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I N T E R V I E W: Jamie Lee Loy

Posted in Artists Interviews by Adele Todd on April 28, 2009

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B I O G R A P H Y: Jamie Lee Loy

JAMIE LEE LOY is an honors graduate of literature and visual arts at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine. She completed two years of an MPhil in Literatures in English while on postgraduate scholarship.

A contributing artist to Galvanize (September 2006), she has participated as an Artist-in-Residence in Trinidad (CCA 2003), the USA (Vermont Studio Centre 2007) and Hoy, Scotland (Triangle Arts Trust 3 islands workshop 2008). She has received grants from The Reed Foundation (New York), The Prince Claus Fund (Netherlands), The Trinidad and Tobago Film Company, Atlantic LNG in Trinidad, and The University of the West Indies, St Augustine.

A young single mother, she produced the documentary Pro-test based on young, unmarried mothers in Trinidad, as well as the videos Madam, Unease, and Bury Your Mother, (named after her short story published by New York based, Akashic Books in the Trinidad Noir anthology (August 2008). A member of the three- artist collaborative: The Collaborative Frog, she produced two short videos ‘Bruise’ and ‘The Burial’ for the La Fantasie installation (February 2008). Prior to this in December 2007, she collaborated with artist Nikolai Noel on ‘200 Drawings’ at the Alice Yard Space, Trinidad.

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A R T I S T S S T A T E M E N T

I often engage the domestic space and the female body as a site of contention, focusing my concerns on the psychological, the negotiations of identity and gender, and the fragility/impermanence of familiar spaces. My current body of work ‘The Unfamiliar,’ extends to photography, video, installation and performance.

‘Roaches and Flowers: War in the Home’ (photography and installation), ‘While you were sleeping’ (performance), and ‘Bury Your Mother’ (feature video), are my two most recent investigations. I am currently working on a novella entitled Fine and Loose Rope.

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Q: I first met you in the early 2000’s. You were doing some drawings on brown paper and making a short film, tell me about your beginning.
A: My process and my output have both developed significantly from when I first started. Though I still work in a way that is strongly influenced by my real life and my personal spaces, I think that back then it was still very raw and so it limited how much I pushed the material.
That 30 ft charcoal mural on brown paper was during my residency at Caribbean Contemporary Arts (preceding my job in administration there), and I edited an open conversation with eight mothers between the ages of 16 to 24 who were all single moms. My own daughter was a few months old then.

This beginning was significant because it was a major turning point in my life and the experiences at the time, both intensely pleasant and unpleasant, determined the context of my future work. I am working now on ‘The Unfamiliar’, a combination of past and current projects, where I explore the domestic space as a site of war.

Q: How have you managed to get the funding for your film?
Talk a bit about your making process.

A: The video production in 2004 on young mothers had no funding attached to it. I had been fortunate to receive a residency opportunity from CCA then and therefore I had already allocated time and head space for this. The Sorzano Family (friends of my brother) allowed me to use their IMac and Christopher Laird lent me a copy of Final Cut which I used with the IMac’s, IMovie program. This video was extremely no budget, and I used a HI 8 camcorder that I had purchased to make home videos with my daughter. I did not have sound equipment or anything like that. It was a straight point and shoot. Lisle Waldron, a friend and technician from UWI helped me fix technical problems as well.

The most recent video production was made with assistance from the Trinidad and Tobago Film Company. My motto is apply, apply, apply. If your work is strong and you keep trying you will get funding opportunities. I have applied countless times for funding for various projects before from various institutions. I have also been denied many times and in some cases I was fortunate to succeed.

Q: You did a project for the Prince Clause Fund with
Nikolai Noel and Marlon Griffith. Walk we through the project.

A: La Fantasie was a public installation in January 2008. This collaborative project included work from myself, Marlon Griffith and Nikolai Noel. It was an experiential conversation around domesticity, nationalism, post-colonialism, gender and politics. A house structure was erected directly opposite the PNM constituency office in Belmont and the exterior mirrored old colonial architecture, complete with fretwork with an additional white fence.

Visitors were given a torchlight, which doubled as a UV light and invited to enter the building. As it would have been late evening or early night they would have needed this to maneuver inside what was essentially a space that was ‘pitch black.’ The walls, floor and furniture were full of images which had been drawn in UV ink, and which therefore only became visible when the viewer passed the light along it. The images were ambivalent resemblances to people and of agony.

As you bent the first corner there was light emanating from a gap in the floor in the corner. A video (The Burial) was projected directly onto the grassy/rocky surface below, adding texture to the projection. The video was of a body from the neck down (myself) slowly being unearthed. You do not see anyone or anything unearthing, but simply the flat dirt surface and over time the dirt removes itself to slowly reveal the body.
Rounding that corner and moving into the space you vaguely sense a couch, a shelf and a fridge and stove/oven in the near distance. Enough to make you feel like home, but in awkward positions so that you could not feel like home.

In the far corner is another projection (The Bruise) and it is also facing downwards, this time into an isolated bathtub. This video was of bruises being slowly formed onto skin. Sometimes you would see the side of a face- maybe just the lip and part of the nose area, or you would see under the feet. First a small mark would appear then it would grow in size.

Throughout the building you would feel discomfort or dismay at stepping onto plastic ‘babies’ which were also heaped in corners and strung from the walls. These babies were filled with red liquid and labeled like IV Bags. Their labels identified their gender, their cause of death and a disclaimer that management could dispose without notice.

La Fantasie is named after the new Office of the Prime Minister. And indeed it was fantasy-like. This familiar structure was so welcoming in the exterior yet so unfamiliar in the interior. Like something was just not right, and could not be set right easily. Of a space at war with itself.
Q: Your work to me was the most successful. What was the
thought behind it, and how did you manage to create it?

A: La Fantasie was a collaborative project so that although the elements may have been conceptualized and executed by individual artists it should be seen as a whole. The other artists would have been instrumental to my piece by offering feedback, and giving me technical assistance.

I wanted to focus on domesticity and domestic violence. I wanted the viewer to not only view a moving image that was disturbing – but familiar and unfamiliar at the same time- this idea of the paradox of familiarity is something that I think is synonymous with domestic violence and with complex spaces like Trinidad. That you may love and fear synonymously, and that you may know yet not know synonymously. That you can identify in some ways, yet in others feel so alienated.

THE BURIAL:

Marlon and Nikolai filmed and shoveled sand while I lay buried in it at Las Cuevas. It was bright daylight and I was in swimsuit attire which was hidden by all the sand. I edited the final piece.

THE BRUISE:

I achieved this using makeup and did all the editing myself. Very experimental piece. Thank You Sean Leonard and Gillian Goddard for donating the use of a bathtub!
Q: Are you involved with other film makers? And if so who?

A: I consider myself an artist and a writer. That’s what I do. I don’t necessarily consider myself a filmmaker as my medium changes depending on what I am working on. I find myself more involved with artists, writers, critical thinkers, performers, and photographers. I know other filmmakers yes but I have not really worked with any of them to date. My productions so far have essentially been video installations and video projects, not necessarily film or television production. I am an artist who sometimes uses a video camera.

Q: What are some of the challenges and rewards of the
profession in Trinidad and Tobago for you at this time?


A: Trinidad has both it’s positives and it’s negatives. It has been a positive for me because ironically enough, the constraints and the social concerns that are so predominant here are what have evoked such strong responses in me. Maybe if life here were simpler I may not have pushed my medium in this way.

However, in terms of opportunities and support for artists, especially contemporary art, we are falling really short still. At the end of the day you have to make your space here, to work with like-minded people – people that will positively influence your work. And what I mean by this is not that they will like everything you do, but that they are truly interested in working. I am fortunate to know a few of them, who are dear friends to me, and who have been very supportive. There are a lot of artists that are more caught up with the politics of this space, of who knows who, and who does what, things that in the end prove to be counter productive. Filtering your interactions is what becomes tricky.
Q: What are you working on now?

A: I am actually trying to finish a novella I have been writing- well I wrote about ¾ of it in 2008 and I am trying to find time to look at it again. It’s called Fine and Loose Rope – a fictional story of a woman living with domestic abuse, and her struggle to evacuate the situation. I am helping to curate a show on Domestic Violence for UTT and I am putting together some ideas for a series of public performances I would like to try in 2009.
Q: What are your plans for your work in the near future?


A: Photography. I have some ideas. Pretty top secret at the moment in terms of concept. But after producing some photographic work in Vermont last year it struck me that my love for video is really love for the moving image, and the actual image itself is what draws me. I would like to produce some experimental work using photography. I will only give you the title for now: it’s going to be called ‘LOVE MARKS’, which has a double reading. Saying that Love can mark you, and also saying ‘love marks’ as a noun.

Q: Who would you like to work with and what would your
dream project look like?

A: I have not really thought long and hard about who I would like to work with. I think that will depend on the projects and usually my idea dictates everything else to follow. I want to work with Natalie Wei, she is a Chinese artist from Trinidad and younger than me. She moves between Trinidad and Canada. We have had brief conversations already about this. Our experience of being Chinese in Trinidad is something that we would like to collaborate on. Of being Chinese and the ways we are objectified both for that and for being female. That’s all I’ll say for now (smile).
I don’t have a dream project either. Things come to me and I work on them. I actually would like to a do a project that incorporates my daughter but I have not figured out that one as yet. Where she would be engaging her own art process at the same time………

Adele Todd





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One Response

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  1. ah Trini said, on March 16, 2010 at 1:01 am

    A real inspiration!


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