Caribbean Queer Visualities @ Transmission
Transmission plays host to an exhibition curated by Small Axe Project, surveying the rich variety of different tones, disciplines and strategies amongst young, queer Caribbean artists presently.
In the upstairs gallery of Transmission, the centre of the room is filled with rainbow letters and white balloons above, the work of Jean-Ulrick Désert. In different Caribbean languages there’s the phrase ‘Do not cast pearls before swine.’ With an icy stillness, campness and biblical religiosity are here made to coincide.
At moments, Désert’s installation collapses into the florid print of Ebony G Patterson’s Untitled (Among the Weeds, Plants and Peacock Feathers). Showing a body laid down, camouflaged and lost in its environment of flowers and pattern, there’s a Baroque richness, and immersiveness in its large scale, as well a sense of a swallowing invisibility.
Leasho Johnson’s painting similarly depicts a prostrate body: a naked black man then fish both lying in a shallow pool of red, both with palm trees coming from their bodies. Collaging the images, there’s a sense of death, danger and absurdity as the fish is on its side and the palm tree substitutes for the man’s penis, hewing titillation for something more ambiguous, maybe looming or solemn. Perhaps similar in tone, downstairs there are the fictional pages of an anthropologist’s notebook by Ewan Atkinson, with nudity collapsing into collages of drawn dogs’ heads and scored out memories of being excitedly ‘examined.’
In the film of Charl Landvreugd, the backwards soundtrack’s solemn sounding phonemes finally give way to the phrase ‘eager to unroll my great, great grandmother in 21 little pieces.’ Throughout the video, a sitter in a suit looks into the camera, as flowers are overlaid as a second layer. There’s a more subtle tone of solemnity and a certain shifting syntax between anecdotal beginnings, to fragments to pat rhyming schemes. Like the other artists in Caribbean Queer Visualities, there’s a sidestepping of tonal singularity for a rich multiplicity of signification, and parallel moods.