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Galvanize the night

Posted in Art in Canada by Adele Todd on October 2, 2007

For those of you who come to sexy pink, look at the title and then wonder why I am writing about Canada when I clearly state otherwise, have some patience with me. Art is my passion and I shall write about it wherever I am. From time to time I shall look at other perspectives and places. The Nuit Blanche was one such venture. As I walked around the eight mile stretch of art shows, happenings, films and the like, I wondered about something like that happening in Trinidad. Yes we have Carnival, but that is not the same.
Earlier in the year, an attempt at a collective was put together titled, Galvanize. Artists showed pieces all over Port-of-Spain.
The Nuit Blanche was much bigger than the Galvanize project, it was much better funded and many, many more people participated. What set Nuit apart was the interesting mix between the high and the low. Artists were able to produce a variety of different types of expression while galleries and museums were able to open their doors and/or interpret what the night meant to them by arranging or making work for display. The Nuit managed to have an energy and sensuality to it, as people interacted with work and hung around instillations, performances and films.
Galvanize did not achieve these things that I saw in Nuit. Although this is not a criticism of Galvanize, I am always pleased to see art concepts attempted. What Nuit did for me was bring up a number of questions and musings about public art activities in Trinidad and Tobago.
Nuit, for all its hype and wonder, did have much to improve, the post mortem when done, shall have to look at a number of things, including the fact that it may be too big.
In trying to do so much, some people come away seeing so little. The same was true for Galvanize. The idea was good on paper, but did the work resonate with the public it set out to engage?
For Nuit, artists used store fronts, the streets, the parks, the trees, the buildings, the alleyways. They worked in situ, they danced in gallery spaces. There was a definate attempt at showing Art’s functions, there was a purpose.
My concerns with public art in Trinidad and Tobago is based on the remove that is experienced between the artist and the public. Although an artist may paint black stick figures of men all over the city, somehow the message, the purpose does not impact the very audience he may seek. There is an uneven dance between artist and public. Almost as though the artist is the jester, dancing in a big hall and the public are walking by outside, unaware that this is being done for them.
I also spoke of the enrgy of the Nuit, an energy that much local work has difficulty in mustering up. Is it because everyone takes themselves so seriously? Is it because we are such a small space and familiarity breeds? A Nuit is needed in Trinidad and Tobago and it has to be something planned out over time with proper funding and every type of artist participating. When the dust settles after the upcoming election, the Art Centre, scheduled to be built will either go ahead or stall. We shall have to see whether it shall happen. But in the mean time, a good long look at where Art needs to go is necessary for the islands.

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