Something, Something, Community
It has been surprisingly difficult to gather my thoughts about Caribbean Linked III (CLIII). Perhaps in the months to come, when I have fully processed the experience I will be able to better distill it into a coherent account. However, what is clear is that the encounters of the past few weeks have undoubtedly influenced the way I see my potential function as an artist within the context of the Caribbean. I am not one to make grand declarations about how an event has changed my life. I am far too much of a creature of habit for such things. But I do believe in the power of education to influence perception and thinking. CLIII has indeed been an education.
I’ve been examining the social and cultural circumstances of Trinidad and Tobago. The work is an attempt at a more honest discourse about the nature of life on the islands. My theory centers on the idea that factors such as history, economics, cultural and racial diversity, among others, act as variables in a sort of cultural equation to create a particular kind of individual. It is important to note that I also think of the entire nation of Trinidad and Tobago as a collective individual, with a collective self-view, which is part of a global community that exerts an influence on the individual. Perhaps examining and understanding the cultural realities of the other islands, taking into account cultural and historical similarities and differences, might help in shaping a more well rounded view of my own nation. What my eyes have been opened to is the potential for my country to be part of a regional community that is not just loosely connected by political commitments but that has a shared interest based on the understanding that a stable community will undoubtedly benefit the individual.
Trinidad and Tobago needs it’s own Ateliers ’89, but not merely for the benefit of Trinbagonians. Rather, for its potential to benefit the region. I understand now that my work does not only remain relevant in the context of my own country but it can serve as an examination of the region. Perhaps what is more important, is the realisation that whatever efforts I might make to further the cause of serious art making in Trinidad and Tobago will potentially have far reaching regional and global consequences. The experience of CLIII has suggested that there is much to gain from greater amounts of cultural exchange throughout the region.
There seems to be a quiet longing for the connectivity that is prohibited by the cost of suitable travel between the islands. Many conversations have centered on expenses of regional air travel and a system that makes it more convenient to travel to the United States rather than a neighboring island. These limitations are what make CLIII so special and so profoundly important. I cannot think of any other opportunities elsewhere in the region for such an exchange to occur. Perhaps these opportunities do exist and I am unaware. If this is indeed the case, my own ignorance and uncertainty serve as appropriate indicators of the severity of the issues of regional connectivity and communication and the need to address them.
Alex Kelly is a contemporary artist living and working in Trinidad and Tobago. He recently graduated from The University of the West Indies, St Augustine with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. During the course of his study Kelly participated in several public art projects including the mural “Hope” at the Family Development and Children’s Research Centre, St Augustine, for which he acted as co-facilitator. He also participated in an art outreach program at Mayaro Government Primary School, Trinidad and Tobago, which formed part of a collaboration between The University of the West Indies and the Bridge Foundation; and a collaboration with the College of Science Technology and Applied Arts of Trinidad and Tobago to design a fundraising campaign for the creation of new student bursaries at the institution.