Here is the latest Q&A conversation between Marsha Pearce and Barbados-based artist Annalee Davis. It is part of the series Q&A Quarantine and Art [also see previous post Q&A Quarantine and Art.] Here are excerpts of the conversation. For full interview and photos of Davis’s work, go to Q&A: In This New World.
[. . .] Marsha Pearce: Your practice involves your engagement with a former plantation in Barbados, which is the site where you live and work. You have been looking at the growth of wild plants there as a process of decolonising former sugar cane fields. Tell me about your Wild Plant series, which will soon be displayed as part of your first solo exhibition in the UK.
Annalee Davis: This 2016 series of drawings functions as graphic interventions into 1970s ledger pages – the substrate designed to log economic activity on the plantation. Data entered into ledger pages comprised registering wages, field activity and rent rolls as well as measuring rainfall and the signing out of agricultural implements to plantation labourers. Some years ago, I found hundreds of ledger pages on the floor of an abandoned bookkeeper’s office on the sugar plantation where I grew up – frogs and lizards were running over them. My family had not lived there for more than 25 years. I recognised my mother’s handwriting in some of the columns along with several names of men and women who worked on the plantation in the 70s and 80s.
I came across wild plants while walking in former sugar cane fields and have come to think of them as active agents in the process of decolonising the fields, performing a quiet revolution in the soil by asserting themselves against an imperial, monocrop landscape. Taught to see them as unwanted weeds in the furrows of sugar cane fields and often removed by pesticides, I unlearned that way of thinking and began to understand their value in offering biodiversity to the land along with their historic use for bush teas, baths and medicine.
Collecting, pressing and drawing these wild plants, complicates the single economic story written in these plantation ledger pages, acknowledging their medicinal properties and earlier use as an apothecary by those who were enslaved and laboured on the plantation. I thought that my drawing these wild plants onto these found ledger pages might offer alternate ways of reading the site while countering the daily logging of economic activity.
This is one of four works I’ll be showing in the gallery at Haarlem Artspace while simultaneously participating in their virtual project Haarlem Periodical along with UK artists Feral Practice, Deirdre O’Mahony and Pauline Woolley. [. . .]
For full interview, see http://marshapearce.com/qanda/in-this-new-world/?
[Photo of Annalee Davis by Daniel Christaldi.]