In it

In it without beginning or end
Photo by Dominique Veerasammy

Arc Magazine brought together a group of scholars, writers and artists to explore the work of Jasmine Thomas Girvan through Interpretations: Gardening in the Tropics. It also served as the launch of issue 5 of the magazine in Trinidad & Tobago; it was previously launched in Suriname.

The show had a particular focus on the creative process and the way artists are inspired by the art of others.  The work becomes like a conversation as it speaks from one piece to the next. The speakers talked about Jasmine's work and the various ways it impacted them; likewise Jasmine's exhibition from last year was a conversation with the works of poet Olive Senior. Similarly Jaime Lee Loy and myself were invited to continue and also be part of the conversation by creating work around Olive's poetry that both this event and Jasmine's exhibition borrowed its title from:

Gardening in the Tropics,
you'll find things that don't 
belong together often intertwine
all mixed up in this amazing fecundity
We grow as convoluted as the vine
abstracted from 'The Knot Garden' by Olive Senior

I could personally relate to the above quote from a historical reading of the Caribbean space. The very specific ways in which different people's came together and the drama, trauma and violence that ensued as a result with very real repercussions seen and felt in the present like echoes from restless ghosts. But like 'Stowaway' I realize that I am the protagonist that is searching and not any imagined ghost.

There is this much space between me and discovery
a hairline fracture getting wider with each wave.
abstracted from 'Stowaway"

In it, was influenced by both 'The Knot Garden' and 'The Stowaway'. In the first I see the past and in the latter I see the contemporary contemplation of it. It is personal to all as we have all been affected in distinct ways. That is why I chose to double represent myself with a video and an in-situ installation. The video speaks to 'The Knot Garden' while my body wrapped and hidden in cloth is the 'Stowaway'.

Below is Wash Basin, a version of the video shown, it was projected over my body concealed by cloth arranged to mimic hills and valleys.

The video is footage from the Blue Basin river in Diego Martin. It is a literal translation of the abstract from 'The Knot Garden'; 'that amazing fecundity' is mixed with crime, kidnapping and murder. Over the years it has gained a reputation for crime and during the recent limited state of emergency in 2011 it was deemed a hot spot. An article in the Newsday newspaper describes it as the Darker Side of Blue Basin. Within the community there are tales and myths of the history of violence of this place.Violence is continuous. Despite this, of all the rivers I have visited it is the one I am most connected to and fond of probably because it is so near to where I have lived since puberty.

The Knot Garden also reminds me of this excerpt from Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys:

'Our garden was large and beautiful as that garden in the Bible- the tree of life grew there. But it had gone wild. The path was overgrown and a smell of dead flowers mixed with the fresh living smell. Underneath the tree ferns, tall as forest tree ferns, the light was green. Orchids flourished out of reach, or for some reason not to be touched. One was sneaky looking, another like an octopus with long thin brown tentacles bare of leaves hanging from a twisted root. Twice as large, the octopus orchids flowered- not an inch of tentacle showed- it was bell dashed shaped. It was a mass of white, mauve, deep purples, wonderful to see. The scent was very sweet and strong. I never went near it' 

This piece shows the ways that things that do not belong together inhabit the same space producing often times a menacing effect also seen in the quote below, likewise from the Wide Sargasso Sea, in the way the narrator's senses are overwhelmed almost feeling claustrophobic 

There was a soft wind blowing but I understood why the porter had called it a wild place. Not only wild but menacing. Those hills could close in on you. What an extreme green (...) Everything is too much, I felt as I rode wearily after her. Too much blue, too much purple, too much green. The flowers to red, the mountains to high, the hills too near.' 
(Part II, pg 49)

For more information view the following links:

The event: 

Reviews on Gardening in the Tropics, Exhibition by Jasmin Thomas Girvan: 

Catalogue of Gardening in the Tropics, Exhibition by Jasmin Thomas Girvan: