Entangled Species. Conversations on Contemporary Art in the Caribbean.
This publication is the result of a fifteen-month research project, mapping out the available infrastructure for Contemporary Art in the Caribbean by Sasha Dees. Over the period from November 2017 to May 2019, she visited Anguilla, Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados, Curacao, Cuba, Haiti, the Cayman Islands, the US Virgin Islands, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Sint Maarten, Saint Martin, Trinidad & Tobago, and Suriname. During this period, she interviewed over 800 artists and art professionals, resulting in 3000 hours of recordings.
The book begins with a chapter that gives the reader a general idea of the region today and continues with chapters that reflect the infrastructure of the arts and the art marketplace: Education, The economy of art, Galleries, Project Spaces and Residencies, Museums, Biennales, and Funding. While Dees refrains from writing about individual art practices, the book includes a 50-page selection of artwork made by artists working and living within the conversations of Contemporary Art in the Caribbean.
A sort of Lonely Planet for Contemporary Art in the Caribbean, the publication mixes a travel book and toolkit. As she travels and engages with artists, Dees reflects on her own path to a career in the arts—what she did, what she wondered about, and who she met—giving the reader a sense of who she is and why she is a reliable voice on the subject. She selected quotes from the transcripts of the interviews that reflected issues relevant to her, with the goal of encouraging a continuous discourse. The many anecdotes and conversations with artists and art professionals included in the book are engaging and draw us into her journey.
“I traveled to Curacao for the first time with a friend visiting her family three decades ago. It quickly disabused my naive idea that I would naturally blend into its culture. Understanding the language, dancing to the music from Curacao, and eating the island’s traditional dish funchi (similar to polenta) with Caribbean friends in the Netherlands were not enough preparation. The deep memory of my experience of culture shock is still part of me, even now.”
Her perspective being uniquely hers, she leaves the reader enough room for their own interpretation, to start a dialogue that can open us to greater insight over time, rather than offering conclusions set in stone. She generously shares information, failures and successes, tips, and “do’s and don’ts,” useful not only for people in the Caribbean but for those working in Contemporary Art, in general. Each chapter includes a contact list for the artists and institutions she visited, as well as a list of relevant publications, recommended to her throughout her career, that has given her insight into the Caribbean and Contemporary Art. There is also a glossary of (art) terms used in the book.
This engaging travel book through contemporary art from the writer’s unique perspective rather than claiming expert objectivity sets the publication apart from available academic publications. At the same time, the toolkit gives direct access to the art community in the Caribbean, making this book a must-have for both art professionals and general readers interested in being introduced to Contemporary Art and the Caribbean.
Research and publication are in part made possible by Mondriaanfonds.
Book available: December 2021
Publisher: Art Agent Orange, Rotterdam