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Exploring the reinventive spirit in times of crisis

Exploring the reinventive spirit in times of crisis

Gosine at his everything slackens in a wreck exhibition at Ford Foundation Gallery, New York.

This show, Everything Slakens in a Wreck, is an explication of this moment we are in -- we are all trying to find our way in a maelstrom, a storm, a roller coaster ride of volatility and uncertainty, insecurity, and the wreckage of trauma. The exhibition is indeed a vision of a remarkable curator, Andil Gosine -- his vision and his idea for this exhibition is so compelling that when he first presented it to me, there was universal praise for the idea that undergirds this extraordinary show. - Darren Walker, Ford Foundation Gallery President

"Everything slackens in a wreck" is a line from Khal Torabully's "Coolitude" which expresses Indentures' experience of rebuilding and reinventing their lives during the period of Indentureship. Trapped in the dehumanizing conditions of the Indentureship program, migrants worked against tenets of caste and gender that had been harsh to them in South Asia.

Indo-Caribbean women found ways to assert new forms of economic, political and sexual autonomy that would endure to the present. Possibilities open up in the fissures created by crisis, and the framework of this exhibition by Professor Andil Gosine bears broader relevance, as evidenced in 2020 by the myriad responses to the pandemic and the stunning force of the Black Lives Matter movement.  However bad things get, the human spirit and our survivalist drive force new shifts and invent new paths. Torabully's phrase is understood in this project as an observation more than aspiration---an acceptance of Michel Foucault's contention that resistance is an always present counterpart to power. This project records and weighs the mechanics of what slackens in a wreck---and optimistically imagines what comes after. 

“In everything slackens, I wanted to bring forward consideration of the human condition in a moment of crisis, including and our ability to find ways to experience joy or content in the worst of situations,” says Gosine.

Kelly Sinnapah Mary, Notebook of No Return: Memories, 2022, Acrylic on canvas.

The exhibition features the works of four artists who are descendants of Indentures -- whose work underlines the possibilities of reinvention and regeneration in crisis: Jamaican-Canadian sculptor Margaret Chen, Trinidadian sculptor-painter Wendy Nanan, Guadeloupean painter Kelly Sinnapah Mary, and multimedia artist Jamaican-American Andrea Chung. All four are critically important but under-considered contemporary artists. Chen and Nanan, both in their late 60s, were among the first Caribbean women to pursue a professional visual arts practice. Coming to this work three decades later, Sinnapah Mary and Chung continue to explore some similar themes in new mediums. 

The display is available at the Ford Foundation Gallery in New York from June 1-August 2022. It involves York University community members, including exhibiting artist and BFA and MFA alumna Margaret Chen, artistry from master of environmental studies graduate and incoming PhD candidate in environmental studies Amber Williams-King, and a film edited by masters in cinema and media studies student Kathrin Mentler. Environmental studies PhD student Aitak Sorahitalab, master of environmental studies student Kafia Abdulkader, and sociology PhD student Elena Chou are featured in the exhibit’s catalogue exploring reinventive spirit in times of crisis. 

Gosine’s latest book, Nature's Wild, cover by Kelly Sinnapah Mary.

The curatorial performance provides a collection of pieces representative of the themes relating to indentureship and how historical discrimination has altered and undermined the social aspirations these populations. The Ford Foundation Gallery is recognized for participating with artists committed to exploring issues of social justice. The exhibition offers a multidisciplinary artistic presentation of pieces exploring the collective incertitude caused by indentures and the legacy of these experiences, as well as creative proposition of how the challenges of indentureship can be canalized through artistic expression. With Rajiv Mohabir, Gosine also read from each other’s books (Nature’s Wild: Love, Sex and Law in the Caribbean and Antiman) and conversed about legacies of queer “wrecking work” by indentured workers and their descendants. Titled A Pride Love-Up moderated by Tzarina Prater, the talk was be held on June 13 from 6-8pm at the Ford Foundation Gallery. The exhibition was also listed as must-see by Hyperallergic and featured in New York Times.

Andil Gosine is professor at EUC whose research, writing, and artistic practices explore imbrications of ecology, desire, and power. His work focuses on a broad range of academic interests that are demonstrated by his involvement in the battles against social and environmental injustices. The publications and artistic performances he has produced have commonly analyzed issues of minority discrimination, racism resilience and environmental demeaning, through referencing his personal experiences and academic research. Overall, his artistic interpretations and research have produced a strong example to the community to induce enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality, the empowerment of discriminant groups, and honorable environmental practices. See related story in YFile.