Haben: To reveal a reality not lived by the masses

Interestingly in our last session we met a variety of personalities and art styles from several different acquaintances that came to visit Chris Cozier's studio. It was the perfect mix across geography-talents-ethnicities and works. It showed me the Caribbean interconnectedness that exists among the artworld. This symbolizes the power in relationships whether among artists-activists or what have you.

How can I relate this and several of my experiences to our final presentation? Well for starters my incorporation of social activism and interpersonal relationships within this presentation- via my vocal performance/small painting as as part of the cultural headdress for Mother Mas.(Thus depicting a scenario or conflict I wish to address through community art)

Furthermore I spoke about my concerns for the Trinidadian youth to Sean Leonard- in terms of incorporating them into the use of Alice Yard and somehow extending an invitation to them. Allowing not only the 'elite' to take part in what Alice Yard has to offer but sharing that with the community at large despite generational differences. My piece celebrates activism through a call for social responsibility that every individual must uphold.

To reveal a reality not lived by the masses.

thea: and construction begins

Friday I went to Alice Yard with my big bag of "trash". I really just wanted to store stuff there (to prevent future cleaning lady debacles) but once I arrived I took everything out and looked at it. this is what I have:
-the parsed pieces of a store-able Christmas tree which includes 2 wooden dowels, many wire branches (silver and green), green plastic ribbon, nylon thread, the cardboard box it came in
-4 pieces of a mirror frame, plus bits of broken mirror
-1 t-shirt
-1 space blanket
-1 piece cardboard
-1 broken cable wire
-4 PTS leg extenders
-DVD player (which will be broken down for parts)
-1 sailor mas hat
-cardboard mas props (including a quiver with bow and arrows, a shield, a large Huguenot cross, a celtic eternity symbol, and a feathered head band)
-1 pair broken sunglasses
-1 calender
-9 phone cards
-items junk mail

the spirit struck and I began to work with what I had, no tools, tape glue, anything. What I ended up coming up with was a standard for Haben to carry involving the dowels, some green ribbon, and a chain of wire branches twisted into loops. its kind of the first expressed thought that my trash has produced. I don't know if this will even make it into the final piece but it felt good to just do. Just produce something, make it real in a way.

Busy day in the studio 24/03/09

Digital moment on an island. I was just too caught up to go for my camera and opted for cell phone images. Discussions about Haben & Thea's submitted mid-term papers and about the structuring of the final presentations began but things took an interesting turn. So here goes:

Marcel Pinas in studio
Digital Moment.

Everyone was on the net. Marcel Pinas, artist from Suriname, passed through, for the day, on his way to the Havana Biennial. Pinas talked about the symbolism in his work and about Maroon culture and contemporary art practice. Nicole Awai, Trinidadian artist who lives in New York, but now teaches in Chicago, but was sitting in a cafe in Brooklyn, called on Skype and opened a discussion with Haben and Thea about business culture in Trinidad and the challenges of working in Port of Spain and New York.

Marcel, Thea and Haben
Marcel, Thea and Haben

studio 23/03/09
Natalie, Thea and Haben

Natalie Wei, artist and researcher from Toronto, doing Post graduate work at UWI, stopped by to drop off "Chinese Restaurants" a 15 part work about that subject in different countries around the world. Further conversations about walking the streets as women while contending with sexual and ethnic labeling /evaluations /commentaries came up. Will this evolve into a work or study of some kind?

studio 23/03/09
Lunch got going and Sean Leonard stopped in with Nicholas Laughlin with some copies of the Caribbean Review of Books for Havana. They took Marcel Pinas to have a look at Alice Yard. He has a few ideas for June. Natalie's friend Matt, in the foreground, who is also passing through, was busy with some curry, wondering where he would encounter a good surfing wave in Tobago the following day.

Nicholas  and group
Nicholas Laughlin's mind on work to be done back home. My mind was on what caused so many people and energies to pass through my studio. It was a lively and informative moment.

Haben:Freeing Up

Our conversation with Sean Leonard sparked a new momentum and focus to our project. The idea to collaborate was strengthened by this and out of that exchange, the idea of live art( specifically the 'quilted skirt' concept was created). Meaning that the creation of a patchwork of experience and understandings, given our observer-student status in Trinidad is what will be represented through this project. Combining 'the trash' with the social issues of this country and the world at large is a cause for dialogue and debate that we also hope to encourage. The concept of playing mas, and incorporating this festival-like vibe can demonstrate the 'freeing up' of ones society(mind, body, spirit, etc). In my daily routine of meeting new people of different personalities I am reminded of the need to keep this project relational, to keep it ‘circling’ among us all in a sense.

Meeting with Susan Nunez and hearing her family stories and how relationships inspire her artwork left an impression on me. In Susan’s share of historic memory with us I was inspired to incorporate vocals as part of this ‘mas’. This is a way to incorporate MYSELF into this freeing up. It was refreshing to see her artwork as well, for someone who has not had extensive art schooling she has developed a style that is all her own. From the choice of color scheme to the chosen screen images- it is all a reflection of her own vibrancy, personality and experience. At the same time her work is relational, people despite geography can understand it. Thus creating a theme that is global, that is relational is most important.

thea:keepin' on keepin' on

I have been having trouble wrapping my mind around my project recently. I have experienced a set back, that is true, but I don't even think that that is the problem. My main issue is that I want to change the definition of found. It's not just about trash anymore. It's about the materials that surround me, not just the disposable ones and how they can be the brush strokes in the painting that will be Haben's mas. i am viewing objects in a whole new way. like a hungry cartoon caracter goes around and everything looks like a chicken leg, I go around and everything looks like a thing that I could use. I mentally attach it to the final piece. Like for instance, I have a space blanket. It looks like gold foil on one side and aluminum foil on the otherside. It was bought for me by my mother as a joke, not as a practical blanket. I dont even know why I brought it with me, it is a survival tool in a cold place or after a marathon, I would not necessarily ever use it practically. It serves little to no purpose in my life now but when i look at it, i see it as a pleated skirt, shining in the moon light or stretched over a wire frame to make a stunning head dress. It is not trash, it is mine, but it will be in my final piece. One of my professors has indformed me that she will be bringing me a defunct DVD player for me to take apart and use as interesting bits. many of my friends have been giving me their used phone cards which I know I will be able to use (see previous post on phone cards).
There is a different sort of serendipity about this work now than there was before. Now its more about what I can get my hands on and less about rules and regualtions to live by, less about the stress i feel picking up garbage by the side of the road. Its no longer about the push and the pain but about the art I love, to see how I can make the best possible mas out of whatever I have available. I owe that to Haben and myself. Each step I take feels like a step in the right direction, and so long as I feel that way I will continue on.

thea: the trouble with trash is...

...it looks like trash. And the greatest enemy of trash? Cleaning ladies. Do you see where I am going with this?
The long and the short of it is that with the exception of the umbrella and the fan propeller, which I had left in the yard by accident, the program house cleaning ladies threw out everything I had collected so far despite the large orange "NOT TRASH" sign that lay on top of all of it. If you will bear with a small tangent right now, the label NOT TRASH is actually one that found me. Last year I was working in a studio with a few other students and doing a project that had a found art component and one day I came in to find all of my stuff which had been spread over a work table, piled in a corner with a piece of balsa wood on top on which was scrawled "NOT TRASH". I still don't know who wrote it but I really appreciated the gesture and I liked how the things had been piled defensively, so much so that I ended up using many of the elements in my final piece that had occurred accidentally in the pile. Since then "NOT TRASH" had become sort of a calling card for my work, something that whoever I am living with knows to avoid, and up til now, it had worked.
So now it's time to recoup. In order to recover in quantity what I have lost, I have asked my housemates to be on the look out for junk that they themselves are throwing out, salvaging it before it hits the can, rather than after wards. Thankfully, given the nature of our new plan, this is possible without violating the inherent truth of my project. It is no longer about the individual objects but about the symbolism as a whole. Lets see where we can go from here.

thea: phone cards

More Phone Cards
Originally uploaded by Thea Button
The whole process of phone cards in Trinidad is symbolic of something far greater than the simple ability to call down the road. In the states i have a phone plan, I pay it monthly, I have an agreement with the phone company to be a customer and they agree to keep my service running 24/7. this involves complicated legal contracts that bind me to them for two or more years and can be slightly problematic when they dont provide the quality of service I am expecting, But at the end of the day, my phone calls out when i need it to and i dont really have to pay that much attention to it. Here however, I need to continuously buy phone cards, running from one to the next, discovering, as I have, late at night, that I have run through all of my minutes and still need to make calls but unable to obtain more minutes. It is such a tenuous agreement, no long term security, no cushy convenience of a once a month bill. It is momentary, living in this minute rather than the next, no future plan, simply a call, right here, right now.
It is the same concept that "liming" follows: what I am doing right here, right now, supersedes everything else in importance. It is a moment to moment experience, more raw and in touch but also more haphazard, pieced together.
Given this analysis of phone card use as a small replica of society as a whole, I think they will play some role in the final product, small and insignificant, used up, useless, but somehow added together to mean something more. Thats the whole idea, right?

thea: the new angle

As Haben mentioned below, we have some new ideas going on. Our separate projects have been slowly edging together and now we are beginning to think in a truly collaborative manner. Drawing on what we have learned in Trinidad and upon our own personal capabilities we are now leaning toward "playing mas" as a way to convey what it is we are trying to say. By creating a traditional masquerade costume (in the style of kings and queens rather than beads and bikini) and making this mas out of the found objects, it gives life to sculpture and provides a costume for performance. By embracing the actual space of Alice Yard, we have been playing with ideas of stage vs audience and concepts of emergence and rebirth. Mas is all about identity, bringing out some part of yourself, long hidden by lack of self awarness or simple constraints of society. As students we play one role, that of observer and absorber, but our time in Trinidad and the other places around the world in which we have chosen to study, have forced us to bring something else to the table, forced us to participate in things that we otherwise would simply have studied and whether we were expecting it or not, these experiences have changed us and we have been forced to look at ourselves and our own identities in the same studious way in which we usually look at the identities of others. This project has always been about our perspective on Trinidad, bringing ourselves into a new place and seeing what we can get out of it but now it seems as though we will be entwineing even more of ourselves into it. It's a risk but one that will no doubt be fun and interesting. Stay tuned.

Haben: Brief Update

Our recent meeting ended up catipulting us into a new world of ideas and energy. Collaboration of sorts is really becoming a great focus for us. We are finding interconnecting links between our projects/environment and space that are working.

I am still working on sketces and now applying color to them. The focus being a female character with a flowing skirt(embodying Trinidad)and its history is where the piece can start. I believe the sketch will lead us closer to the finished product, aiming towards a more live display and presentation. Combining found art, performance and paints to blend our experiences and lessons. This theme will be explained in greater detail in a later post.