Hot Links artistic interviews with Brian Fee.

Hot Links 03: Shanice Smith

The third ‘hot links’ features Shanice Smith, our inaugural and incoming artist resident at Residency Unlimited in Brooklyn.

– What is your project or role with the Caribbean Art Initiative? 

To further explore themes and build on research I started while in residence at Vermont Studio Centre in May of this year. This includes, but is not limited to, the effects of (unresolved) trauma and epigenetics in relation to Caribbean families, and how it impacts our cultural identity.

– What does “cultural exchange” mean to you?

Cultural exchange is the barter of knowledge on varying components that encompass a specific culture. This can be done through sharing food (since food is one of the main focal points of many cultural exchanges), music, clothing, or even vernacular, but it must be reciprocated on the same level in order for it to be a respectful exchange. This is something I spent a lot of time doing recently, at Vermont Studio Center, with my peers through the use of food and snacks from Trinidad and Tobago and even by sharing our dialect.

– What is one unique perspective or element about the Caribbean that you would like the global community to know better?

I’d really love for more people from the global community to research the Caribbean, particularly our geographical location/s. I think there is a lack of understanding that each island is completely different (though some of us might possess similarities with regards to historical context). We are not all a district in Jamaica. This is a pet peeve for many of us from the Caribbean — persons external to the region often think that we’re all Jamaicans or, worse yet, try to speak to us with a fake Jamaican accent. This ties in with the idea of respectful cultural exchange as opposed to stereotyping; it is important for others not to generalise the Caribbean, but to engage with it as a diverse region with distinct cultures, languages and just overall identities. 

– And finally, describe something that is “hot” to you. 

Something that is ‘hot’ to me is, a good, good Trinidadian curry — buss up shut/paratha roti to be exact. Everyone should experience a good Trini curry at least once in their lives. It’s one of my favourite comfort foods). Trinidadian food is often savoury and very flavourful. 

Hot Links 02: Luis Miguel Molina

Our second edition features Luis Miguel Molina, the creative designer behind EL APOSENTO and the designer behind the impressive Caribbean Art Initiative design and colors.

– Tell us about yourself?

I am a born and raised Dominican and currently working as a Graphic Designer. My passion for aesthetics began many years ago — when I was a kid I would make my mom buy me Kleenex just because the packaging was these amazing illustrated boxes that I collected. As I grew older I started buying magazines that I found attractive, not because they had quality content but because they looked cool.

My first job as a graphic designer was a packaging I had to design for a class in high school, a juice I named “Leven.” This packaging, a horribly ornamented and non-practical box, was judged the best design among the others, and in that moment I made up my mind on what I wanted to be as a professional.

I went to college and studied Advertising, and after I graduated got my first job at an advertising agency only to realize I didn’t belong — but still, I was offered several jobs, so I jumped from one agency to another to grow as a professional. Those years shaped my mind into want I really wanted to do. I started exploring my abilities as a visual artist, working with illustration and art installation, and that process connected me with the Caribbean.

After a few years working for local and international brands, I decided to go back to school and study Graphic Design at La Escuela de Diseño Altos de Chavón, There I felt what I did wasn’t boring anymore, that I could play a bit more and actually merge visual arts and graphic design to serve the same purpose.

Today, I run a design studio that I call “El Aposento,” after the years I spent working from my bedroom at my grandmother’s house. “Aposento” is how elder people call their bedroom in the Dominican Republic, newer generations don’t use that world anymore.

 – What is your project or role with the Caribbean Art Initiative?

I’m the Graphic Designer behind the visual identity of the Initiative.

– What does “cultural exchange” mean to you?

It means that we as individual are capable to adapt to new things and by interacting with people and the environment come to a mutual understanding. It also means growth; the more knowledge you acquired from other cultures and your own, the more references you will have to confront problems, either spiritual or from your daily life.

– What is one unique perspective or element about the Caribbean that you would like the global community to know better?

I believe the Caribbean provides with so much color, flavors, personalities, and environments that it is difficult to just pick one thing to showcase to the world, I guess if you round that up people should just dig in more into its culture in general. 

 – And finally, describe something (this could be a food, a place, a feeling, etc.) that is “hot” to you. 

That is something Paris Hilton would ask. 

Hot Links 01: Jean Ulrick Désert

Our first guest is Jean Ulrick Désert. Désert represents Haiti at the 58th Venice Biennale, and he will participate in the inaugural Caribbean Art Salon Talks in Venice as well.

– Tell us about yourself?
I am a Haitian-born visual artist living and working out of Berlin, Germany. I have also worked and lived in Paris and New York. Though I have a formation as an architect, I have been engaged in my art practice since the early-mid ‘90s to understand my voice and its tone.

I am often interested in things/subjects/moments that are not sufficiently part of our conversation, or to visualize ideas that seem pervasively invisible. I believe in poetry as one believes in a surgeon, and the subsequent responsibility on our shoulders as cultural workers.

What is your project or role with the Caribbean Art Initiative?
I am collaborating with the Caribbean Art Initiative (CAI) as our partner in the démarches required to realize a Haitian Pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale – with the theme of The Spectacle of Tragedy. As a side effort, I am participating in the Caribbean Art Salon, which will take place at the Navy Officers Club adjacent to our aspirational space. CAI will underwrite the reissue of a coaster conceived in 2004 as well as a bag project intended for the Venice Biennale and Art Basel.

What does “cultural exchange” mean to you?
Cultural exchange is about profound and poetic communication and therefore is an expansive act. It finds its strongest mode in the arts, which speaks to more than the mind.

What is one unique perspective or element about the Caribbean that you would like the global community to know better?
There is a cultural spine that emerges from a history of colonialism and conflict and passed-on traditions in the light, the sunlight, of the Caribbean tropics. That mixture produces many Creole cultures who are echoes of each other – a theme of many variations.

And finally, describe something – a food, a place, a feeling – that is “hot” to you.
For food, Haitian Griot and banan-pézé. For a place, (old) Havana. And as a feeling, clarity born of intuition or sunlight.

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