always leave our children poor and disadvantaged, so we discourage them from becoming artists; we discourage them from becoming writers. Yet, at the helm of much public art are leaders who make public art happen. They put things in place. Art does not usually simply spring up out of nothing and nowhere, though it can still be organic.
We need people to facilitate the art, bring it to the public, frame it in productive ways, and produce spaces that allow art and artists to flourish. Some of these people are curators. Curators organize, manage, understand the nuances, intricacies, needs, challenges and possibilities of art and collections. We do not usually see this side of art.
In the Caribbean, art has bloomed over decades, especially in countries like Jamaica, Cuba and Puerto Rico, as well as the Dominican Republic. Haiti is famous for its art; yet we, as Bahamians tend to diminish Caribbean art and its value. When curators gets a hold of a body of work or a group of ideas the job they do to birth an experience is amazing. Especially when it comes to telling a story through and with the art.
Curating a space is as important as the art that goes in it. Creating a narrative through spacing, organizing, timing, physically hanging works, color scheme and mood, all accentuate how the art is allowed to speak and how the public sees the art or receives it. The process is not passive. As a part of this science, artists or art enthusiasts study for many years to learn how to tell stories with art and how to manage art collections . . .
For the second year, Tilting Axis has facilitated, administered and designed an open call for our Curatorial Fellowship. In a strong partnership with the University of Texas at Austin Art Galleries at Black Studies we issued an open call to find and seek out a curator living and working in the Caribbean who would rise to the occasion to use the resources, collections and moment at hand to advance their practice in a nuanced and sensitive way. The jury panel comprising of Lise Ragbir, Joel Butler, Tobias Ostrander, Holly Bynoe, Annalee Davis, Eddie Chambers, Natalie Urquhart, Sara Herman and Mario Caro (9 in total) had the laborious task of deliberating an exceptionally strong pool of candidates from 7 countries.
The competition was stiff—reflecting the wealth of talent, and need for increased opportunities, for curators in the region. We are happy to announce that this year’s Tilting Axis 4 Curatorial Fellowship sponsored by and to take place at the University of Texas at Austin, has been awarded to—Natalie Willis, Assistant Curator at the National Gallery of The Bahamas. At the University of Texas at Austin with access to collections of work by African American and Caribbean artists, Natalie hopes to look beyond nationalist dialogues and examine how shared history presents itself in different cultural phenotypes. As she says, “One root leads to many rhizomes and proliferations of blackness.”
We notified Natalie earlier today—and of her own volition, she wrote the following message:
I am still, frankly, in disbelief. I, perhaps wrongly, didn’t think I would have these opportunities when I moved back to The Bahamas after school. The constant worry for young Caribbeans going off to study who “dare” to come back is that you will hit the ceiling, that you will not have any real chances of upward movement in your career, that you only return at a deficit and for a love of this place.
You can love this place, and it can love you back, and that love requires heartfelt work.
The work that dedicated and fierce people have been toiling at for the last 30 years means that you give newer generations unbridled hope at the possibility, care, and freedom of being Caribbean-based cultural workers. I am humbled and so deeply grateful that you are taking a chance on me when it was never “taking a chance” to come back home, it is the work that needs to be done.
I am overwhelmed, overjoyed, and looking forward to the day I can help some other young Caribbean mind and heart get this feeling of support. Thank you.
Natalie Willis is a British-Bahamian curator and cultural worker. Born and raised in The Bahamas, she received her BA (Hons) and MA in Fine Art at York St John University in the UK. Willis is currently working as an Assistant Curator at National Art Gallery of The Bahamas with a concerted focus on writing aimed at decolonising and decentralising the art archive, and adding to the literature on Bahamian and Caribbean visual culture and developing her burgeoning curating practice. Somewhere in a parallel universe, she still makes artwork.
As an emerging curator desperately trying to not contribute to the brain-drain of the Caribbean, she has dedicated her time at the NAGB to focusing on knowledge building and access through text and speaking to the way the colonial tourism of the late 1800s shaped the cultural and physical landscape of the Anglo-Caribbean.
Willis has been an invited speaker at the Caribbean Studies Association Conference (2017), the Museums Association of the Caribbean Annual Conference (2016). Most recently, she took part in the Goldsmiths + British School at Rome Summer Intensive Course, themed “Curating the Contemporary”, in Rome in 2017.
In Santo Domingo of the 90s, subcultures flourish and, with them, practices and discourses that enabled a new ethical platform for artistic production. City and precariousness, self-management and spectacle.
En el Santo Domingo de los 90 florecen las subculturas y, con ellas, prácticas y discursos que habilitaron una nueva plataforma ética para la producción artística. Ciudad y precariedad, autogestión y espectáculo.
The core administration of Tilting Axis is happy to announce that The National Art
Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB) — in preparation for the institution welcoming and
hosting the 6th iteration in 2020 — has become an associate partner institution in support
of the annual roving cultural initiative.
As a direct outcome of the Tilting Axis meeting held at the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands in May 2017, the University of Texas at Austin’s (UT) Art Galleries at Black Studies has come together with Tilting Axis to offer a Curatorial Fellowship to an emerging curator living and working in the Caribbean.
This Fellowship opportunity focuses on curators living and working within the Caribbean region, and is both research and practice-led, and mentor-based. The Fellow will receive a maximum of USD$5,500 towards a fee, travel, accommodation and living costs. The Fellowship is supported by University of Texas at Austin’s (UT) Art Galleries at Black Studies. Read more →
Tilting Axis 4
in collaboration with Curando Caribe 3
Save the Date (May 31st - June 2nd, 2018)
Hosted by Centro León and Centro Cultural de España in Santo Domingo in collaboration with Curando Caribe. Santiago and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Caribbean Cultural Ecologies: Connecting Pasts, Presents and Futures
(May 31st - June 2nd, 2018)
The fourth convening of Tilting Axis is set to take place in the Dominican Republic in collaboration with Curando Caribe and two institutions — Centro León and Centro Cultural de España in Santo Domingo —between two cities–Santiago and Santo Domingo–as we aim to shift our location and context to the Hispanophone Caribbean with our theme Caribbean Cultural Ecologies: Connecting Pasts, Presents and Futures. Artists, curators, stakeholders, instigators and activists will debate ideas about the Caribbean’s interdependent future in relation to culture, the nature, technology and the role of institutions while sharing creative ways which reimagine our collective futures in relationship with our particular environment and with each other.
Tilting Axis 4 is free of charge and by invitation only.
Please RSVP to email@example.com by April 1st, 2018 to confirm your interest in attending.
La cuarta edición de Tilting Axis será realizada en la República Dominicana en colaboración con Curando Caribe y dos instituciones -Centro León y Centro Cultural de España en Santo Domingo- en dos ciudades -Santiago y Santo Domingo- con el interés de situarnos en el Caribe hispanoparlante para abordar el tema Ecologías Culturales Caribe: Conectando Pasados, Presentes y Futuros. Artistas, curadores, investigadores, activistas e interesados debatirán sobre la interdependencia cultural y su futuro en el Caribe; su relación con la naturaleza, tecnología y el rol de las instituciones al tiempo que compartirán maneras creativas de repensar nuestros futuros colectivos en relación con nuestros entornos particulares y con otros territorios.
Tilting Axis 4 es solo por invitación y libre de costos.
Por favor RSVP a firstname.lastname@example.org antes del 1 de abril de 2018 para confirmar su interés en participar.
La quatrième édition de Tilting Axis aura lieu en République Dominicaine, en collaboration avec deux institutions–Centro León et Centro Cultural de España–et dans deux villes–Santiago et Saint Domingue–afin de changer notre emplacement et contexte aux Caraïbes hispanophones avec le thème Écologies culturelles des Caraïbes: Reliant les passés, présents et avenirs. Artistes, conservateurs, intervenants, instigateurs et militants débâteront des idées sur l’avenir interdépendant des Caraïbes en ce qui concerne la culture, la nature, la technologie et le rôle des institutions tout en partageant des façons créatives de repenser nos avenirs collectifs par rapport à notre environnement particulier et les uns par rapport aux autres.
Titling Axis 4 est gratuit et sur invitation seulement.
RSVP à email@example.com avant le 1er avril, 2018 pour confirmer votre participation.
De vierde bijeenkomst van Tilting Axis zal plaatsvinden in de Dominicaanse Republiek in samenwerking met Curando Caribe en de instituties - Centro León en Centro Cultural de España in Santo Domingo – tussen twee steden - Santiago en Santo Domingo - omdat we ernaar streven om onze locatie en context te verplaatsen naar de Hispanophone Caribbean met het thema Caribbean Cultural Ecologies: Connecting Pasts, Presents and Futures. Kunstenaars, curatoren, aandeelhouders en activisten zullen ideeën bespreken over de onafhankelijke toekomst van het Caribisch gebied met betrekking tot cultuur, de natuur, technologie en de rol van instituties. Tegelijkertijd delen we onze collectieve gedachten in relatie tot onze specifieke omgeving en tot elkaar.
Tilting Axis 4 is gratis en alleen op uitnodiging. Stuur RSVP alstublieft voor 1 april 2018 naar
firstname.lastname@example.org om je hiervoor aan te melden.
Tilting Axis 2018 Programme
NLS In Podcast: A podcast on contemporary art presented by New Local Space in Kingston, Jamaica. Deborah Anzinger is in conversation with Holly Bynoe, Mario Caro and Annalee Davis, about Tilting Axis as a forum to address issues related to the visual arts sector in the Caribbean. Bynoe, Caro and Davis comprise three of five members of the core Tilting Axis team which also includes Tobias Ostrander and Natalie Urquhart.
Tilting Axis 3: Curating the Caribbean (May 18 -20, 2017) builds on discourses begun at the inaugural 2015 meeting held in Barbados followed by the second iteration in Miami in 2016. This third convening at the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands (NGCI), is inspired by the Latin root of the word, “curare” meaning to take care. TA 3 asks how artist led initiatives, institutions, and government cultural departments among others in the Caribbean are nurturing the visual arts sector through exhibitions, residencies, programming, arts education and cultural policy? The conference will explore forward thinking models actively demonstrating how the Caribbean’s fragile arts ecology is being enriched, provoked and buttressed, through a curatorial lens by professionals both in and out of the archipelago.
Venue: National Gallery of the Cayman Islands (NGCI)
Date: May 18 - 20, 2017
Tilting Axis 3 is free of charge and by invitation only.
Please RSVP by February 28, 2017 to confirm your interest in attending at email@example.com
Learn more about the event here.
Kingston-based curator Nicole Smythe-Johnson has been selected for this year’s Tilting Axis curatorial fellowship.
Smythe-Johnson is a writer and independent curator, who has written for ARC magazine, Miami Rail, Flash Art, Jamaica Journal and a number of other local and international publications. She is currently Assistant Curator on an upcoming exhibition of the work of Jamaican painter John Dunkley at the Perez Art Museum in Miami. She is also working on an Institute of Jamaica publication looking at Jamaica’s National Collection.
The curatorial fellowship is a direct outcome of the Tilting Axis meetings in 2015 at Fresh Milk in Barbados and in 2016 at the Pérez Art Museum Miami. Scotland based cultural partners CCA Glasgow, David Dale Gallery, Hospitalfield and curatorial collective Mother Tongue produced a structural long-term fellowship for an emerging contemporary art practitioner living and working in the Caribbean.
This new fellowship opportunity focuses on the development of pragmatic and critical curatorial development hailing from the Caribbean region, and is research and practice-led, and mentor-based. Designed as a year-long programme between the Caribbean region and Scotland, it offers support for critical development of curatorial practice and gives a practical base in the partner institutions with visits to Scotland and throughout the Caribbean.
During the fellowship, Smythe-Johnson will travel to Scotland in November, and will also undertake research visits to Suriname, Barbados, Cuba and Grenada. Smythe-Johnson said: “I am very excited about the fellowship. I attended the Tilting Axis conference this year in Miami and really savoured the opportunity to meet other arts professionals and hear about other institutions in the Caribbean region. I love my island, but island life can be isolating and there is a real temptation toward the insular. This fellowship then, is the perfect opportunity to build on the connections I made at TA 2016, and get some answers to the questions that came out of that experience. I can't wait to jump in with both feet, starting with Glasgow.”
David Codling, Director of Arts for the Americas, British Council said: “In so many ways which are often overlooked, the Caribbean is the epicentre of the Americas: for better or worse Europe’s involvement with what it called the “New World” began in the Caribbean and for many European countries, including the four nations of the UK, our relationship with the Caribbean is deep, intense and complex. The British Council is proud to support and to be associated with the Tilting Axis Curatorial Fellowship which offers an opportunity to explore and understand that relationship and to promote new conversations.”
Holly Bynoe, co-founder, Tilting Axis said: “In keeping with the notion of tilting the axis which refers to the re-focusing of our gaze and harnessing our collective power to make the visual arts sector more sustainable in ways that resonate with our lived realities in the Caribbean, the introduction of the Tilting Axis Curatorial Fellowship is one example of how this might happen. Tilting Axis 2: Caribbean Strategies made significant strides in its aims to fortify networks and extend the reach of the arts throughout the Caribbean, with its partners in the Global North. I am delighted that the inaugural fellow is Nicole Smythe-Johnson and eagerly anticipate what will come of her research across the Dutch, Spanish, and Anglophone Caribbean, concluding in what I am sure will be a rich and stimulating experience in Scotland.”
The fellowship is in partnership with CCA Glasgow, David Dale Gallery and Studios, Hospitalfield, Mother Tongue and Tilting Axis. Supported by British Council Scotland.
For more information, images or interviews, please contact Julie Cathcart, Communications Manager, CCA – firstname.lastname@example.org / 0141 352 4911.
About Nicole Smythe-Johnson:
Nicole Smythe-Johnson is a writer and independent curator, living in Kingston, Jamaica. She has written for ARC magazine, Miami Rail, Flash Art, Jamaica Journal and a number of other local and international publications. She is currently Assistant Curator on an upcoming exhibition of the work of Jamaican painter John Dunkley at the Perez Art Museum in Miami. She is also working on an Institute of Jamaica publication looking at Jamaica’s National Collection. nicolesmythejohnson.com
The Centre for Contemporary Arts is Glasgow’s hub for the arts. The building is steeped in history and the organisation has played a key role in the cultural life of the city for decades. CCA’s year-round programme includes cutting-edge exhibitions, film, music, literature, spoken word, festivals, Gaelic language events and performance. CCA also provides residencies for artists in the on-site Creative Lab space, as well as working internationally on residencies with Palestine, the Caribbean and Quebec. CCA curates six major exhibitions a year, presenting national and international contemporary artists, and is home to Intermedia Gallery showcasing emerging artists. cca-glasgow.com
About Fresh Milk:
The Fresh Milk Art Platform Inc. is a Caribbean non-profit, artist-led, inter-disciplinary organisation that supports creatives and promotes wise social, economic, and environmental stewardship through creative engagement with society and by cultivating excellence in the arts. Fresh Milk spans creative disciplines, generations, and linguistic territories in the Caribbean by functioning as a cultural lab, thriving as a dynamic space for artists through local, regional, and international programming including residencies, lectures, screenings, workshops and projects. We aspire to be a sustainable organization contributing to a healthy cultural ecosystem. freshmilkbarbados.com
Dedicated to contemporary art and ideas Hospitalfield is a place to work, study, learn, visit and enjoy. Hospitalfield is an artist’s house in Arbroath, on the east coast of Scotland, with a captivating cultural and social history that spans many hundreds of years. The contemporary arts programme is anchored in the visual art yet encourages interdisciplinarity, supporting the production of new work and providing space for debate and learning through residencies, a summer school and four public projects with new commissions each year. The organisation maintains strong national and international working partnerships with the aim of making Hospitalfield a meeting place and cultural catalyst in the working lives of artists, students and creative professionals in Scotland and far beyond. hospitalfield.org.uk
About Mother Tongue:
Mother Tongue is a research-led, independent curatorial practice formed by Tiffany Boyle and Jessica Carden. Since 2009, they have produced exhibitions, screening programmes, discursive events, essays and texts, working in partnership with galleries, museums, festivals, and publishers. Mother Tongue's practice in exhibition-making intersects with research interests – including, but not limited to – post-colonialism, language, translation, heritage, identities, indigenousness, migration, and movement. They are currently researching the presence, work and exhibition histories of artists of colour in Scotland, working towards a future 'AfroScots' exhibition project. mothertongue.se
About Tilting Axis:
Tilting Axis is a roving project conceptualised by ARC Magazine and the Fresh Milk Art Platform Inc. The first iteration was hosted at Fresh Milk in Barbados in February 2015 under the banner Tilting Axis: Within and Beyond the Caribbean | Shifting Models of Sustainability and Connectivity. Tilting Axis 2.0 was hosted by the Pérez Art Museum Miami in February 2016. This meeting explored the current state of cultural work in the Caribbean, and aimed to fortify networks, increase administrative and programming capacities, as well as transfer knowledge and funding opportunities to those working in the region. The Tilting Axis Emerging Curatorial Fellowship developed out of the second iteration and the next edition of the meeting is slated to take place in April 2017, hosted by the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands (NGCI). tiltingaxis.org
About The British Council:
The British Council is the United Kingdom’s international organisation for cultural relations. The British Council creates international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and builds trust between them worldwide. We call this cultural relations. We build trust and understanding for the UK to create a safer and more prosperous world. In terms of our reach and impact, we are the world’s leading cultural relations organisation. Cultural relations is a component of international relations which focuses on developing people-to-people links and complements government-to-people and government-to-government contact. We use English, Arts, and Education and Society – the best of the UK’s great cultural assets – to bring people together and to attract partners to working with the UK. The British Council has over 7,000 staff working in 191 offices in 110 countries and territories. britishcouncil.org