In “The Eyes Have It: Manoeuvring the Gaze in Sheena Rose’s Island and Monster,” Adam Patterson reviews “Island and Monster,” a performance by Barbadian artist Sheena Rose (27 February 2017, Academicians’ Room at the Royal Academy of Arts, London). According to ARC magazine, “the piece investigates a number of viewpoints and tensions raised by both local and foreign expectations or assumptions, using the characters of ‘Island’ and ‘Monster’ to reckon with these conflicts.” Here are excerpts of Patterson’s “The Eyes Have It”:
Appearing in a semi-sheer black bodysuit shouldered with flowers, head dotted with googly eyes that seemed to return the audience’s gaze, Barbadian artist Sheena Rose circled the Academicians’ Room at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, performing Island and Monster.
A Bajan soliloquy uttered around feelings of alienation in returning to Barbados and shifting perceptions of the island and its inhabitants, Rose momentarily disrupted and drifted the Academician’s Room towards the Caribbean. The performance – a doubled invocation of the Island and the Monster – involved a dialogue (verging on argument) between the two characters which manifest within Rose, highlighting a conflict in how Rose (as a returning Barbadian) is perceived by the local and tourist gazes against the artist’s own self-image.
Beauty, as a concept that frames the Caribbean through the lens of paradise, was interrogated throughout Rose’s jabbing repetition, “Aren’t I beautiful?” The insistence of this question becomes rather haunting when considering the tropical expectations and desires of tourists against the Caribbean region, as well as those placed on Caribbean bodies. In this respect, the Island may become a site for cultivating touristic desire while the Monster may signify the rejection of such stereotypical notions of beauty. [. . .]