As Art Basel begins to roll out and art lovers from around the globe take their vitamins for the onslaught of art fabulous creations and activities, there are a stealthy few who will not end their efforts there but extend their inspiration to St Croix for a relaxing, take it all in time of enlightenment. Art professional and producer Alaina Simone put together a bevy of talent who will bring diverse perspectives to the historically complex island, which was inhabited by numerous foreign groups over the course of history and contained over 20,000 slaves.
How wonderful that Simone and her colleagues have remembered not to forget but enliven this beautiful place, curated by Monica Marin and Carla Acevedo with art luminaries like Rashaad Newsome, David Antonio Cruz, Kharis Kennedy, La Vaughn Belle, Oceana James with a video screening by Jeannette Ehler for this special event which will take place from December 4-8 right after Basel. Cultural partners include the Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts (CMCArts), Virgin Islands Caribbean Cultural Center, University of the Virgin Islands, and Crucian Heritage & Nature Tourism (CHANT).
Exploring the notion of “otherness” in relationship to and inspired by the African Diaspora, the subjects of race, gender, and sexuality is the centerpiece of this investigation. While guests will be bathed in the beauty and sultry climate of St Croix, the spirits of people who have passed will be elevated in resounding artistic expression. Contributing artists come from varied backgrounds, including the U. S., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and after spending time researching the island developed work for this singular event.
A photo diary of the Take Five program and St. Croix community will be documented by internationally acclaimed artist Wyatt Gallery, and a presentation of the diary will take place in New York following the event.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS’ & PROGRAM
Rashaad Newsome’s FIVE, St. Croix (2016) is a multimedia, traveling body of work that abstracts the art of vogue, a dance form originating from the African-American and Latino LGBTQ community of 1970s Harlem, with live instrumentation. Five dancers will present the five elements of vogue: catwalk, floor performance, dips and spins, and duck-walk, in dialogue with five musicians who sonically respond to their movements in a live improvisation over an iconic vogue bassline. For Take Five St. Croix, Newsome, who draws richly from his native New Orleans musical and performative traditions, will cast five Crucian musicians playing the steel drum, congas, flute, squash, bass guitar, trumpet, and triangle. During the live performance, Newsome will use custom made motion-tracking technology to map the movement patterns of the performers and transform the collected data into digital drawings that will later become neo-Actionist drawings and sculptures.
Through merging custom Crucian instruments, entrenched in West African rhythmic structures, with traditional dance of the New York vogue and ballroom scenes, stylistically tied to African dance, Newsome presents a fluid conversation that addresses the synergistic spirit of resistance and agency that exists within African Diasporic communities, specifically by way of movement and sound.
Kharis Kennedy is a mainland American that has lived in St. Croix since 2011. Her new work shows documentation of a collaborative performance with Seattle-based modern dancer Bryon Carr; a filmed diary of tightly regimented choreography exchanged between the two artists on a daily basis via webcam. The ritualistic nature of the performance creates an intimate space for a shared experience between two artists. With their differing personal narratives, each artist instinctively brings his and her own style into the same 90-second choreographed phrase.
In What Can I Do To Kill It and Be Free (2016), Kennedy presents video documentation of herself strapped to a polygraph while undergoing a rigorous series of self-interrogations to reveal her inner subconscious truth. She uses personal, ongoing moments in her life as a woman, who is a mother and wife, to guide questions that challenge the comforts of her previously perceived equilibrium and control. In addition to these performances, Kennedy will debut a series of paintings, Touch Has A Memory (2016), that further blurs the line between perception and reality within personal narratives, particularly those of women.
David Antonio Cruz’s experimental, interactive, and bilingual performance Green, howiwantyougreen (2016), is based on the last eleven poems by the Spanish poet Garcia Lorca, Sonnets of Dark Love. Banned for 50 years after Lorca’s assassination in 1936, these poems are blended with Cruz’s own personal narratives. The artist incorporates his memories of coming out as a gay man in the context of a largely African-American and Puerto Rican community in Philadelphia as well as intimate relationships fused with queer text from Lillian Hellman's The Children Hours and Oscar Wilde by Leslie and Sewell Stokes; both written around the time of Lorca's assassination.
In St. Croix, Green, howiwantyougreen will take place inside of an old sugarcane plantation that operated during Danish rule of the island. Cruz will perform alongside Jennifer Jade Ledesna, Diego Carvajal Peñaranda, Lisa Strum, and Daniel de Jesus in costumes designed by himself. The music is composed by Daniel de Jesus.
La Vaughn Belle, La Vaughn Belle, an interdisciplinary artist living in St. Croix, will present
The House That Freedom Built. This project is centered in a 17th century historic property located in the abandoned neighborhood known previously as "Neger Gotter" during the Danish colonial era. Later called "Free Gut" the area housed the "free colored" population during the slavery period. Belle's project includes documenting the renovation of the house, various social engagement activities, and a recounting of the previous owners and residents of the space which have included African born market women to the most famous leader in Crucian history, D. Hamilton Jackson. Belle will present an immersive installation at The House That Freedom Built that will incorporate sound, text, photographs, and video.
Oceana James, a multidisciplinary artist born and raised in St. Croix, uses performance to reflect on the socio-political and economic realities of people of African descent. Her research is centered on epi-genetics, the biology and mythology of trees, the intersection of science and religion, and the use of the body to embody and then exorcise traumas of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Her performance for Take Five For Gowie the Deceitful Fellow examines the institutional racism of our society through the cosmic dialogue of a haunted Caribbean woman and a young man claiming his identity. This deeply personal story examines slavery and how it plays a part in who we all are -- the oppressed and the oppressor. This experimental piece will take place in the historic town of Frederiksted otherwise known as “Freedom City” by many Virgin Islanders after the successful Emancipation uprising of 1848 and “Fireburn” labor revolt thirty years later.