Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Ghetto Biennale: Haiti Screening & Conversation w/ Port-Au-Prince artist André Eugene & Others

Artwork by André Eugene

What: Haiti Screening & Conversation w/ Port-Au-Prince artist André Eugene & Others
When: Thursday 03.18.10
Where: 16Beaver Street, 4th Floor
When: 7:30 pm
Who: Free and open to all

"This Thursday we will have a very special event with Port-Au-Prince based artist André Eugene, who is in New York for a few days during an exceptional visit. After screening Leah Gordon's ‘Atis-Rezistans: The Sculptors of Grand Rue' (34mins), André Eugene, and our other guests Laura Heyman, and Richard Fleming, will answer questions or comments in a general conversation about art and politics in Port-Au-Prince, the recent Ghetto Biennale that happened there, and the aftermath of the tragic earthquake, and the prospects for the future.

We are keeping to 16 Beaver's tradition of not charging anything for this event (our events are always free), a hat will be circulated for those who want to help with contributions for the Grand Rue community, as André Eugene will be flying back directly to Haiti, and is specifically in New
York to buy tents for people who have no shelter for the coming rain season.

The evening is an opportunity to have a group conversation with everyone in New York who knows and cares about Haiti, or art, politics, and international resistance struggles. Please forward and post to your lists."

2. About Port-Au-Prince based artist André Eugene, Laura Heyman, and
Richard Fleming

"André Eugene Andre Eugène is the progenitor of the Grand Rue artist movement in downtown Port au Prince. He fuses the fetish effigy with an apocalyptic futuristic vision. Much of his work is figurative using human skulls for heads and imbued with a bold sense of irony, sexuality and
humor. To learn more on him and the Grand Rue artists, see below text and link (3).

British photographer and filmmaker Leah Gordon first visited Haiti in 1991 and has built an extraordinary body of work over nineteen years. Her work does not merely articulate nostalgia for an authentic popular culture but positively celebrates the vivid potential of contemporary communal creativity in Haiti.

Richard Fleming is a writer and journalist with experience in Haiti. He is the author of 'Walking to Guantánamo'. You can learn more about his work at his blog.

Laura Heyman is an educator, photographer, artist and curator. She was a participant in last December's 'Ghetto Biennale' in Port-Au-Prince and will speak of her work and experience there."

3. About Leah Gordon's film 'Atis Rezistans, The Sculptors of the Grand Rue'

"The Grand Rue Sculptors are a community of artists living in a downtown slum neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. This is the newest art community to have emerged in the last ten years. They have produced art that reflects a heightened, Gibsonesque, Lo-Sci-Fi, dystopian view of
their society, culture and religion, and have dragged Haitian art into the 21st century. Jean Herard Celeur, Andre Eugene and Guyodo are at the core of the movement, which contains seven or eight other younger artists, all producing powerful sculptural works. Their work has opened entirely new vistas into the creative possibilities of the Vodou-inspired arts of
Haiti. Their muscular sculptural collages of engine manifolds, computer entrails, TV sets, medical debris, skulls and discarded lumber transforms the detritus of a failing economy into deranged, post-apocalyptic totems."

To read texts, and see images of works about the Grand Rue, and its artists, visit here.

4. About the Ghetto Biennale: A Salon des Refusés for the 21st century (November-December 2009)

Please visit the Ghetto Biennale website for full information on participants, history, ideas, etc.

(The following text is just an introduction. The Biennale already happened, but written in present//future tense)

"What happens when first world art rubs up against third world art? Does it bleed?

In 2009 the 'Sculptors of Grand Rue' plan to hold their first 'Ghetto Biennale'. They are inviting fine artists, filmmakers, academics, photographers, musicians, architects and writers, to come to the Grand Rue area of Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, to make or witness work that will be shown
or happen, in their neighbourhood. In the words of the writer John Keiffer it will hopefully be a “'third space' event or moment created through a collaboration between artists from radically different backgrounds”. '

'The artists use all the detritus of a post-industrial global economy which uses Haiti as a dumping ground. They return the compliment, creating astounding bricolages and assemblages which express both the despair and the seemingly endless creativity of Haiti and Vodou. I have visited their ateliers on Haiti’s Grand Rue on several occasions over the last four
years. I have had a chance to see their sculptures as they were being wrought from their desperate materials in a scrap yard on this wreck of a street, in this wreck of a city, in this wreck of a country. Saying all that, I would also have to add that, like Haiti, their sculptures seem to
express the boundless creative energy of a people who are simultaneously the economically poorest, and artistically richest culture in the New World.'Professor Donald Cosentino, World Arts and Cultures, University of California-Los Angeles.

Forging a successful arts career is difficult for a downtown Haitian. Refused US entry visas, the Grand Rue sculptors were excluded from a private view of their work in a major museum in Miami. A lack of government support makes them economically excluded from all major
biennales. The artists have responded by hosting the 'Ghetto Biennale', the first arts festival located in a shantytown in the developing world. The event will explore what happens when artists from radically different backgrounds come together. When first world art objectives encounter third world artistic reality, and when Western artists try to make art in the
poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Haitian artist, Andre Eugene says, 'the Ghetto Biennale represents positive change in my area and gives us the chance to show another face of life in the ghettos of Port-au-Prince. I think we have much to offer and much to learn.'

Malaysian artist, Simryn Gill, has said of her potential involvement in the 'Ghetto Biennale'.'The making of things, in the way that you describe Haitian artists doing, is very energising and attracting for me. Sometime it feels like we have left so behind us the acts of actually making,
forming, transforming materials with passion and courage, and art has become a kind of domain of cleverness, even timidity, in case we somehow show ourselves up in too much eagerness or insufficient wit or skill by making forms.'"

Kathy Acker, Andre Breton, Maya Deren, Katherine Dunham, Graham Greene, Jerzy Grotowski, Langston Hughes, Zora Neal Hurston, & Genesis P.Orridge all visited Haiti and made work inspired by their visit.
16 Beaver Group
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