Reflecting on Tilting Axis 3

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Katherine Kennedy and Natalie McGuire share their perspectives

FOLLOWING the conclusion of Tilting Axis 3 and my subsequent engagement with Kerri Anne Chisholm and Jessica Ebanks (both from the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands) a few weeks ago, I extended an invitation to Katherine Kennedy and Natalie McGuire to join the platform to discuss their participation in the conference as two young art professionals living and working in Barbados, the birth place of the conference.

Kennedy has been involved with Tilting Axis from its inception in 2015, working for two of the core-partner institutions as the Communications and Operations Manager at The Fresh Milk Art Platform in Barbados, and Editor and Assistant to Director at ARC Magazine of contemporary Caribbean art. McGuire, on the other hand, has worked closely alongside the Fresh Milk Art Platform since its launch in 2011 and became actively engaged in Tilting Axis during its second iteration in February of 2016.

Dominique Hunter: In your opinion what is the value of an initiative like Tilting Axis from an individual and/or a collective perspective?

Natalie McGuire: The ethos of TA is geared towards connectivity, which in a region where travel between islands is difficult, provides an awesome space to share best practices. This is immensely valuable, because you feel like there’s a group of people who understand and encourage you and your work.

Katherine Kennedy: Having grown with the conference over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing these new connections form between creative practitioners from around the region and further [sic] afield, with new people joining the network with each iteration. I think it is these affinities, both on a personal level and from the perspective of running arts initiatives in the Caribbean, that offer the most value. It’s rewarding to see this community in action.

DH: Going into this year’s conference, what were some of the larger concerns you were hoping would be addressed, given that the theme was Curating the Caribbean?

KK: I think the title ‘Curating in the Caribbean’ made me think about a so-called ‘Caribbean aesthetic’, and how we can challenge that notion of having to fit a particular mode or image in our work. The diversity of work and initiatives presented this year showed the richness and variety of the region and how we curate our own narratives through the arts and community engagement.

NM: For me curatorial practice cannot be separate from the communities we engage with, so I was hoping that one of the things addressed would be a broader exploration of inclusive frameworks with communities at the centre. It was great to see how different curators and artists incorporate community voice in their work through the conference presentations.

DH: In what ways did the discussions that grew out of those presentations influence how you consider the work that you do, whether in a curatorial or administrative capacity?

NM: Learning about the various approaches to projects and talking with each other about our work expanded my understanding of the capacity of things, such as resources available throughout the region.

KK: This way of sharing experiences and exposing one another to practices across the region and diaspora, which may previously not have been in direct contact or discussion with one another, opened the doors to possible collaborative opportunities. I think these collaborations often develop individually outside of the context of Tilting Axis, which in turn will influence the scope of programming that is implemented through spaces like Fresh Milk and ARC. To me, it was a chance for some to expand certain outlooks, acting as somewhat of a springboard for work to come.

DH: In a previous interview with Kerri Anne Chisholm (Assistant Curator) and Jessica Ebanks (Education Intern) from the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands, they both spoke about discovering interesting connections between neighbouring islands and how those connections provided a clearer understanding of our shared histories within the region. Was there any moment where you could identify common triumphs or challenges between Barbados and the Cayman Islands, whether it was models for creative sustainability, arts programming, access to funding and resources, (non) engagement/support from government etc.?

KK: My knowledge of the Cayman Islands is actually very limited; I’ve never been there before, and confess to not knowing a great deal about its history or current climate. However from my short time there, I was very impressed by the work being done by the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands. Although there are many similar struggles that cultural platforms share in this region, Barbados and many other islands are facing the challenge of not having a National Gallery, and I could see the positive impact this space had even from my brief stay.

NM: Like Katherine, I am also unfamiliar with the Cayman Islands and structural elements in their art resources. But yes, my interpretation through encountering the quality of programming and exhibits that the National Gallery there is imperative to the sustainability of [the] arts.

DH: I’m sure there might have been many, but could you single out the most rewarding experience of the conference for you?

KK: Although all of the panelists were extremely informative, I think the third panel titled ‘Curating the Archive’ which featured talks by Dr. Eddie Chambers (Professor of Art and Art History at the University of Texas, Austin) Tiffany Boyle (Curator and Co-Founder of Mother Tongue, Scotland) and Miguel Lopez (Chief Curator of TEOR/eTica in San Jose, Costa Rica) stood out to me the most. I really enjoyed the different ways each of them addressed the unearthing of histories and the importance of having free and fair access to these archives are for the communities they are connected with.

NM: For me the break-out session on the third day of the conference was the most rewarding, as I was in a group that brainstormed best practices around curating for / with communities. This is one of the best aspects of TA, as although it is great to hear about everyone’s work through the panels, the dedicated discourse sessions to plan action around shared practice is invaluable.

Katherine Kennedy is an artist and writer. She graduated from Lancaster University, UK with a degree in Creative Arts (First Class Hons.), where her combined major of Fine Art and Creative Writing helped develop her keen interests in both visual and literary pursuits. She has won multiple awards for her artwork and writing in her home Barbados, and has exhibited locally, regionally and internationally. She currently works for ARC Magazine of contemporary Caribbean art as an Editor and the Assistant to Director, as well as for the Fresh Milk Art Platform in Barbados as the Communications and Operations Manager.
Kennedy has undertaken projects and residencies at the Instituto Buena Bista (IBB), Curaçao (2012); The Vermont Studio Center, USA (2013); Casa Tomada, Sao Paulo, Brazil (2013); and Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart, Germany on a fellowship awarded by ResArtis (2014). In 2015, she received Honourable Mention in the inaugural Alice Yard Prize for Art Writing competition. Kennedy also co-managed and participated in Caribbean Linked IV (2016) at Ateliers ’89 in Aruba, where she was one the exhibiting artists from around the region.

Natalie McGuire is a Barbadian curator and art writer whose main focus of work is community-driven critical discourse in the arts, through repositioning frameworks of writing on Caribbean art, as well as digitally housed creative exchange projects. McGuire received a BA in Art History at the University of Leicester (2010) and an MA in Museums and Cultural Heritage at the University of Auckland (2013). She is currently a PhD candidate in Cultural Studies at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill, with a research focus on museums and artist-led initiatives in the Anglophone Caribbean as facilitators of community agency.

As Manager of Gallery NuEdge from 2015 to 2017, she has curated exhibitions including Quaternary: Four Barbadian Female Artists (July 2016). As Guest Curator at the Barbados Museum, she has created the community-centered digital map project Barbados Beyond Boundaries, and contributed to digital programming. Working along with the Fresh Milk Art Platform she co-developed Transoceanic Visual Exchange, a film project of which the 2015 iteration was between the Caribbean, Africa, and New Zealand (Aotearoa).

In 2015 McGuire was the art writer in residence for Caribbean Linked III. She has contributed articles for ARC Magazine, AICA SC, MOKO Magazine, Caribbean Beat, as well as artist exhibition catalogues. McGuire has also presented papers at Small Axe’s The Caribbean Digital symposium (2014) and Otago University’s Space, Race and Bodies conference (2014).

Tilting Axis 3 opened on May 18 and continued until May 20, 2017. The three-day conference was hosted by the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands and organised by ARC Inc., Fresh Milk Art Platform Inc. Members of its core committee included Holly Bynoe, Annalee Davis, Tobias Ostrander, Mario Caro and Natalie Urquhart. Sponsors of the event included Res Artis, Perez Art Museum Miami, the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands, the British Council, Davidoff Art Initiative, and Susan Olde, OBE.