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Cushioning the Blow by Natalie McGuire

Ano’s Pink Chair and the comfort of the Caribbean


Ano Chiklet 2012



Exhibited in the recent Global Caribbean Project, a piece by Eddy Firmin (known as Ano) made a critical statement about the environment of support for creativity in the Caribbean.

The deep-hued pink workresembles what Ano refers to as a “piece of chewing gum[1]” moulded into a sunken armchair, with an accompanying flattened foot stool. Its function as an object of support is questioned in this sinking, as though if encountered the sitter would also melt into oblivion.In addition, an acting footstool is positioned to the side of the armchair piece, as if to mock any attempt to rest up weary feet onto it. Threaded throughout, thebutton details of these pieces represent a certain luxury, suggesting the objects are made from leather rather than a cheaper material, and also giving an element of craftsmanship over industrial production.

Stating it as being “synonymous with luxury living, rest, vacation” but“… far from humanity[2]” Ano highlights this chair as a visual representation of Simon Njami’s Caribbean « comfort zone”[3],where the realities of Caribbean life are smothered under a mask of idealistic luxury living. The cut-throat economy that creates daily struggle generates an environment where a majority of Caribbean people are either swimming or sinking, and this extends to the state of contemporary Caribbean creativity as well. Because, for instance, the artworks that are most visible and widely promoted throughout the islands are those that embody this envisioned“comfort zone”. Neutral in content, pleasant to view, traditional in medium, these works and their artists arguably receive the most recognition and financial support in the region. It is the artists who push the boundaries of Caribbean representation, who express contestation, aggression, discomfort, that are fighting to swim.

Another layer in the reading of this piece comes in the structure within the exhibition series, as well as its colour and form. For instance, is it a sculpture or an installation? Being situated in isolation, and having been easily transported, the natural conclusion would be sculpture. However, by exhibiting it in a Caribbean physicality, with the material giving the illusion of melting into the ground, arguably it becomes an installation. It changes the way the space is viewed, how it is encountered, especially by the Caribbean people it refers to in context. This fluid transition between two mediums in itself is also a challenge to the categorization of Ano’s work, and strengthens his negation of Caribbean art as needing to remain in the “comfort zone”.

Derrick Cherrie Retroflex

Derrick Cherrie

As well as being a symbol of wellbeing, the pink tone of the chair brings to mind the relationship between flesh and object. References can be drawn from previous works such as New Zealander Derrick Cherrie’s Retroflex(1988-1990). In this piece Cherrie deconstructs the representational functions of metal bars and a sink plug, which are embedded into a pink buttoned cushion not unlike the one portrayed in Ano’s work. They at once reflect physical activity and sterility, a bathroom or a swimming pool perhaps, and against the flesh like backdrop encourage a visual of open sexuality. This ambiguity of the piece being both something the body interacts with and parts of the body itself are seen similarly in Ano’s piece. Although his chair invites (well, almost dares, actually)viewer interaction, it also resembles flesh having been moulded into the present form. And in that aspect could be seen as a live organism fighting to swim, much like contemporary art in the Caribbean.

So despite its cushy exterior, the connotations of Ano’s pink chair resound loud and hard in both art historical and social anthropological contexts. The transcending nature of its form allows various comments and readings to be communicated, which provides a rich dialogue on the (dis)comfort of the Caribbean environment.

[1] Dominique Brebion, Autour de global Caribbean, AICA SC web site by myself.

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid


3 réflexions sur “Cushioning the Blow by Natalie McGuire

  1. J. Valton to S. Njami :
    ‘On the subject of the 3×3 artists, you said in an interview you gave to the French television channel France O: “To a certain extent these islands constitute a kind of comfort zone. The people are living there, they are at home, they have their habits, there are local celebrities… everything goes along just nicely. So I thought it would be interesting to expose them to a wider world – to try and export them…”
    You need to take account of the context in the French West Indies, which is not the same as for the rest of the Caribbean and nothing like that of mainland France: a lack of spaces for curating, exhibiting, legitimising, a lack of galleries, the high cost of travel (including within the Caribbean) and of transporting artworks, the virtual impossibility for artists of maintaining a professional practice, the scarcity of press and specialist journals, the lack of debating forums for discussing art, a general public that is not schooled in art appreciation, a public policy for visual art creation that is cautious or excessively instrumental, etc. And we should add to that an age-old exclusion from their geographical region and their natural cultural environment with the aim of isolating them and increasing their dependence on France. All in all, shouldn’t we really be calling such an arid environment (for both the artists and their public) a ‘non-comfort zone’?’

    Publié par Jocelyn Valton | 28 février 2014, 12 h 18 min
  2. La dialogue entre Jocelyn Valton et Simon Njami est évoqué dans ce « post  » relatif à Global Caribbean IV où Chilklet d’Ano était présenté
    Power point & commentaire : Dominique Brebion, pour la soirée- rencontre de la Fondation Clément du 12 juin 2013

    Chiklet d’Ano ou l’inconfort de la zone de confort

    Le fauteuil moelleux, rose, mais posé de travers et en train de « fondre »
    Avec cette installation, Ano questionne le contexte d’émergence de la création dans les Départements d’Outre – mer ainsi que le positionnement de l’artiste caribéen au sein du contexte artistique international. Le fauteuil d’Ano, lové dans un environnement molletonné mais posé de guingois, est une métaphore de son inconfort dans l’acte de création en raison de l’histoire de l’art émergeante et de la tradition plastique non affirmée de sa région (2).
    Cette installation fait référence à un entretien entre Simon Njami, écrivain, commissaire indépendant, fondateur de Revue Noire et Joscelyn Valton, critique d’art de Guadeloupe. Cet entretien a été publié dans le catalogue de l’exposition Who are more sci – fi than us, présentée en 2012 au Kunsthal KAdE aux Pays – Bas évoque plutôt les Antilles comme une zone de confort qui freinerait la création :
    « Il manque certes de tout sur les îles, mais il existe tout de même des embryons de structures, des guichets à subventions, de petits moyens de s’en sortir localement, qui évitent de se confronter à un monde plus vaste. C’est cela que j’appelle la « comfort zone ». Cette espèce d’immobilisme qui conduit à tout accepter et à devenir fataliste. Dans les endroits où il n’y a vraiment rien, c’est marche ou crève. Et les artistes qui ne bénéficient pas du quart de la moitié du millième de ce qui existe sur les îles françaises sont contraints de trouver les moyens de s’en sortir seuls. Parfois le désert total vaut mieux, pour l’énergie, qu’un semblant de quelque chose » Simon Njami
    « Cette pièce, dit mon inconfort à créer dans ce que Simon Njami appelle une « confort zone ». Bref c’est une pièce chewing-gum qui veut donner à repenser la vie en rose dans nos îles « paradis ». Vie synonyme de luxe, de repos, de vacance…très loin d’une humanité » Ano

    Publié par aicasc | 2 mars 2014, 5 h 03 min

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