A popular gaze upon the arts in Trinidad and Tobago holds them within the framework of “soft” practices, in contrast to more preferred ways of knowing – of making sense of the world in which we live. This stance is a factor in a sustained chasm between art and the wider society. How to suture this split? How to throw art practice into sharp relief so its nuances might be unpacked, illuminated and addressed? On March 9, 2017, Articulate CARIBBEAN was launched, with support from the British Council, as a means of attending to these questions. Articulate CARIBBEAN is a project by cultural studies scholar and writer Marsha Pearce, in collaboration with Medulla Art Gallery, an institution located in Trinidad’s capital city. It is a biannual public programme of conversations and presentations aimed at creating a space for expressing and debating crucial issues in visual culture. The word “articulate” also means to form a joint or connection. Articulate CARIBBEAN seeks to reinforce articulations of art with Caribbean societies.
The inaugural event articulated spaces across the Atlantic Ocean, linking the UK with the Caribbean. Mary Bourne, a sculptor and chair of the board of Deveron Projects in Huntly, Scotland was invited to speak about the 50/50 philosophy and related art methodologies underpinning the work of the Scottish arts organisation. The notion of a 50/50 approach resonated with Pearce, who was introduced to Deveron Projects during her visit to Scotland in 2016 as part of the Momentum international delegates programme. She was among a number of cultural instigators invited to experience the Edinburgh Art Festival. Pearce saw an opportunity to build on a fifty-fifty conversation she started with the team at Medulla in 2016 – a discussion triggered by Trinidadian artist Wendy Nanan who told audiences: “Your reaction is just as important as my reaction…Fifty per cent of the work is your response.” The idea to have a representative of Deveron Projects share outlooks on art, in a public forum in the Caribbean, is an outcome of Pearce’s trip.