Sharda Patasar writes a weekly column for the Newsday.
In the early 1970s, when soca came into being, it represented a shift in popular music. Naturally, there were squabbles over its authenticity, and representational capability. Of course that was accompanied by the idea of contamination – contaminating the waters of calypso and national music. Today, it is what it is – condemned, embraced and now reworked. Nailah Blackman’s Sokah, sets the record straight and puts ‘sokah’ into perspective.
When Donald Trump won the election to succeed Barack Obama as President of the United States, the expression on the faces of news reporters that night and the next morning – CNN to FOX News – was a mixture of grief and disbelief. It was a “nation in mourning” as one news reporter put it. Trump’s win was evident, for in a crazy world as I had written prior to the election, crazy would reign. We didn’t have to like it, but it was a presence that we would either have to embrace or reject and be happy enough in our choice to reject. Essentially, it is an age that challenges our norms and that makes stopping and re-thinking an essential act.
Paradigm shifts have characterised our societies for ages. Diaspora itself represents this acknowledgement of shifting paradigms – new models built from and on older ones, the breaking away from traditional patterns of thought. It is the act of dislodging. We have seen this in action in the scientific revolution, the industrial revolution, the Renaissance, art movements, literary movements and musical movements for instance. The arts and scientific breakthroughs have been engaged in this process of dislodging and remaking, using the imagination to create other ways of looking at the world. Should we seriously think about Trinidad as a space of creative possibilities given that our heritage stems from displacement, relocation, uprooting, it is no strange concept therefore that in our own society, there are a few artists whose work engages with these ideas.
Earlier this week (on Wednesday to be exact) as I sat musing over early morning coffee about paradigm shifts, in an undisciplined fleeting moment, I glanced at Facebook. One of the first posts was that of photographs on an art project There a Bus Stop, There. The installation by contemporary French artists Marjorie Le Berre and Lucile Martizèd utilises palm fronds and dry leaves to transform the bus stop in.
Those passing on Saddle Road, Maraval may have been fortunate enough to stop and engage with the piece in its full form or perhaps in its early formation. Either way, it achieves the goal of the larger project Out of Place.
Out of Place, co-curated by Alice Yard co-director Christopher Cozier and artist-in-residence Blue Curry, was a Year X programme that ran from September 2016 to September 2017. There are still many pieces as Cozier explained that weren’t published but should be in time.
The project aims to address the question of how to? How to: engage audiences in more public spaces; make art more accessible to the public; gradually erase the boundaries between artist, viewer and art? For more on the project see http://aliceyard.blogspot.com/2016/09/out-of-place.html
The most fundamental question we may ask of There a Bus Stop, There is what is it trying to achieve?
The installation is not meant to last. And perhaps it says to us that decomposing is the natural order of things. But it is also addresses the power of memory. After the leaves have decomposed or perhaps been destroyed by rain or vandalised, we remain with the memory of its existence.
The photographic chronicling of the events too forms part of the process of engaging with the artwork and process, for, once uploaded on social media, the chronology of events becomes available to all. This is public art, art that does not hang in a museum accessible only to the chosen few or the few who choose to, and therefore this is also about dismantling power.
The bus stop seems an appropriate space for artistic engagement. It is the people’s stop. It is the waiting place – the place where we either stop or jostle for space to get into the vehicle that shall take us from one destination to the other. There is a sense of urgency in the title There a Bus Stop, There as if to reiterate the necessity of looking.
While there is much quarrel in some quarters over the purpose and aims of contemporary and unconventional art, the fact that it provokes curiosity that makes some of us stop and look for a moment, is enough. Change really only begins with a ripple, continuous ripples that can build a gusty wind that has the ability to transform the things we know and how we re-imagine our spaces.