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Beyond post-colonial

“ARC is a beginning, a way for us to look at our world differently, to visualize the future we inhabit,” begins a most powerful inaugural editorial.

Such words are perfect to set out the goals of this publication, ARC Magazine, which kicked off 2011 with its first issue in January. Featuring an exciting collection of artists and writers from many disciplines and islands across the Caribbean discussing contemporary art, films and cultural shifts, the magazine sets itself up as a revolutionary publication – one that holds conversations about the cultural landscape of the Caribbean while remaining firmly rooted within it, rather than coming from outside.

With its fourth issue just released at the closing of the year, they show no signs of stopping, instead becoming a nucleus around which the exciting modern developments of contemporary Caribbean art come together in thoughtful, engaging and revolutionary conversation – hopefully for many years to come.

“I didn’t see this coming at all to be honest. The welcome we’ve received from the Caribbean has just been overwhelming ­– it’s overwhelming to think we have all of this support,” says co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of ARC Magazine, Holly Bynoe.

As Bynoe finished her MIA studies in Advanced Photography at the International Center for Photography at Bard College, she felt the need to continue the consistently critical and creative environment for her to thrive as an artist as she moved home to St. Vincent. ARC Magazine also came out of a desire for Bynoe and co-founder and fellow artist Nadia Huggins to collaborate on an artistic project – one that turned out to be a hugely important project for the region.

“We were hoping for our readers to become acclimated with the language, power and the potential of visual arts as a catalyst of change and as a way to affect the social constructs of the space we live in,” she explains. “Given that we are existing in a time where information is virtually meaningless because of the proliferation and the production of stimuli it becomes central that we try to create a space where one can grasp and understand the contents of our creative space.”

Indeed, ARC has become the publication to read and watch – for not only do their gorgeous full-color magazines in bold layouts warrant attention and admiration, but their active online life with their website provides the Caribbean art community with a go-to nexus for ongoing events across the region.

Such a place is not so much for prospective visits to these exhibitions but for the simple desire for connection and context within a rapidly expanding and flourishing regional art scene. This desire, says Bynoe, is not only driven by the very lack of such publications but also the insularity of the few existing ones.

“I think for far too long we’ve had a lack in the fact of putting out something serious, something we could be proud of and something of quality,” she says. “I know there are a couple of other publications out there but you can’t access them unless you belong to a larger institution that has a subscription – they don’t advertise to the common man.”

Indeed, it’s a publication “for the people, by the people” – taking on new writers or artists without extensive literary or academic backgrounds to write critically and thoughtfully about work that excites them to readers who have similar motivations. In this way, Caribbean art takes center stage instead of the academic’s ego or desire for peer-review, reaching a wider audience with such inclusion.

“That’s what we wanted to do, access a large spectrum of people and we didn’t want to isolate anyone,” says Bynoe. “For too long such publications have belonged to the upper class and middle class, and I think we can move forward and I don’t think we can get the support we want from the market if the middle man can’t access it.”

It’s all part of ARC Magazine’s philosophy to shift the gaze of Caribbean art from the outside to the inside, allowing those with Caribbean heritage making such exciting contemporary art to create a voice for themselves. Its takes post-colonial further, acknowledging the disparities between Caribbean nations bourne out of similar pasts and using art to break down those walls and boundaries and bring art communities together to speak to the multi-faceted identities of “Caribbeanness” in a globalized world.

“In the Caribbean we are on the verge of an advent; we exist in a space for the first time where we are unable to simplify or essentialize our experiences,” points out Bynoe. “Our similarities and differences as a people are complex and it is integral that we secure an idea of what we truly embody.”

“ARC gives an insight into these patterns and revelations and what is most special about it is the fact that it is finessed and very conscious about its parts; it analyzes, critiques and gives insight into the working of the creative and intellectual mind as it ponders, deliberates and sorts,” she continues.

Indeed, the point seems not to be to bring everyone together in some sort of solution, but to allow space where we can build some semblance of a community with recognized differences and similarities and to construct outward from inside the Caribbean space. This constant exercise has no identifiable beginning or end, but is recognized in its very actions as intrinsically necessary to the cultural identity of the region.

It’s name, ARC, is reflective of that – being a line that is not all encompassing but rather a suggestion, an attempt to rope around the scatterings of Caribbean identities and yet remaining open to new constructions.

“It’s typical when you think about the Caribbean space or when you start to conceptualize it’s history, it’s contemporary presence, it’s vague future – there are all these cycles happening and it’s all the beginning and never the end,” points out Bynoe.

“For me it’s about creating and tapping into these networks and seeing who the gems are and because I know lots of people are doing a tremendous amount of work, we have to be clever about how we put them together.”

To that end, they aim to feature artists in all genres across the Caribbean, especially those who have been or felt overlooked by the larger academia of the art world. Such an aim has led to the inclusion of several Bahamian artists in ARC magazine’s third issue, published in July. Charles Campbell opened the issue by taking a look at the work by the elusive Tavares Strachan, while ARC featured work by Lavar Munroe on its cover and across several spreads as its featured artist.

“When we started thinking about ARC, I came into contact with Lavar’s work and I put it down in my pile that was essential to feature because the work has a life beyond the Caribbean,” says Bynoe. “You can connect his work to a lot of different trends in America. I like that connection outwards. He was dealing with these issues of colonization and a colonized mind and I thought the politics of it was really profound.”

Such inclusion is an exciting development for The Bahamas as it continues to look outward and be taken seriously in the eyes of the globe as well as in the eyes of its fellow neighbors for its contemporary artistic practices.

With Issue 4 just recently released earlier this month, the editorial team took a deeper look at their own home base of St. Vincent, exploring the work of featured artist Caroline “Booops” Sardine, among others, to tap into conversations shared across the region and to bring attention to contemporary work being done on the small island nation.

“We really wanted to think about St. Vincent as a space for contemporary art and also we’re trying to negotiate our space as fitting into the larger Caribbean as well,” explains Bynoe.

“A lot of these large islands hog the scene, rightfully so because they are supported and funded – artists have the space, they have the infrastructure. But if you get to the small islands, what do we establish? What sort of infrastructure holds us artists up and allows us to create?” she continues. “So I think presenting her as our featured artist inosculates the idea of that, to highlight works that you don’t really see.”

Though the editorial team operates from the island of St. Vincent, their online presence is a testament to the globalized world; they are trying to create a space within. ARC Magazine also taps into networks across the Caribbean by taking part in panels and conferences and holding magazine launches with exhibitions in islands across the region – including St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Barbados, Trinidad – and internationally in New York City, tapping into the Caribbean diasporic community.

“I would say it is going beyond our control because right now there is so much to be done and with the limited resources I’m on the computer daily looking at work and trying to figure out how we’re going to move forward in this technological age and world,” admits Bynoe.

For 2012 they are eyeing an expansion into Europe in an attempt to forge more connections with practicing Caribbean artists across the globe. Besides continuing to strengthen their online presence as its main hub, the publication of ARC Magazine may see some changes in size and frequency of publication as the editorial team revisits their intention in light of their accomplishments and experiences. Nevertheless, their philosophy remains the same and Bynoe invites insight and critique by anyone within the community.

“We hope to inspire the majority of emerging artists who nowadays feel a tremendous sense of isolation and ennui, by offering them a democratic space to interact with in order to become more knowledgeable about art practices, their contexts and relevance,” says Bynoe. “But, mostly we want our readers to be challenged by the works and motivated to find their own creative space.”

“We hope our readers come to understand its parts and as a result understand themselves more completely,” she continues. “As we understand ARC, it understands itself.”

ARC Magazine Issue 3 featuring Bahamian artists Lavar Munroe and Tavares Strachan is available at both Doongalik Studios on Village Road and ChapterOne bookstore in Oaksfield; Issue 4 is only available at Doongalik Studios. Visit them online at www.arcthemagazine.com.

 

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