Ghetto Biennale II

February 25, 2016

Footage from the second Ghetto Biennale in December 2011 shot by Alex Louis from Tele Geto.

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TéléGhetto, the video collective from the Ti Moun Rezistans group in Port-au-Prince, have a new website. Highlights include a gallery of art videos including the excellent Guedé inspired Plezi Gedi Credi by Romel Jean Pierre.

In Haitian Vodou Papa Guédé is Lord of the Dead, a figure closely related to the somewhat more famous Baron Samedi of James Bond Live and Let Die fame.  The Guéde are a family of spirits, generally dwelling in and around the cemetery and associated with death, sensuality, sex and procreation. They include the Barons Cimetière, La Croix, Kriminel and Maman Brigit, all closely associated with Papa Legba (a chant for whom you can hear at the beginning of E Pluribus Unum).

Also excellent is Steeven Simeon’s Imajine Ou Leve Demen Epi Mizik Disparet (Imagine You Woke Up Tomorrow and Music had Disappeared) named after the Bill Drummond graffiti piece from the 2009 Ghetto Biennale (shown in the video). Great to see the aesthetic and visual techniques of Atiz and Ti Moun Rezistans translated into the medium of video. All three pieces capture some of the atmosphere of Lakou Cheri where the Ghetto Biennale takes place and the Guédé spirit of the Atiz community who live there.

 

Here is a short interview with me that Alexander McLean shot during the Portman Gallery “Art Power” exhibition which gives some background to the production of the show as well a little bit about Haitian history.

Documentation of the ‘Morpeth School – Art Power’ project has been posted on the Portman Gallery website. Thanks to everyone who supported the project.

Finished Banner Installed

Next week I will be working with students from Morpeth School in Bethnal Green to produce a large scale banner based on the working methods and styles of Haitian tap tap painters. The finished banner will be shown alongside the sign made for Tele Geto during the last Ghetto Biennale and the video documentation of its making. The exhibition will take place at the Portman Gallery, Morpeth School, Portman Place, London E2 0PX. There will be a wine reception in the gallery from 6 till 8 on Thursday March 21st. All welcome.

Details below (click on flyer for higher resolution). Art Power E-Flyer Final (jpg)

Here is a new video by Alex Louis from Tele Geto and Ti Moun Rezistans.

Alex is currently looking for a video arts program that he can apply for. Please let me know if you have any ideas about this.

This video was shot during the 2nd Ghetto Biennale in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in December 2011. It documents the painting of a sign I commissioned for a special Ghetto Biennale tap-tap truck, intended to promote Ti Moun Rezistans’ Tele Geto project during the event.

Days 1 and 2

December 12, 2011

It’s too much to explain what it is like to arrive at the Oloffson and to be plunged into the energies of the Ghetto Biennale. Suffice to say that it is a medium.

It turns out that the Tap tap I’ve commissioned to be painted has already been half done and that there seems to be some confusion as to whether the owner – Evel – will allow the rest of his truck to be painted, and whether the $100 US I sent to pay for the job will be recuperable from the guy Michel who painted the other parts of the truck.

I meet with Evel and Chevy from Atis Rezistans and some sort of deal is struck about making a painting on the bonnet of his truck on plastic so that it can be taken off after the biennale. That’s agreed. Now it’s a question of finding the painter and working out the cost.

After dinner I meet with a guy who says he can do the job. But we will have to speak to Michel first. I’m not sure how this is going to work out exactly or whether any definitive agreement was reached because I’m working in incredibly bad, broken French with bits of English thrown in. I’m never sure exactly what I’m saying or if it’s being understood. There’s also a lot of discussion and debate moving in Kreyol between the different interests to which I’m not party. I’m re-assured something will be sorted.

The next day I spend some time walking around the neighborhood with Jana Evans Braziel, who is writing a book about Atis Rezistans and the Ghetto Biennale. I take the opportunity to take some photos of signs in the area.

I notice that several of the signs have business names and contacts written on them, suggesting that they are made by free-lance painters. I had assumed that their might be some kind of guild system working, at least with the tap tap painters, but I’m starting to think that sign painting in Haiti is a much more individual and entrepreneurial venture pursued by any one with a feel for it.

That certainly seems to be the case when I start to negotiate with both of the sign painters, who turn out to be friends, down at Grand Rue, the site of the biennale.

Michel and Joseph on the Grand Rue

After some negotiations with Evel, Eugene, Michel and his friend we agree on a price for the new work which will be painted on a canvas which will be attached to the bonnet of the truck: $200 US, $100 each, the first today, the second on completion of the job in two days time. We shake on the deal. I will be at the rue tomorrow at 8 to start the filming. I go back to Eugene’s yard, take a few more photos of the biennale space as the light fades, then head off back to Oloffson on Evel’s truck.

Romel and Racine at Eugene’s place

Global Data Map of Zombies

October 6, 2011

A group of researchers from the Oxford Internet Institute have recently mapped the global distribution of content on Google Maps containing the word ‘Zombie’. Interestingly the word does not occur in Haiti. The closest place is Puerto Rico, with the lowest level incidence of references. The zombie search epicenters seem to be in the metropolitan areas of the US and Western Europe. A full resolution image of the map can be found here: Mapping zombies.

Although this zombie map is most explicitly relevant for Zonbi Diaspora (the name of which was changed recently from ‘Zombie’ to ‘Zonbi’ for reasons I will explain later), some of the other maps on the ‘Visualizing Data’ site have more implicit value in terms of the Ghetto Biennale and the work of Tele Geto. The visualization of the user-generated ‘georeferenced’ content on the internet shows the dominance of material from the USA and Canada and the relatively small amount generated in Latin American and the Caribbean. The Internet Penetration, Literacy and Gender and Location of Academic Knowledge visualizations gives us a background story. What they indicate is a clear information-knowledge imbalance which is amplified by the internet.

An underlying assumption of Zonbi Diaspora is that the migration of the zonbi/zombie figure from pre-slavery West Africa to contemporary zombie films followed paths which coincided with the evolution of communications media. The transition from a folkloric Haitian legend to a ghoulish horror figure coincided with the convergence of exotic western travel literature, sensationalist newspaper reporting and early cinema. This is not the whole story. But the informational-mediatic dimension of the story is fundamental here.

I contacted Mark Graham, one of the creators of the map and asked him why he had chosen to plot the word ‘zombie’? What was the background for this choice?

‘I guess just a small obsession with zombies that I have. Together with Matt Zook and Taylor Shelton, I’ve also co-authored a chapter on zombies that should be out in a book called ‘Zombies in the Academy’ next year’.

Here is an excellent video by Tele Geto interviewing a Vodou priest and Christian priest during their memorial ceremonies for the one year anniversary of the earthquake. And here is a very inspiring short film called Dandine from the Global Nomads Group. And from the same source  here is a short video about Haitian Vodou which includes an interview with Max Beauvoir, the ‘Official Head of Haitian Vodou’, who makes some very pertinent comments – in terms of the general orientation of this blog-  about the effects of Hollywood ‘Voodoo’ on Haitian Vodou.