Here are excerpts from “In Conversation with Sour Grass: Creating Caribbean Connections” an interview by Hannah K. Grimmer for C& América Latina.
Sour Grass is an agency created by Annalee Davis and Holly Bynoe Young with the aim of enhancing the visibility of contemporary practitioners through processes of cross-pollination and collaboration. This year they open their third exhibition in collaboration with Kunstinstituut Melly in Rotterdam.
C& América Latina: When and where did you two meet? Where are you based?
Sour Grass: We met in 2011 when Annalee was inaugurating her artist-led initiative out of her studio, Fresh Milk, in Barbados, that included the launch of the third issue of ARC Magazine of which Holly was the co-founder and co-editor. We are currently based in Barbados (Annalee) and between Scotland and Bequia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines (Holly).
C&AL: In what context did you decide to create an agency focused on Caribbean and Diaspora artists?
SG: Over the past 12 years, we have collaborated as Fresh Milk and ARC. These included Caribbean Linked– an Aruba-based residency hosted by Ateliers ‘89 that supports the creation of work by emerging artists from all linguistic territories in the Caribbean, and Tilting Axis–an annual meeting that explores the cultivation of a healthier cultural ecosystem for the visual arts in the region. Sour Grass grew out of these efforts as an even more intimate consideration premised on slower cultural work through multi-year transnational partnerships. We wanted to contribute to the expansion of Caribbean art communities, while reflecting on the specifics of this particular geopolitical context. We also felt ready to expand our work with cultural institutions that share similar principles.
C&AL: What is your perception of the cultural and artistic sector in the Caribbean?
SG: The Caribbean is a diverse region that is referred to as the West Indies, the Greater Antilles, the Lesser Antilles, the Windward Islands and the Leeward Islands. Colonized by the British, French, Spanish, and Dutch, our creolized region has been impacted by the genocide of indigenous peoples, and the aftermath of the colonial project, while struggling as one of the most indebted places in the world, dependent on the fickleness of the tourism sector.
Our perceptions of the arts are shaped by the lens of this history and by our perspective from the Global South. Only some Caribbean nations have museums and art galleries, and the sector is experiencing high levels of emigration. Artists and artist-led initiatives are ahead of state agencies that struggle to understand the value of the cultural sector outside of models such as the so-called Orange Economy (Creative Economy), which seek return on investment while ignoring the need to invest in artists.
We are also aware of the impact of the Caribbean on the diaspora and its influence in the north. The Windrush generation, for example, has shaped post-imperial Britain. Notions of the plantation scene are debated in relation to climate collapse, while thinkers such as Édouard Glissant and Antonio Benítez-Rojo have become dominant references for curators working globally. The 2021 São Paulo Biennial was inspired by Glissant’s concept of relation, while the 2023 Sharjah Biennial, influenced by Okwui Enwezor, explores processes of creolization, hybridization and decolonization – notions that the region has been articulating internally for decades. The Caribbean is expanding.
C&AL: How do you perceive diversity within the arts?
SG: The Caribbean has always been a syncretic and hybridized space. The notion of diversity is a core concern in visual arts and has wider implications for representation. Some aspects of how diversity is represented in the arts are influenced by nation-building, Blackness, feminism and gender identities.
The Caribbean is a polyphonic space but our knowledge of each other remains vulnerable to the orchestration of the geopolitics of Empire and colonialism. Diversity is implicit in the linguistics and indigeneity of the region and in the intergenerational transmission of knowledge. [. . .]
To read full interview, go to https://amlatina.contemporaryand.com/editorial/sour-grass-creating-caribbean-connections/
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Hannah K. Grimmer is a doctoral candidate in Cultural Studies. She researches the relationship between visual arts, social movements, and memory activism.
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