EN MAS’ introduces performance art with a focus on the influence that Carnival and related masquerading traditions in and of the Caribbean and its diasporas have had on contemporary performance discourse and practice, in both the artistic and curatorial realms. Indeed, EN MAS’ takes into account performance practices that do not trace their genealogy to the European avant–gardes of the early twentieth–century but rather to the experiences of slavery and colonialism through to the mid–nineteenth century, the independence struggles and civil right movements of the mid–twentieth century and population migrations to and from the former colonial centers for most of the last century. EN MAS’ takes its title from a pun on “Mas’” (short for masquerade and synonymous with Carnival in the English-speaking Caribbean) and “mass” (as in the French colloquial “en masse,” meaning all together).
Throughout the 2014-2015 Caribbean Carnival season, EN MAS’ tracked nine artists – John Beadle, Christophe Chassol, Charles Campbell, Nicolás Dumit Estévez, Marlon Griffith, Hew Locke, Lorraine O’Grady, Ebony G. Patterson, and Cauleen Smith – as they engaged, transformed, or critiqued historical and contemporary Caribbean performance practices from Carnival in Santiago de los Caballeros, Port of Spain, Fort-de-France, Kingston, London and Brooklyn, to Junkanoo in Nassau and the New Orleans second line – or in their own imaginary cartographies and invented performance traditions. The resulting newly commissioned works took place according to different modes of public address and audience engagement including semi-private rituals at the margin of the festival celebrations and street processions in the midst of the carnival revelry.
EN MAS’ brings together material remnants or reconstitutions from the performances as well as photographic and filmic interpretations thus also presenting some of the best photographers, filmmakers and videographers working in the Caribbean today including Marvin Bartley, Arnaldo James, Marlon James, Raymond Marrero, Nile Saulter and Storm Saulter to name a few. A newly launched website hosted by ICI features individual artist pages where images, text, and media offer insights into the performances while tracking the exhibition tour.
The exhibition is accompanied by a publication entitled EN MAS’: Carnival and Performance Art of the Caribbean including critical essays by the exhibition curators, as well as Shannon Jackson and Kobena Mercer, monographic texts by an array of cultural and art critics including Eric Bookhardt, Paul Goodwin, Thomas Lax, Nicholas Laughlin and Annie Paul and extensive illustrations, co-published by ICI and CAC, and distributed by D.A.P. This book is available for purchase in the MoAD Shop.
EN MAS’: Carnival and Performance Art of the Caribbean is an exhibition curated by Claire Tancons and Krista Thompson; organized by the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC), New Orleans and Independent Curators International (ICI), New York.
The exhibition is made possible by an Emily Hall Tremaine Exhibition Award. Additional support is provided by The Andy Warhol">Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and by the Institut français in support of African and Caribbean projects. The exhibition debuted at CAC New Orleans in spring 2015, and will tour through 2018.