art in all its forms

art in all its forms


Douen Islands experiment at Alice Yard


A FEW DAYS before the Blood Moon, on Saturday April 12, the contemporary arts space Alice Yard was transformed for a night of experimental literature readings as part of what is called the Douen Islands project.

Douen Islands is an ongoing, open collaborative project — featuring writers, poets, musicians, artists, photographers, dancers and others — first launched on All Hallow’s Eve, 2013, by poet and Newsday reporter Andre Bagoo and designer Kriston Chen.

On April 12, Alice Yard hosted an event by the Douen Islands collaborators, as part of the 2014 NGC Bocas Lit Fest pre-festival programme. Douen Islands: In Forest & Wild Skies, saw the floor of the yard at Roberts Street, Woodbrook covered with dried leaves, set aglow with red lights. Poetry by Bagoo – from an e-book produced for Douen Islands – was projected onto the floor of the drive-way leading inside the space. Tyre swings were put up, re-creating a child’s play area.

Poetry and prose produced as part of the ongoing collaboration – which follows the Trinidad and Tobago folklore character of the douen or a haunted child spirit – were also presented in what was billed as “an experimental reading”. The event was true to that description. Instead of a typical reading with a poet/writer at a podium, there was a projection of a shadow/silhouette of Bagoo who at one stage was pictured literally reading, with a giant moon image being beamed behind him, part of a video produced. At another stage, Bagoo’s silhouette appeared to consume a lit candle as he read his patriotically-themed poem, “Twin Islands”.

Several video pieces produced by Chen were streamed in the space Bagoo read in, including video adaptations of some of Bagoo’s poem “In Forest & Wild Skies”.

The stunning footage enraptured the crowd gathered, featuring video images of the Port-of-Spain skyline and text from the poetry e-book. One video featured the voice of artist and teacher Luis Vasquez La Roche, who read a Spanish translation of the section of the poem, heightening the sense of being foreign in one’s own nation and harking back to the colonial past.

Writer Sharon Millar read her haunting story produced for the collaboration, entitled, “The Gayelle”, occupying spaces in the yard and in a small kitchen area on the compound, lit by hurricane lamps. At times she read, while Bagoo recited and while another collaborator, the poet Shivanee Ramlochan performed.

Ramlochan did not speak. She wrote two poems down on a large blackboard/wall created by the collaborators for the event. Her poems, “Duenne Lara” and “Duenne Lillith” were startling adventures. The audience got a chance to see the poet write, react and even re-edit her words live, emotions and feelings and images flowing out of her.

The entire production involved a sound-scape featuring sitar work by another collaborator, sitarist Sharda Patasar, whose instrumentals were stripped down to create ambient noises and effects, evoking a landscape and resonating with the work’s concern with the marginal.

The event was well-attended. Among those present were Wendell Manwarren and Roger Roberts of 3 Canal, writer Monique Roffey, painter Che Lovelace, dancer Dave Williams (who gave key support to the collaborators), diplomats and more.

Leading up to the event, the collaborators stated: “Douen Islands is a journey, unearthing what is lost — the furtive child foraging through darkened forest; tricked by moonlight into a vacant past; vanishing, like love and blood, into wild skies. A slippery stream flowing out of this post-Independence country, trek into heat, memory, nightmare, dream. Take back the steps we never took. Seek to find.”

After the event, Nicholas Laughlin, one of the co-instigators of Alice Yard – alongside architect Sean Leonard and artist Christopher Cozeir – blogged on the event.

“In the past seven and a half years, Alice Yard has hosted roughly 300 public events,” he noted. “Thinking about last night’s Douen Islands event – and all the people who made it possible by sharing time, expertise, equipment, and labour – I was struck again by the generosity of our network and its immeasurable value.”

“We’ve never been anxious about the resources we don’t have. Instead we’ve imagined the biggest things we can make happen with what we do have. It’s a modus operandi of improvisation, and an attitude of possibility,” Laughlin said.

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From Newsday, April 21st, 2014

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