Sean Leonard receives Tilting Axis 2020 Fellowship


Artist Sean Leonard (Trinidad and Tobago) has been selected as the inaugural recipient of the Tilting Axis/Het Nieuwe Instituut Fellowship. The shortlisted artists included Julia Aurora Guzmán (Dominican Republic and The Netherlands), Antonio González-Walker (Puerto Rico), and Sean Leonard (Trinidad and Tobago). Here is more information from the Het Nieuwe Instituut page.

In Fall 2019, Het Nieuwe Instituut joined forces with Tilting Axis to offer a Fellowship to one mid-career or established applicant based in the Caribbean. Trinidadian architect, Sean Leonard has been selected as the inaugural recipient of the Tilting Axis /Het Nieuwe Instituut Fellowship.


The Fellowship is supported by Het Nieuwe Instituut as lead partner and host, and will include collaborations with the Amsterdam Museum, De Appel, The Black Archives and Witte de With. Between the announcement of the Open Call on September 16 and the deadline on November 17, 2019, Het Nieuwe Instituut and Tilting Axis received 11 eligible entries in response to the Open Call, from 8 territories in the Caribbean region including Barbados, Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Cuba, the Bahamas, Suriname and Puerto Rico.

All the proposals were reviewed by a committee comprised of:

Proposals were evaluated on the basis of their engagement with the theme of the Open Call, and clear interest in the areas of research/practice and organisations highlighted.

Three candidates were shortlisted and invited to a phone interview with members of the selection committee on January 11, 2020. Following the interviews, the committee selected Sean Leonard as the inaugural recipient of this Fellowship. The shortlisted candidates included Julia Aurora Guzmán (Dominican Republic and The Netherlands) and Antonio González-Walker (Puerto Rico).

General Comments

The members of the jury acknowledge the relevance and timeliness of the projects, as well as the expertise and ambition of the applicants. The set of applications showed a variety of working methodologies and media, ranging from installations, architectural designs, performances, workshops, archival research, and forms of public engagement and activism. The projects account for the creativity and power of the work developed by artists in the Caribbean.

Comments on the Selected Proposal

Based in Trinidad and Tobago, Sean Leonard will use the Fellowship to expand on one of his practice’s proposals of over a decade ago, for the sensitive occupation of one of Trinidad’s largest swamps (The Caroni Swamp), his research exercise will continue a broader exploration of the guiding questions presented by that project.

To what extent can the architectural gesture be used as commentary on the environment which it inhabits, but primarily read through the means and manner of its construction, related to qualities such as its geometry, materiality, mutability, rigidity and system of earth contact?

To what extent are the preservation and appreciation of our island wetlands actually dependent on human construction around and within them?

Guided by the above, the research fellowship will be used to facilitate the documentation of the construction and making of both spaces and things, of a maroon community on the Tapanahoni River in Suriname. This documentation will be undertaken with a bias to gain insight into the nature of the techniques and technologies of these centuries old riverine communities, as they relate to their environment in and around water and river.

It is anticipated that Leonard’s longstanding curiosity in structures that feature movement, buoyancy, mutation, reconfiguration and lightness, in conjunction with his access to the resources, facilities, programmes and network of Het Nieuwe Instituut and its collaborating organisations, will shape options and perspectives for interpreting, assimilating and representing the field documentation, for the purpose of record; both as typical document but also for the fashioning of an architectural gesture as document.

Leonard intends to capitalise on the Fellowship as a rare opportunity for accessing the preoccupations and curiosities of regional architects, both within and outside formal professional and institutional operations while occupying that zone between his architectural practice and that of art space administrator. [. . .]

For more information on the artist, see

[Photo above by Nadia Huggins.]

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