Showing in the intimate South London gallery, The Agency, which houses both a gallery and artist residence, “Divinations of worlds to come” was the second iteration of the Afrokarib series from art consultancy, Bokantaj exploring the cultural diversity in Caribbean cultural and social existence and illuminating linkages with its African past. The first in the series focused on Haiti, and this second iteration focused on Martinique. The “Diviniations…” show was complemented by a series of talks held by the exhibiting artists, Herve Beuze and David Gumbs, both of them showing in the UK for the first time.
This was an exhibition with work which if only by the rarity of its focus on the French speaking Caribbean and Martinique in particular; the island that brought us Aime Cesare is not often in prominent thought in the UK, yet, in a time when a rabid cultural essentialism seems to dominate global conversations such an exhibition proves apposite. It was very powerful to be able to see this work. The exhibition could have done with a little better amount of signposting of the work and clarification and contextualisation of the pieces on show. The small gallery initially seems a meagre space for the ambition expressed for the show, but in fact works to heighten its themes. Most striking is Herve Beuze’s work which monumentalises the human body. Beuze’s work in this show are two large sculptures made of fragile material, but in their monumentalism suggest a strength that belies their fragility; one cannot look upon these figures without reflecting on the means by which the current oecumeme of the Caribbean was established, both in the blood of Africans and the genocide of native populations. These blood links are of course some of what Bokantaj’s work is focused on exploring, and this show proves a forceful salvo in that journey. The title of the show “Divinations of Worlds to come” alludes to this of course; underscoring how this often-ignored region – both by Africa and the West – has been in many ways the crucible from which the modern world was formed – not least the many hybrid identities we now inhabit were initially produced. The work of Beuze’s co-exhibitior, David Gumbs takes a much more conceptual playful and interactive; while striking, it lacked, for this viewer, at least, the richness of exploration in Beuze’s work. Nevertheless, the multi layeredness of the work echoed many patterns of the region; the long association with Chintz as a certain emblem of respectability, as well as the lushness and richness of flora and fauna the region represents in global imagination.
“Divinations of Worlds to Come” (Works by Herve Beuze and David Gumbs – curated by Bokantaj was shown at The Agency, London from 2nd Oct – 15 November 2018.