Entangled Species.

Conversations on Contemporary Art in the Caribbean

by Sasha Dees

Book Cover. Jorge Pineda, Guasábara III, Dibujo, Técnica mixta, láminas de oro de 24K, láminas de plata, pintura acrílica, collage sobre papel Arche de 640grs, 114 X 114 cm, 2018.

This publication is the result of a fifteen-month research project, mapping out the available infrastructure for Contemporary Art in the Caribbean by Sasha Dees. Over the period from November 2017 to May 2019, she visited Anguilla, Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados, Curacao, Cuba, Haiti, the Cayman Islands, the US Virgin Islands, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Sint Maarten, Saint Martin, Trinidad & Tobago, and Suriname. She interviewed over 800 artists and art professionals, resulting in 3000 hours of recordings.

The book begins with a chapter that gives the reader a general idea of the region today and continues with chapters that reflect the infrastructure of the arts and the art marketplace: Education, The economy of art, Galleries, Project Spaces and Residencies, Museums, Biennales, and Funding. While Dees refrains from writing about individual art practices, the book includes a 50-page selection of artwork made by artists working and living within the conversations of Contemporary Art in the Caribbean.

The Caribbean map © Dr. Adi Martis (Aruba)

A sort of Lonely Planet for Contemporary Art in the Caribbean, the publication mixes a travel book and toolkit. As she travels and engages with artists, Dees reflects on her own path to a career in the arts—what she did, what she wondered about, and who she met—giving the reader a sense of who she is and why she is a reliable voice on the subject. She selected quotes from the transcripts of the interviews that reflected issues relevant to her, with the goal of encouraging a continuous discourse. The many anecdotes and conversations with artists and art professionals included in the book are engaging and draw us into her journey.

I traveled to Curacao for the first time with a friend visiting her family three decades ago. It quickly disabused my naive idea that I would naturally blend into its culture. Understanding the language, dancing to the music from Curacao, and eating the island’s traditional dish funchi (similar to polenta) with Caribbean friends in the Netherlands were not enough preparation. The deep memory of my experience of culture shock is still part of me, even now.”

Sharelly Emanuelson (Curacao) Siudadanos, videoloop, 2015. Presented at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, the Netherlands (2016)

Charisse Piper, Collaboration with photographer Lisandro Suriel (St. Maarten). Portal to Re-imagination,  2021 (In part made possible by Fund for Culture participation talent grant)

Ruben Cabenda (Suriname) Transformation, animation, 2017 Presented at Portikus, Germany

Community Museum (FMA), San Nicolas, Aruba. Alydia Wever, Peña Saca, installation, 2018 © Photo by Ramiro Brett

And I was sitting on a chair, combing my hair out then moving on a piece of old music composed by Frans Croes, called “Caballito di Shon Alfredo” who brought for the first time in 1909, Carousel horses to the island. He dedicated this to my great grandfather and impresario “Papa Pellicer”.

The publication written from her personal perspective leaves the reader enough room for their own interpretation, to start a dialogue that can open us to greater insight over time, rather than offering conclusions set in stone. She generously shares information, failures and successes, tips, and “do’s and don’ts,” useful not only for people in the Caribbean but for those working in Contemporary Art, in general. Each chapter includes a contact list for the artists, professionals and institutions she visited, as well as a list of relevant publications, recommended to her throughout her career, that has given her insight into the Caribbean and Contemporary Art. There is also a glossary of (art) terms used in the book.

This engaging travel book through contemporary art from sets the publication apart from available academic publications. At the same time, the toolkit gives direct access to the art community in the Caribbean, making this book a must-have for both art professionals and general readers interested in being introduced to Contemporary Art and the Caribbean.

Velvet Zoe Ramos (Aruba) No Por Tapa Solo Cuundede, public work 2018 Conceived and presented at Caribbean Linked V, Oranjestad, Aruba (2018)

About the author.
Sasha Dees is a world citizen, a connector who lives for the arts. International, Interdisciplinary, Inclusive and Innovative are crucial elements in her projects. She has worked as an independent producer, curator, and writer in all art disciplines on projects, exchanges, and collaborations worldwide. Dees founded SDPM, her production company, in 1998 and co-founded (with Philip Powel) the not-for-profit John106 in 2003.

She is a contributing writer for Trendbeheer and has written for Africanah and ARC Magazine (dissolved, 2017). Dees published essays in Bridging Art & Text (Denmark, 2017), Jamaica Flux (the USA, 2016), Imago Mundi: Contemporary Artists from (part of the Caribbean (Italy, 2014), and CrimJazz words, poetry & beyond (NL, 2008). 

Contemporary Art Museum Moengo (CAMM), Suriname Marcel Pinas, installation view.

The research and writing of the publication was in part made possible by Mondriaanfonds. © Photos: Courtesy artists. 
Pre- order https://shop.trendbeheer.com/product/sasha-dees-entangled-species/ Price: 30 euro (local pick-up / excluding shipment costs) Book available: December 2021

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