Accepted Paper:

Atlantic movement in art of the Indo-Caribbean: casting shadows and throwing light in Surinam and the Netherlands  


Leon Wainwright (The Open University)

Paper short abstract:

This presentation will explore patterns of art patronage, curating and reception that recently ensued in two urban contexts, in Suriname and the Netherlands, throwing light on the intersections between art discourse and 'a right to the city'.

Paper long abstract:

Much research in anthropology and visual and material culture studies has insisted on framing visual culture as the signification of national place, transnational connection, political position, and ethnic 'belonging'. In this presentation, I suggest that we may need to confront the ways in which art of the Caribbean and by extension diaspora culture is commoditised - how aesthetic forms are often taken to be representative of one or other ethnic or diasporic difference, and the concomitant practice of treating these art works as 'signifying' visual media. This critical initiative is drawn from recent fieldwork in Paramaribo (Suriname) and in Rotterdam, where Dutch and Surinamese official sponsorship shaped two art exhibitions in 2010. The links between these sites are revealing of the positions that artists of Indo-Caribbean backgrounds specifically have come adopt in relation to expectations about diasporic difference. Such expectations may be seen in the patterns of art patronage, curating and reception that ensued in two urban contexts with the culmination of a Suriname-Dutch partnership of 'cultural exchange'. Overall, this field is useful for grasping the matter of artists' agency and its limits (developing the picture given in Wainwright 2011 and 2012), by showing how artists have coped with perceptions of difference (namely 'Indianness') in moving along the axis of connection between Suriname and the Netherlands. The processes of transit, transition and transformation through movement become explicit in this account. They help to complicate the political struggles underlying David Harvey's sense of 'a right to the city', in understanding the uneven relations between Rotterdam and Paramaribo in the field of the visual arts.

Panel P38
Art worlds and the city: perspectives from India and beyond