A report by Thomas Hine for The Philadelphia Inquirer.
The first thing we see in the video is tourists milling, cow-like on a beach, wearing ill-considered swimwear and working on their burns. Airplanes are landing and taking off at a nearby airport. We are on Maho Beach on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin.
Suddenly, the scene changes as an airplane flies very low, sending a blast to the ground that scatters belongings and turns the beach into a Sahara-like sandstorm. In slow motion, we see a tropical idyll become an ordeal.
This video, Jet Blast (2015) by René Emil Bergsma, born in Curaçao in 1959, is among the works of 50 different artists from the region featured in “Relational Undercurrents: Contemporary Art in the Caribbean Archipelago.” The show is on exhibit at the Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington through Sept. 8.
For many people, this combination of beach and airport is all they ask or expect from the Caribbean. For some, the islands are verdant little Edens, full of flowers and mountains, and yes, beaches. Others choose to see an array of backward and failed places, filled with corruption, witchcraft, and crime.
Works by the 50 or so artists in the show allude to all these outsiders’ perspectives. But its great value is that it invites us to see as islanders see, with engaging and surprising paintings, photographs, videos, and installations.