Closing Reception: Framing Digital Art

“The Human-Coral Hybrids: Embodying Past, Present, and Future”
Tamika Galanis (Visual Artist)

The Human-Coral Hybrids, 3D-printed objects, are part of my ongoing project Hacking the Narrative. As a Bahamian documentarian, I am experimenting with new modes of storytelling about the Bahama Islands and Bahamians that surpass the usual tourism rhetoric. Hacking the Narrative is a multimedia project employing documentary photography, film, sculpture, and writing that engages the issue of cultural preservation and full representation of a disappearing culture in light of climate change predictions. Absent of any real climate change initiatives, who will accurately account for this culture? The Human-Coral Hybrids are an embodiment of the parity in exploitation experienced by both the displaced Africans and the natural environment—both having succumbed to a great “taming” at the hands of colonists in the name of tourism post-emancipation. Tourism, still ranked number one in Bahamian industry, enables the maintenance of the global place-image attributed to the country. This type of imagery is problematic because—like the post-emancipation images created to frame Colonial Nassau for tourist consumption—it eclipses the country’s socioeconomic state. The world’s expectation of a curated paradisiacal experience leaves no consideration for local crime rate, unemployment, declining educational standards, and declining natural resources. These sculptures reach beyond the widely-held paradisiacal myth of The Bahamas—and the Caribbean at large—to hold space for the reality of the lesser known stories. The hybrids pay homage to the Africans who came before us, present-day Bahamians, the ocean that continues to sustain us, and they engage the theory of a fate that awaits us, should these climate change predictions come true.

“Coup”
Kearra Amaya Gopee (Visual Artist)

As a regular user of Tumblr, I have seen my fair share of Caribbean fetishization, most notably by 1st and 2nd generation Caribbean youth who currently reside in the Global North. As one who is Miami born, Trinidad raised, I can emphasize with their need to escape their realities; an escape into the digital stands as the only method for most. Thus, online, there is a proliferation of imagery and prose that serves to construct an ideal Caribbean in their collective imagination. However, while they have the luxury of being able to divorce themselves from the day-to-day violence-both physical and psychological-that permeate the islands, people who reside there cannot. The Caribbean as a fantasy space exists mostly in the digital, now, with a notable absence of critical thought. Most of this can be found in the hashtag #IslandLife. When searching #IslandLife, what does one usually see? Images of idyllic beach images, flora, fauna and smiling natives tend to dominate the narrative, but is this an accurate reflection of the reality faced by those who must navigate the space everyday? The Caribbean’s history of violent colonization along with its current states of unrest from sky-high murder rates in Trinidad & Tobago and its evolution into a narco-state, to the underground sex trafficking rings that pepper the region, to ethnic cleansing in the Dominican Republic-are subject to erasure through the use of this hashtag, leaving daily traumas largely unearthed. This project, entitled Coup, aims to disrupt the visual narrative put forward by #IslandLife by subtly infiltrating the tag and forcing viewers to confront the truth of what happens on these islands everyday. Consisting of both a series of “corrupted” imagery and a deeper meditation on the Internet as sanctuary and a repository of what I call “untrue but valid” memory, Coup is a multimedia project that aims to be as accessible as it is critical.

Yasmine Espert (Presenter)