‘Je est un autre’ wrote the French poet Rimbaud, explaining how humans better define the self by constructing a separate other. The exhibition I is Another draws on the same philosophical line although the spotlight here is on Jamaican multiple identities and art. With 2012 being the 50th anniversary of the island’s independence from the British crown, Curator Rachael Barrett pays homage to a niche of Jamaican artists born in Jamaica not yet discovered in the US and UK.
The focus of this project is on the nature of peoples’ souls; the artwork installed in the space does not speak generally of race, but on individual narratives. The ordinary takes over: these pieces of art brilliantly draw in tales of landscape, gender, race, power, labour, class, poverty, crime, rum, Pocomania rituals, dance hall rhythms, ocean, love, war and death.
This art show successfully destroys the myth of Jamaican contemporary art being purely tribal or urban and showcases instead its immense cultural diversity as a postmodernist strand of critique. It poses the question ‘Who is a Jamaica?’. The response is an open hybrid nation placed between African and European cultures. If we want to unveil the anthropological references, the project explores Africa’s Vodou culture, Catholicism and Hip Hop, to name but a few.
Nari Ward’s humongous Domino Men is the key piece visitors first encounter when stepping into the space. The exhibition opens with a close up of giant Dominos where a concoction of metaphors about life are crafted into anthropomorphic wood and fabric sarcophagus-shaped boxes. Life, to the artist resembles the Domino Game where death is a playful nuisance.
In a corner next to the Dominos, stands Banksy’s Afflicted Yard, a casual installation of a junkyard seemingly recalling la tristesse of vulnerable urban Caribbean slums. Further on, the colourful country-club series of Hurvin Anderson with his firm and vivid acrylic brushes, are hung on the white wall.
Upstairs, in the shadowy mezzanine gallery, the exhibition continues with short films by Storm Saulter, director of the avant-garde New Caribbean Cinema and Ebony Patterson’s touching drape memorial of the death of 73 alleged members of the Tivoli Gardens in West Kingston.
I is Another Part II runs until 8th December at the New Art Exchange, Nottingham, the biggest art center outside London for Caribbean, African and Asian contemporary visual arts.