The Future Files: Brad Pinnock- part 2
This second and concluding part of the feature on Brad Pinnock consists of further excerpts from the interviews we conducted.
VP: What have you done since leaving Edna, artistically? Please tell us about the exhibitions you have participated in and your residency at NLS?
BP: I have participated in two exhibitions; the first being And I Resumed the Struggle (2021), a group exhibition at the Olympia gallery. The second was my first solo exhibition, Teacher Nuh Teach me Nuh Nonsense (2022), as part of my residency at NLS.
The Olympia exhibition was my first-time creating work outside of Edna. I originally wanted to create something of a similar scale as my final year project, but because of practical limitations, I had to work on a smaller scale. This was ultimately beneficial, however, as it allowed me to slow down and focus for a longer time on one piece, as it gave me more time to make decisions and to try out different possibilities. The resulting installation, Race Apocalypse (2021), consisted of a mixed media collage and a chair, as a spin-off from my final year project but with a stronger focus on how the horse and rider theme reflect the Black condition, living under the continued effects of coloniality.
I explored these themes further in my solo exhibition at NLS, but with greater consideration of Black people’s psychological struggles. I continued to elaborate on the horse and rider metaphor, also considering how Black people have been sold, exploited, bred and conditioned, like horses, and the various atrocities that have befallen the Black masses both past and present.
As part of the installation, I wanted to further explore the symbolism of the chair to speak to the human predicament, however, I wanted these to have a more relaxed posture than the first one I created. With this in mind I was able to find three lounge chairs that I could use to create the work. Uncle Tom’s Chair (2022) speaks about the deceptive nature of comfort and silence leading to Black passivity and the failure of Black people to unify. Adding the barbed wire, which can inflict severe pain and harm, and which is used to separate and exclude people, is an ironic twist on the notion of comfort, and alludes to the precarious situation Black people are in.
The two oval, achromatic collages that accompanied this chair in the exhibition were the last works I produced during my residency. In these works, I was looking at the seventies and eighties in Jamaica, the period when Manley and Seaga were in power. It was a very turbulent period, with the issues with the IMF and the CIA-led destabilization of the country, in which Seaga played an active role, the disruption of various Black nationalist groups, and then the Grenada invasion, so it was happening throughout the region. Manley had pursued democratic socialism which favoured the Black majority, which I believe was good and necessary for the country at that time. If only he had the will and self-determination to continue the programme, maybe he wouldn’t have been subdued by the American neoliberal policymakers, and the Black masses of Jamaica would have been in a much better position today.-
The images in these collages refer to these events and draw connections between the despotic leadership of Seaga and that of the current Andrew Holness-led government, while the text elements speak to the idea of chance and Black people’s gamble for survival. These things happened before I was born, yet they continue to influence where we are today. Hence, history is the present.
Your website tells us that your work “investigates the human predicament, particularly as it relates to Black people’s psychological struggles and the gamble of living under the continued effects of coloniality”. Indoctrination seems to be an important theme in your work. How can art help to challenge colonial/neo-colonial indoctrination?
Art or culture, overall, has actually played a major role in shaping the way Black people perceive themselves currently. Images are used to distort and confuse people 24/7, also in the media and even in the churches. A lot of our churches still have the image of the White Jesus, so even the way we view the Creator echoes the colonial master, which reinforces the sense of inferiority in the Black masses. I view the art that I produce as a weapon, as a sort of counteraction to this imperialist propaganda, I turn this around in the hope to bring about some equitable changes for Black people and to influence how they see themselves.
Many of your works are mixed media installations, that interact actively with the surrounding architecture and environment. What attracts you to this format and what do you seek to convey with it?
With this format, people can fully engage with the work as it allows for bodies and objects to traverse the three-dimensional space in ways that both complement or disrupt the work. In other words they become like tableau vivants.
Responding to the architecture, and incorporating it into the work, helps me to draw relationships between power, spatiality, the monumental, and the spectacle, and the way this impacts on people’s consciousness. I was actually looking at the film footage of the Nuremberg Rallies such as Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will, and the role of art in Nazi Germany. The monumental size of Nazi propaganda art and the power of art to appeal to the emotional contributed greatly to its impact.
Your collages visually remind us of quilts and patchwork, which has a long (gendered) history in Black vernacular culture. Is this relevant to your work? Tell us about the significance of pattern, colour and repetition in your work.
I would like to think that my work relates to that tradition, by default, although it was not something I was consciously pursuing at the time. People have also told me that the collages remind them of madras fabric.
The pattern started from putting together the betting slips, and it was interesting to see how the material created that pattern. I am also interested in how collaging texts creates patterns, and the resulting tensions between pattern and text.
The formal repetition also invokes the repetitiveness of the behaviour, to addiction, and to how one is manipulated into a certain pattern of behaviour. I use “ice cream colours”. Such colours are deliberately used in marketing as a cue, for instance on betting slips, to lure and attract people. Colours can be used to indoctrinate people. I used achromatic colours on the two oval collages to draw more specific attention to the images and the content of those works.
Music is also important to my work. Music is very powerful in terms of the messages it can convey. The great Fela Anikulapo Kuti, who I referenced in the title of my solo exhibition, was very vocal about issues of decolonization and social and political critique. I try to embody that same spirit of fearlessness, truth and justice in my work.
Dr Veerle Poupeye is an art historian specialized in art from the Caribbean. She works as an independent curator, writer, researcher, and cultural consultant. The second, revised and expanded edition of her best-known book “Caribbean Art” was recently published in the World of Art series of Thames and Hudson. Her personal blog can be found at veerlepoupeye.com.