Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 16th 2014 Contents MARSHA PEARCE
It has been 13 years since visual artist, cura-
tor and writer Christopher Cozier has exhibited
his work in T&T. His latest show at Y Art
Gallery is an amalgam of preparatory drawings
produced for various exhibitions he has held
around the world---New York, Johannesburg,
Miami---between 2010 and 2013.
What Cozier makes accessible to the T&T
audience, through a bridging of word and image,
is a vocabulary with which one can begin to
speak and attend to matters of lack and loss in
"My work is about traces and memory---the
thing that is not there. It is about what is absent.
I have been thinking about that a lot since the
destruction of Carlisle Chang s art at our airport.
It is a wound," says Cozier.
The artist addresses the wound of absence
by asserting its very perceptible presence through
the translation of everyday objects that become
a powerful sign or index of an existence hollowed
out by violence, politics, greed and indifference.
Images of an empty lot of land or car park---
what Cozier calls "all that s left"---and the recur-
ring motif of feet (an image that stays with
Cozier since he saw the lower legs of one of
four youths who were shot and killed near his
home) are among the visual paradigm he is cre-
"My interest in the dead body is connected
to the absence of dreams, the spirit and potential;
and the empty lot suggests the absence of our
historical legacy---the erasure of our architecture,"
In a striking image of a man clad in a shirt,
jacket and trousers eating out of a paper bag,
Cozier not only draws on childhood memories
of seeing classmates hiding to eat, but also ref-
erences artwork he saw on a trip to Spain: Fran-
cisco Goya s painting of the Roman mythological
Saturn devouring his son.
"We are going through that kind of Saturnalia
where the State is devouring its potential. Look
at the society now. Politics is being used to get
hands on money rather than to do good," Cozier
He infuses his work with both humour and
gravitas to produce a language that is approach-
able and simultaneously trenchant in its capacity
to cut to the heart of the matter. His piece
Ghost Bread is a playful take on our hunger.
He uses a hovering, spectral slice of bread to
signify the elusiveness of all that we think we
need to survive.
"It is the sustenance you never quite get, and
it is a white sandwich loaf, so you know it won t
really help you."
Cozier uses the breeze brick or ventilation
block, an element that characterises much of
our architecture, to think about issues of devel-
opment for postcolonial independent nations
and unrealised visions of promise.
"The bricks were a big part of the era in
which I grew up. They were part of a devel-
opment narrative, tropical architecture, nation
euphoria, new housing schemes. They existed
in a world of promise. Now we see footage of
crises and violence and the ventilation-block
pattern is in the background. You realise it is
not a world of promise---that there is something
dystopic about it."
In his series called The Arrest, Cozier is influ-
enced by the lyrics of soca songs which, in a
number of cases, come with instructions to put
our hands in the air. This idea propelled the
artist in the direction of thoughts of being
arrested, of being seized and taken into custody
and of the halting of progress.
"We are all in a state of arrest. We are arrested
by our social conditions," he adds.
In many of his works, Cozier blurs the line
between what art scholar WJT Mitchell calls
experiences between the seeable and the sayable,
showing and telling. Cozier melds words and
images to produce drawings that attempt to
harness the communicative and symbolic capac-
ity of both modes of thinking.
In his exhibition one can find a paragraph of
words forming a leg or an arm, leading to a
sketched foot or hand. In one piece, an incom-
plete picture of a foot and leg is accompanied
by the words: "When you miss me I gone yes."
Cozier takes a phrase used in our daily parl-
ance, extracting it from its casual usage when
we tell someone we are leaving, to give it new,
weighty meaning. All that is gone in our soci-
ety---have we noticed those absences?
"I am always trying to find a way to get
images and words to meet---trying to find a
vocabulary. My drawings are made from free-
association writing. I am writing about what
is going on in the country and the way I feel.
It is a flow of anxieties.
"My thoughts reveal themselves going into
the work, but then they obscure themselves as
the writing becomes layered. I find this is an
interesting tension," he says.
Christopher Cozier s career in the visual arts
has long been about making connections and
forging dialogues. For over 25 years, he has been
running artists workshops, exchanges and res-
idencies linking local artists with international
practitioners. He was recently granted a Prince
Claus Award for his contribution to the devel-
opment of cultural action in the Caribbean.
While his work deals with the subject of lack,
it is also tied to facilitating support for and
engagement with contemporary art practice.
"I want people to see my work as more than
objects and that they can enter the head space
I am struggling with. At the end of the day, my
objective is to get people here to take contem-
porary artwork seriously."
Hiding to Eat, by Christopher Cozier.
IMAGE COURTESY THE ARTIST
blues ---Page B30
colours ---Page B3
Of loss, of lack
Cozier shows in T&T for
the first time in 13 years
• Christopher Cozier's exhibition Works
From 4 Projects 2010-13 at Y Art
Gallery, 26 Taylor Street, Woodbrook,
runs until February 24. More info: 628-
4165 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Artist Christopher Cozier. PHOTO COURTESY: AKIKO OTA
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