In your own words can you tell us what you do?
I am a contemporary artist from Trinidad and Tobago, who now lives and works in London, UK. My art practice considers how the body could be understood as a thing, and I use that viewpoint to examine how it might then be commoditised, assimilated, dehumanised, and objectified. I also maintain a publishing and art practice called Au Courant Studio which publishes artists books and editions alongside Au Courant Vol, which is a digital and print magazine by "Artists on Art and Life/Style."
Can you also tell us about the path you've taken to arrive at this point?
t's been a meandering path, to be sure. Currently, I am a visiting academic at Central Saint Martins (CSM) here in London, where I earned my MA; I am also the current CSM recipient of the Helen Scott Lidgett award, and I'm undertaking a yearlong residency with ACME Studios, working towards a few different shows with really amazing artists. Still, I began this whole process very, very far afield from contemporary art as a broadcast journalist, radio presenter and multimedia producer in Trinidad & Tobago working on current affairs for many, many years. I studied art throughout my early schooling and my entire family is involved in some kind of making, creative profession or performing, but solely being an artist outright was always viewed socially in Trinidad as being impractical. I just could not see a clear way to pursue art, so I cut a path for myself through a variety of experiences working across radio, TV, advertising, editing and print. It all seemed quite random at the time but now makes perfect sense, given that I use a multitude of media processes and publishing in my practice, and I grew up in a single-parent home with a mother who was a bookmaker and printer by profession. My mum was very influential; she displayed a particular finesse and dexterity in everything she did, and she was an exceptional maker. I learned at her side. She was an extremely loving but very practical kind of woman and her attitude was that problems could always be solved through thinking and making and doing. She would insist that we come up with our own solutions, and would then encourage us to implement it somehow. I would be rambling about an idea I had and she'd actually help me make it, which was quite validating for a little child. Those early moments of encouragement continue to guide my journey today.
Your art practice is very multilayered and you create works like the visual narrative film, Flight Path (2020), which premiered at the 2021 Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival. But you also create performance art, artist books, websites, works on canvas and sculptures: what does your process look like when creating these pieces?
The work usually informs the process, and I allow the particularities of the thing I am dealing with to shape how it should be made. Some stories are better told in a book format, but others need to be shaped into an experience, or an object. I deeply appreciate how art can provide space for work to exist in many different ways - there really is no one way to be an artist, or to make valid work. I'm also very interested in making artwork that can exist beyond the institutional conventions, for the same reasons. Some of my objects, especially my works-on-canvas and the themes they might invoke will be better suited to gallery interactions, but a film work like Flight Path (2020) examined the physical act of movement, and how attempts to advance oneself can sometimes be futile, based on the parameters of one's social and cultural environment. It examined the kinds of concessions involved in making societal advancements, and it depicts a pair of flight sails floating in mid-air that are never able to break free and complete their journey. The film could show well enough in a gallery, but it worked flawlessly when installed outside as a large-scale public intervention, projected on the side of a building on a main thoroughfare where the viewer could not easily escape the audio component or the visuals. A lot of what I end up doing just is sitting and waiting with the work, to better understand its nuances.
Your work often speaks about home as a construct. With this being said, are there certain rituals or practices that create a sense of ‘home’ regardless of the space, time, or location?
When people hear how many times I've moved cities and countries, they often imagine some kind of luxury world tour. What they overlook is that when you migrate by force and circumstance, particularly as a person from a tiny, post-colonial country in the Caribbean sea, you are often moving in dire circumstances and with enormous immigration complexities which leave you in a kind of stateless limbo. It is traumatic - you cannot settle anywhere and you belong nowhere. You cannot 'put down roots' as it were, and returning to your country is a complexity of another kind. Home must then become something flexible and personal - something not dependent on four walls or a nationality. For me, home is love, food, warmth and good music, and being in a safe space with my husband and our kids. It's having a massive pile of independent magazines and books to read, or having a space to make my work in peace. Or being able to commune with the farmers at markets, especially those who know about Trinidadian produce, or the ones that don't have a clue about dasheen bush, chennettes or pommecythere, but will happily tell you about how you could use rhubarb, parsnips and celeriac instead. It's having a forest or heath nearby for a proper, long walk in the woods. And it's returning to the beach! I am a Caribbean woman, through and through, and I am always ready to be at a hot, sandy beach.
Your works also speak to the role of place in your life. Is there somewhere you wish to return to?
I do occasionally reminisce about the years when I had finally decided to migrate from Trinidad and was living in Manhattan's West Village. My husband and I were broke in the New York way; we survived by eating $1.00 pizza slices from a pizzeria on University Place, and Gray's Papaya hot-dogs, even throughout their salmonella outbreak. We'd go to the free Saturday party nights at the Brooklyn Museum for entertainment - there was a splendid exhibit of The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago installed one year, and we wandered into the opening of Elisabeth Peyton's epic Live Forever exhibit at the New Museum on a lark. Every summer, we'd party under the wild installations at MoMA's PS1, and then bar crawl with other, equally impoverished friends on St. Marks. I used to work at the New York City ballet in their telemarketing suite and once, I convinced a guy who was listed as "opera singer" to buy season tickets. Afterwards, when I got his information to order the passes, we realised it was actually Luciano Parvarotti. I also had the great fortune to train at the Museum of Art and Design (MAD) alongside then-exhibitions curator, Lowery Stokes-Sims as a curatorial research intern for sometime, and she set me to work on what would become a landmark exhibit, The Global Africa Project. I met many, many good artist friends through MAD. Neither my husband nor myself could ride bikes at the time, so we'd go to Governor's Island in the spring and use the free bike hire for hours; we'd jump on the ferry at Battery Park then go to the far side of the island where nobody would see our misery, and together, we figured out how to cycle. We are both academics and spent our days in lost in research, the city, and each other as we tried to make sense of how to pursue our dreams during what turned out to be a massive recession. The city was also exceptionally bleak at that time - everything was shut or was shutting down, and the energy of the place was wild, dark, and dangerous. I often felt quite lost in that despair, and could not see how many precious and encouraging things were happening. I cannot romanticize Manhattan, or that particular era in New York. But I do return to the energy of that time whenever things seem stressful or hopeless, to remind myself to look out for the priceless and beautiful things that are always growing strong in the midst of the madness.
You also founded Au Courant Daily, which brings together art, design, branded items and print. Can you tell us how it has evolved from its inception?
It was initially a Blogspot I kept as a creative outlet whilst working as an on-air radio broadcast journalist in Trinidad and Tobago. It became more serious once I had left for New York and I could allow myself to think in earnest about 'maybe' doing art - for real. I had grown weary of programming the same, station-approved content everyday, and was particularly tired of reporting on local current affairs, which would often become extremely gory. Au Courant Daily was my escape, where I could test out all the ideas the station directors thought were impossible or impractical for Trinidad society. Since then, Au Courant Daily has recently evolved into an online performance art space, where myself and other artists will run long-term, durational performance works within the framework of a website. Otherwise, most of the essays and personal writings I once published now exists on the Au Courant Vol website, which is a monthly subscription column bringing many years of archival writing, interviews, and features from the limited-edition print issues of Au Courant. And now, there are a few pieces of Au Courant merch available since people started asking how to buy the one-off sweaters and hats I used to make for myself to wear around the studio. It's all growing nicely, and organically. The readers have pushed that - some of them I know personally, and are artists or other colleagues who feel comfortable sharing their own work on Au Courant. Many readers have even been around since the days of the old Blogspot. I largely work on Au Courant projects alone, but have been very fortunate to build a precious, collaborative community around the work, and I really cherish that.