Art in and after crisis

"The Bounce" by Wendy Nanan
“The Bounce” by Wendy Nanan
Andil Gosine
Andil Gosine

York University Associate Professor Andil Gosine’s visual art exhibition, Wendy Nanan, was due to open at the Art Museum of the Americas in Washington, D.C. on March 19. It remains half-installed, awaiting the resumption of activity in an area heavily impacted by COVID-19.

Gosine, a Faculty of Environmental Studies instructor, curated the largest solo exhibition of artist Wendy Nanan’s more than four decades of work. The project draws on Gosine’s research on the interstices of environmental justice, migration and sexuality.

While the museum waits to reopen its doors to visitors, several aspects of the exhibition were brought online on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, including new texts written by Gosine to accompany the unveiling of Nanan’s newest work “Baby Krishna,” from her iconic series of papier-mâché sculptures, and the premiere Gosine’s 22-minute video documentary on the creation of her forthcoming “Breath” installation.

Wendy Nanan is one of several outcomes of Gosine’s “Visual Arts After Indenture” project which began in 2014, and explores the visual art produced by descendants of indentured workers brought from India and elsewhere to the Caribbean, Fiji and Mauritius as replacement plantation labour following the abolition of slavery.

"The Bounce" from Wendy Nanan
In “The Bounce,” from Wendy Nanan’s oversized book series, lyrics from the Billie Holiday song “Strange Fruit” are the background text to the bounce between the Hindu god Ganesh and The Lion of The Twelve Tribes.

In addition to drawing attention to the work of artists like Nanan, this study of the visual arts broadly engages and pursues questions about the production, purpose and impact of art in and after times of crisis.

Gosine’s previous exhibitions, Deities, Parts 1 & 2, presented photographs from environmental activities conducted by organizations in New York, while Coolie Coolie Viens and All the Flowers interrogated the legacies of indentureship and adolescent migration. His 2020 exhibition rêvenir saw Gosine return to Trinidad and Tobago, and featured video, photography and installation work.

In his graduate and undergraduate classes, Gosine has drawn on this material to help students understand and produce creative visual art in response to HIV/AIDS, climate change and animal abuse, among other environmental issues. Each year he organizes an annual showcase of his students’ work around one of these themes.

Gosine’s forthcoming book, Nature’s Wild: Love, Sex and Law in the Caribbean (Duke), examines sexuality, environment and visual art.