Culture is all about crossing the streams. Hybrids give me hope.
— Nayland Blake

I. Currents

Over the last four years as my work has deepened across the creative space of the Caribbean, it became imperative and essential for the disparate networks in existence to find some form of cohesion, to fortify efforts and move as one solid unit to execute a plan to greet the 21st century with and in hope.

My compatriots Annalee Davis and Katherine Kennedy hold a similar vision and belief in the birth of this innovative future for creatives. We decided in 2012 that our spirits weren’t going to be broken we were coming to a boiling point with coordination, grant writing, funding and the development of sustainable measures, given the absurd hoops that we have to maneuver through to access grant funding from international organizations. With the belief that things could change (things have changed/are changing) and that we could develop a model to revise healthy practices through thorough assessment and by living and doing it, the small seed of Tilting Axis was born.

Months later with several grant rejections under our belt, but with renewed commitment due to the addition of core partners, the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) and Videobrasil, we started to ascertain what kind of event/programming/dialogues could make this idea/action possible. After 18 months, Tilting Axis emerged as an opportunity for us to start thinking about proactive ways to combat the failure of our national states and regional policies. The gaps that exist in our current domestic and regional infrastructure is tantamount to the doctrines and supporting policies that were set up during the postcolonial era as each nation state tried to understand their independence and the development of singular and sometimes unique national narrative. Forty to sixty years later, we see that the resources and habits created have become the barriers and blockades that we need to eradicate.

Our creative ecologies developed within vacuums, and as we have worked to combat the current methodologies, Tilting Axis, became a space for us to think about a new type of operational freedom; to act, critically engage outwardly and to safely dream, project and conjure within. There was no need to reinvent the wheel, and as we continued to refine the model, the project started to feel possible, a real avenue for those who often times seem obscure/irrelevant/undervalued, largely working with futility.


II. Environ: Space is the Place

Tilting Axis ‘the event’ happened like whiplash, and was truly a blur. Professionals congregated; friends, colleagues and strangers alike. It was obvious from the get-go that the administrative structure dictated a kind of professional and practical support, so its participants didn't show up to attend a ‘parachuting’ event or to ‘lime’ or to just kick back and enjoy the tropics. They showed up to work, to engage and to give great care and critical support to the intended agenda and action plan.

It felt as it was coalescing that it was a space of security, democracy and for the first time to have an open discussion about our shared and individual professional histories; a safe space to revisit trauma and an area for possible healing.

It felt like a ripe moment; fertile and candid.

Participants shared carefully and cautiously about the practical measures that were put forward, including educational initiatives and collaborations, programming and curatorial exchanges, the development of scholarship and research materials, and the press machine that will distribute and broadcast the changing face of Caribbean art to itself and to the world. They spoke willingly about the challenges and frustrations of their individual locales, failed and successful contingency plans and about the necessity for all parties involved to have and make the kind of commitment that would propel deliverables forward. At times, it felt like a privileged gathering, at times vulnerable, critical, ambivalent and provocative. The shifting within the group dynamics felt fluid and organic, as most entities have been working closely or within one to two degrees of separation.

It has been hard for me to think about the aftermath due to several factors, primarily as the scope and scale of the outcomes were quite formidable, infrastructural and deeply connected with the types of sovereignty that each nation-state practices. Governance in Barbados differs from governance in The Bahamas. Somewhere between, the overseas regions (departments) that remain connected to colonial Europe are experiencing a kind of cultural closeness and financial stability by comparison, and at times dissonance from the Anglophone Caribbean. However participants, whether from the region or external to it, all had a fair grasp of what it means to live and work within creative systems that aren’t optimal.

Practically speaking, the meeting was an extremely positive, inspirational and historic moment for most of the participants . . . It was a chance to air dreams and to give them agency.

The central efforts - ensuring sustainability, developing exchanges and growing artist mobility — remain core concerns. Three months later, these issues are still quite prevalent and in most sectors they remain untouched. Tilting Axis’ role is not to eradicate but to alleviate, calm and decentralize certain pressures. 

Culture as an evolutionary stream of action within the local and regional consciousness was affected, and I am of the belief that the positive action plan and momentum gained through Tilting Axis will continue to proliferate and begin to add value and contribute to changes in our wider creative economies and ecologies.

Certain elements that were present in the language and atmosphere came with the pre-emptive understanding that:

  • Rampant cynicism has in effect kept creative professionals guarded or within splintered spaces.
  • The geographic realities and language barriers hinder/prevent true collaboration and investment within the regional creative industries.
  • Current granting and funding options reinforce colonial legacies. Independent funding organizations that operate outside of these considerations in the Caribbean are largely non-existent. The language to utilize financial assistance and the means by which we go about securing funding needs to be reconfigured. We need to consider the kind of actions that could compliment creative endeavours; this includes the successful future financing of Tilting Axis 2016-2020.
  • After 2 years of development, we were unable to wrangle the financial support needed, and within our capacity as administrative initiatives that took away from the focus that we would have been able to commit to outreach and development.
  • What does this say about our value, our networks, our collaborations and the way we consider sustainability, growth and progression?
  • How will Tilting Axis become sustainable and truly active given the limitations faced? Will it continue to be a sacrifice for the core partners to continue to give time to it and if so, what does that mean for future commitments?
  • I am cognizant that Tilting Axis can be seen internally by its administration as a way to escape creative crisis. While it is powerful, it is important to note that it is in no way a cure-all. In conjunction with everything else occurring in the region, we should take into consideration all positive developments and try to see what new organizations/professionals/creatives can be included in this conversation, to broaden our scope and strengthen our weakness.
  • Understanding that there are new targets we have yet to think about.
  • How to build relationships with politicians and philanthropists to ensure that the way forward is met with little bureaucratic hindrances.
  • As an administrative arm of Tilting Axis, it is important for us to think about economies of scale and to not make something bigger than we can manage.


III. Futures: Planting Seeds

Practically speaking, the meeting was an extremely positive, inspirational and historic moment for most of the participants. It reiterated corporeal connections and created the environment for the genesis of projects; the testing ground and think tank for spur of the moment thoughts, ideas. It was a chance to air dreams and to give them agency. Some are already taking shape, and some we have yet to understand:

Dr. Pearce’s upcoming research in Bermuda, The Cayman Islands, the Bahamas and further afield through 2016-2018 to develop ‘Caribbean Futures still rings through as one of the more practical and immediate outcomes from Tilting Axis. How this project will be incorporated into the organizational objectives still remains unknown but it is a positive motion to ascertain how a series of exhibitions, programs, talks, public works can shift the creative unconscious in the Caribbean.

The focus of several organizations — institutional and artist-led — to commit to the transfer of institutional knowledge, developing exhibitions programming and opportunities regionally and globally is a target that will be reinforced through the sustainability of Tilting Axis.

Input from international participants who have committed to the development of several educational and mentorship modules is crucial to combat the attrition rates that we see prevalent in the region. This will lead to a more professional pool of emerging artists for further development.


If we think about all of the previous meetings that have been conducted in the region in the past 10-20 years, how does Tilting Axis differ? How does it generate a language to ensure that it does not suffer the same demise or fall into trappings that similar events experienced?


It is important that we clearly understand that our internal network is powerful, and that we now have access and assistance that we did not have before such as grant writing and review of proposals by participants with experience in social and cultural development. 

After the meeting, the key points garnered were directly related to addressing the anxieties of professionals who felt excluded from the meeting. As we work to remedy that, as this exclusion was contingent on funding, we are working to refine the operational infrastructure of Tilting Axis. This will help us figure out how to move forward in a practical way, distilling our methods and sharing our operational capacities.

As we work to assess the success of the 2015 conference, how then do we tailor the 2016 iteration to show a certain kind of evolution? How will we think about our action plan, the things that we can do over the following 10-month period, and the delineation of issues that remain outside of our actions which continue to impact creative ecology, its status quo or its hopeful transformation?

If we think about all of the previous meetings that have been conducted in the region in the past 10-20 years, how does Tilting Axis differ? How does it generate a language to ensure that it does not suffer the same demise or fall into trappings that similar events experienced?

I was impressed by the dedication that was maintained through the meeting, but understand that the kind of momentum needed to generate constant forward motion will make more sense if we are able to identify an administrative head organizational body who will work to make new connections to entities who want to work with the Creative Caribbean, seek out ways to generate funding and continue to establish in the minds and the saplings of the critical mass that change is possible. As we figure out our best practices, modules and become more aware as a region that the support to secure our creative industries is possible, projects like Tilting Axis will be at the core of this transformation.

Holly Bynoe, Co-founder & Editor-in-Chief
ARC Magazine