Surinamese artist Dhiradj Ramsamoedj shares his experience with the Caribbean Linked II residency programme at Ateliers ’89, Aruba. He gives us insight into his thought process since arriving and tells us about The Flexible Man Project, which explores the identity of a Caribbean citizen in the present day, rather than an identity rooted in the region’s weighted history. Being in Aruba with his fellow residents, as well as visits with local artists, has inspired him to conceptualize a performance piece with the suits.
I arrived on “One Happy Island” feeling like I was going to have an adventurous and rewarding experience with my art. Elvis Lopéz picked me up at the airport with the blue Ateliers ‘89 bus, and I was warmly welcomed at Ateliers ’89 by fellow resident artists. After having some coffee, it was time to enter the black box and do a presentation about my artwork. Since I intended to work with four Flexible Man suits, I gave a presentation only about my Flexible Man Project. Other artworks etc. were not shown, otherwise the presentation would be too long and the audience could lose concentration – which is not my intention on this Happy Island!
The Flexible Man Project is about the present identity of a Caribbean citizen. Our ancestors came from different places with different cultures all over the world. Over time we have blended these cultures into something which is our own; we have created our own Identity. I did not really know what my performance with the suits would look like. Lying on my bed during our first night, I wondered how to proceed. The second day all of the artists drove down in the bed of a Ford Bronco tuck to a hardware store. We started a fun, lighthearted conversation, and then the idea arose for me to do a film with the Flexible Man suits in the bed of the Bronco. I started to work out what this would be like. The idea of doing a fun safari tour through the city was great, but I had to find a reason for me to do it in the city.
That day I also met Aruban based artist Ciro Abath on a studio visit. Interestingly, even Ciro gives the present identity of the Caribbean man more importance, exploring the current state of being rather than simply being eager to going back to his roots. Later on the day we went to Ciro’s studio where he has a glass blowing workplace, which inspired to execute my plan of building a glass workplace in Suriname. That night while thinking about my performance concept, I was wondering why the city, why not the landscape where the safari jeeps are intended to drive?
A studio visit of visual artist Osaira Muyale was productive in the sense that I received getting constructive criticism about my project in Aruba. She suggested going into the city and doing the performance with the people. As a group of resident artists at the Ateliers ’89, we had the privilege of taking a look at her works for an upcoming show in her gallery, which is located in front of her home. That night we went for a party at the Local Store. While drinking my beer, I thought about holding the performance with the suits near the beach, as there are also lots of people there. The next day we went to visit Aruban artist Glenda Heyliger. I was quite impressed when she gave us an explanation about one of her works, which was inspired by similar sources to those I use for the Flexible Man Project. After the studio visit we went out with Glenda to explore San Nicolaas during a carnival celebration. We went to Buchie’s place for a drink, where we had a lot of fun with Buchie and the artists. That inspired me to have fun in the suits and let that be filmed, even if it is in a white space…for the opening day, maybe I will do a performance with the suits.
About Dhiradj Ramsamoedj:
Dhiradj Ramsamoedj is born in Paramaribo, Suriname on March 24th 1986. He enrolled at the Nola Hatterman Art Institute in 2000 and graduated in 2004 with Honors. Ordinary Surinamese people, the cultures that sustain them and the difficult circumstances in which many people in Suriname find themselves today were the theme of his first solo exhibition in 2006. Now his work revolves around memories from his past and the nature of man. He created several 3-D works which were environmentally inspired. In 2009 he spent three months at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. In 2010, as part of a large art event in Suriname called Paramaribo SPAN he exhibited in his grandmother’s home with a series of carefully conceptualized, modern art installations based on childhood memories. In 2011 he shares a number of new contemporary creations with the public.