Curated by Claire Tancons, Krista Thompson, EN MAS’: Carnival and Performance Art of the Caribbean is a pioneering exploration of the influences of Carnival on contemporary performance practices in the Caribbean, North America, and Europe.
Conceived around a series of nine commissioned performances realized during the 2014 Caribbean Carnival season across eight cities in six different countries, the exhibition considers the connections between Carnival and performance, masquerade and social criticism, diaspora and transnationalism. Taking its title from a pun on “Mas” (short for masquerade and synonymous with carnival in the English-speaking Caribbean), EN MAS’ considers a history of performance that does not take place on the stage or in the gallery but rather in the streets, addressing not the few but the many.
EN MAS’ introduces performance art with a focus on the influence that Carnival and related masquerading traditions in and of the Caribbean and its diasporas have had on contemporary performance discourse and practice, in both the artistic and curatorial realms. Indeed, EN MAS’ takes into account performance practices that do not trace their genealogy to the European avant–gardes of the early twentieth–century but rather to the experiences of slavery and colonialism through to the mid–nineteenth century, the independence struggles and civil right movements of the mid–twentieth century and population migrations to and from the former colonial centers for most of the last century.
Throughout the 2014 Caribbean Carnival season, EN MAS’ tracked nine artists - John Beadle, Christophe Chassol, Charles Campbell, Nicolás Dumit Estévez, Marlon Griffith, Hew Locke, Lorraine O’Grady, Ebony G. Patterson, and Cauleen Smith – as they engaged, transformed, or critiqued historical and contemporary Caribbean performance practices from Carnival in Santiago de los Caballeros, Port of Spain, Fort-de-France, Kingston, London and Brooklyn, to Junkanoo in Nassau and the New Orleans second line – or in their own imaginary cartographies and invented performance traditions. The resulting newly commissioned works took place according to different modes of public address and audience engagement including semi-private rituals at the margin of the festival celebrations and street processions in the midst of the carnival revelry.
Prior to a national and international tour organized by Independent Curators International (ICI), EN MAS’ will bring together material remnants or reconstitutions from the performances as well as photographic and filmic interpretations thus also presenting some of the best photographers, filmmakers and videographers working in the Caribbean today including Marvin Bartley, Arnaldo James, Marlon James, Raymond Marrero, Oneika Russell, Nile Saulter, Storm Saulter, and Michelle Serieux to name a few. The exhibition at CAC is designed by Gia Wolff.
An accompanying publication, co-published by ICI and CAC will include critical essays by the exhibition’s curators as well as Shannon Jackson and Kobena Mercer among others, monographic texts by an array of cultural and art critics, and an extensive array of illustrations. In addition to the publication, a newly launched website hosted by ICI offers insights into each artist’s performance while tracking the exhibition tour.
John Beadle, Christophe Chassol, Charles Campbell, Nicolás Dumit Estévez, Marlon Griffith, Hew Locke, Lorraine O’Grady, Ebony G. Patterson, and Cauleen Smith.
ABOUT THE CURATORS
Claire Tancons is a curator, writer, and researcher with a focus on Carnival, public ceremonial culture, civic rituals, and popular movements. The Associate Curator for Prospect.1 New Orleans (2007-9), a curator for the 7th Gwangju Biennale (2008), Guest Curator for CAPE09 (2009), Associate Curator for research for Biennale Bénin (2012), and a curator for the Göteborg Biennial (2013), Tancons has developed genealogies and methodologies for thinking about and presenting performance – including reclaiming the processional as exhibitionary mode. She has written extensively about Carnival, the carnivalesque, performance and protest in NKA, Small Axe, Third Text, and e-flux Journal. Tancons was most recently guest curator for Up Hill Down Hall: An Indoor Carnival as part of the 2014 BMW Tate Live series at Tate Modern.
Krista Thompson is Associate Professor of Art History at Northwestern University and the author of An Eye for the Tropics (2006). She has written articles in Art Bulletin, Art Journal, American Art, Representations, The Drama Review, and Small Axe. Thompson has also curated several exhibitions, including the National Exhibition (NE3) (2006) and Developing Blackness: Studio Photographs of “Over the Hill” Nassau in the Independence Era (2008) at the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas. Her book Shine: The Visual Economy of Light in African Diasporic Aesthetic Practice—written about the intersection of popular photography, performance, and contemporary art in the circum–Caribbean will be published by Duke University Press in 2015.
EN MAS’: Carnival and Performance Art of the Caribbean is an exhibition curated by Claire Tancons and Krista Thompson; organized and presented by the Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans (CAC); and co–organized as a traveling exhibition by Independent Curators International, New York (ICI). The exhibition is made possible by an Emily Hall Tremaine Exhibition Award. Additional support is provided by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. A forthcoming CAC-ICI co-publication, supported by additional funding from Northwestern University, will be released in 2015 with the beginning of the exhibition tour.