EDITORIAL: An Invitation to Critical Dialogue

Jasmine Thomas-Girvan - Alchemy of Promise (2012), mixed media

Jasmine Thomas-Girvan – Alchemy of Promise (2012), mixed media

The National Biennial 2012, which closed in March, was, as Charles Campbell put it in his excellent review, a powerful and demanding exhibition that reflected the expansive growth of contemporary art in Jamaica and its Diaspora. It captured a cultural moment that is energetic, expansive and enthusiastic and viewers and commentators responded accordingly, with unprecedented enthusiasm that left us very encouraged about current directions in Jamaican art and the development of the NGJ itself.

Charles Campbell rightly cautioned, however, that the present cultural moment is also very self-congratulatory and lacks the supporting critical discourse that is needed to make the current growth spurt fully meaningful and sustainable, culturally and intellectually. The NGJ team recognizes this problem and it is in actuality part of our responsibilities to facilitate and promote critical discourse within and about the Jamaican art world, in its broadest sense. We also recognize the need to extend this thrust internally, to a more critical and self-aware engagement with what we do, and should or could be doing, as Jamaica’s national art museum.

Our present approach to curating, programming and publishing reflects this new commitment towards critical engagement and our latest exhibition, Natural Histories, which opens tomorrow April 28, is a product of this process. In presenting this exhibition, and this editorial, we want to give you greater insight into how our curatorial practice and internal critical discourses are evolving, with new approaches that will also inform the upcoming redesign of our permanent exhibitions

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National Biennial 2012: The Way Art Makes Me Feel (and Think), by Deanne Bell, Ph.D.

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This perspective on the 2012 National Biennial was contributed by a visitor to the NGJ, Deanne Bell, Ph.D. It is the second of several perspectives from staff members and viewers we intend to publish.

I return home to Kingston to work on my dry-cleaning business. The days are filled with entrepreneurial responsibilities; fine tuning operations, responding to customer concerns, managing resources. It is difficult to know what I feel. The world of capitalism requires this numbness in order not to question its premise or link it with the poverty and brokenness I see in people’s bodies everyday.

I go to the National Gallery on Ocean Boulevard for the opening of the 2012 Biennial and twice, again, in January 2013. Brazilian politician, writer, and theatre director Augusto Boal (2006) observes that aesthetics can play a role in instigating emotion where the ability to feel is atrophying. Continue reading