Simon Tatum was born in George Town, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, in 1995, and is also based there. He was educated at the University of Missouri (BA, 2017). His solo exhibitions to date are Discover and Rediscover (2016), at the University of Missouri and Looking Back and Thinking Ahead (2017), in the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands. Various group exhibitions include Open Air Prisons (2016), LACE Gallery in Los Angeles, California, and Sense of Place (2018), Spinnerei Halle 18 in Leipzig, Germany. He was part of the Caribbean Linked IV (2016) residency programme in Oranjestad, Aruba. Moreover, he currently serves an Assistant Curator at the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands.
Tropical Forms are monotone paintings designed to act as organisms by adapting to the dimensions of their exhibition space and incorporating materials and references from the various locations they travel. The concept was created by Tatum during a residency in Leipzig, Germany. While in Germany, he learned that male Cuban contract workers were sent to Leipzig to work within the spindle factories because of a trade deal between Cuba and the German Democratic Republic. The Cubans spent limited time in Leipzig, but several of them intermixed with German locals and had children.
Moreover, Tatum is becoming interested in narratives of promoted migration caused by political matters and how such movement encourages sexual encounters and coupling between different cultural groups. Tatum realises that migration is historically recognised by both positive and negative circumstances, but feels that hybridising should be embraced and his Tropical Forms are attempted shrines for acts of hybridising.
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.