Observing the United Nations’ International Migrants Day

The following blog post was contributed by one of the artists in the Arrivants exhibition, Kishan Munroe from the Bahamas, who is represented with a video installation and an unfolding sea expedition project, “Drifter in Residence.” It was written on the occasion of International Migrants Day, December 18, 2018, and originally appeared on his personal blog, “The Universal Human Experience,” which can be found here.

1. Kishan Munroe overlooking the US/Mexico border 2. Kishan documenting a small fishing village in Haiti 3. a snapshot of UN guards on duty in the streets of Haiti 4. Migrants arriving on the shores of Suriname from Guyana.

Ten years ago, in 2008, I began a journey that undoubtedly changed the course of my life. “The Universal Human Experience”, a global anthropological expedition, was indeed an extraordinary challenge; examining behaviors, theories and histories of varying cultures of opposition. Simultaneously it pushed the envelope of my physical strength and mental endurance. Over the years I have traveled by boat, by plane, train and automobile, living a nomadic lifestyle… sometimes even homeless on foreign streets. As I sit here immersed in thought, I take in the rhythms of the ocean; waves of memories… of years of experiences and inspiration collide against the raised reliefs of my fortified consciousness.

Reflecting now, on the water’s surface, I review the circumstances of my journeys, where I’ve found myself as the migrant, the immigrant, the ‘other’. Like an ‘Afronaut’ I’ve traveled through the first, second and third worlds of this earth, collecting samples of moments… of feelings… of tangible and intangible things; some of which I still have yet to understand.

Out of this grand tour, new chapters of inquisitions and interventions were born.

It was by way of my exploratory travels throughout Russia that this present undertaking was birthed. After spending some time in Moscow I journeyed north, into St Petersburg where I was an artist in residence at St Petersburg Art Residency (SPAR). The following year I was invited by SPAR and the Museum of Non-Conformist Art to partake in an exhibition responding to the theme “Transcendental Homelessness”. I felt compelled to scrutinize notions of ‘home’ in the ‘third world’ of the ‘New World’.

In my view, as a member of the African disapora residing in the ‘New world’ we have always been drifting throughout the Atlantic, searching for a place we can call home. From this concept “Drifter in Residence” came into being; a migrant ‘afronaut’ attempting to explain ‘home’ to Russians.

Kishan with passenger covered with tarp_web
2008, (video still) Kishan crossing the Corantijn River from Guyana into Suriname.

On this “International Day of the Migrant” I reminisce on documenting the “May Day” protest in Los Angeles, one of the largest immigrant rights protests in the United States. There I witnessed the imposing solidarity of hundreds of thousands of migrants expressing their frustrations with border issues and the infringement of human rights. I also reflect upon my first experience traveling as an ‘illegal’ immigrant (see blog post). The unnerving voyage did not last very long but it introduced me to the reality of visuals I now see frequently plastered across media headlines; scenes of migrants, risking their lives to traverse borders.

“Regarding Your Borders,” Los Angeles, 2008

Indeed the human spirit possesses great resilience, yet life remains oh so fragile. Now, preparing for this unique journey into the pelagic world, which I have titled “Drifter in Residence,” I am minded to take nothing for granted. There is a great degree of preparedness that must be met, especially when one has to potentially face the unexpected – when situations are literally life or death.

Since the inception of this project I have encountered a series of hurdles due to circumstances beyond my control: inclement weather conditions, as well as logistical, technological and financial challenges. Although still in the process of extended trial runs at sea, my expected departure date has been slightly delayed. With every step, however, there has been a learning curve. Now, looking back, at those challenges they are truly indicative of the lifestyle I’ve had to adapt to over the years, engaged in my practice, that have lead me into questionable, often unfavorable conditions. Nevertheless, they are all a part of the experience that I seek to tap into – the universal human experience. The beauty in exploration lies not only in attaining the objective one set out to achieve, but also in the unplanned developments that happen along the way. In retrospect of my journey’s trek, the paths caused by those obstructions and detours have permanently etched a meandering timeline: a sketch of colorful experiences, developments and growth; the most intimate portrait of myself thus far.

I call now, on the open sea, in all its density, to shower me with inspiration; to quench my creative thirst and to serenade me with whispers of loud silence rolling off the Tongue of the Ocean.   I never fathomed that my work would get this deep but there is something to be said for ‘going with the wind’.

My mind drifts.

Copyright 2018 Kishan Munroe . All rights reserved

The Belly of the Whale: A Conversation with Cosmo Whyte

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This blog was created as a partnership between Kelley-Ann Lindo and Simon Tatum. Both are participating artists in the Arrivants exhibition and are serving as curatorial interns, assisting with the exhibition install and documenting conversations with other artists involved with the project. This post will focus on a conversation with the artist Cosmo Whyte, and it will illustrate his experience while installing his new work for the Arrivants exhibition.

Whyte is a Jamaican born artist who is currently based in Atlanta, Georgia, where he serves as a full-time teaching professor for Morehouse College.  He has a trans-disciplinary art practice and employs drawing, performance and sculpture to create conceptual work that explore identity and how it can be disrupted by migration. Moreover, his creative process is anchored by interrogations of his own body as a racialized black man.

For Whyte’s work in the Arrivants exhibition, he has been granted access to intervene within a prison cell space at the Barbados Museum and Historical Society (BMHS). The BMHS site is housed in historic buildings originally used as the military prison at St. Ann’s Garrison. The buildings hold an extensive history and once served as the headquarters of the Windward and Leeward command of the English forces. There are only twelve structures like this military prison that were constructed under the British Empire, and this space is greatly significant within the Caribbean region.

One opinion that Lindo and Tatum were interested in hearing from Whyte was his thoughts towards addressing the prison atmosphere of the BMHS site within his short time limitations of the install.  Whyte mentioned that he had engaged in a similar experience with time restraint during a residency in Panama in 2007. That residency was a two week programme where he had to create new works on site for an exhibition. He saw that residency as a healthy experience because it challenged him to make new, experimental works and demanded him to negotiate his ideas towards the definitive construction of his artwork. Moreover, he carries that experience within his current practice and it helped him with the much more difficult install limitation (2 days) for the Arrivants exhibition.

Continue reading “The Belly of the Whale: A Conversation with Cosmo Whyte”