press release

EN MAS’ is a pioneering exploration of the influences of Carnival on contemporary performance practices in the Caribbean, North America, and Europe.

Conceived around a series of nine commissioned performances realized during the 2014 Caribbean Carnival season across eight cities in six different countries, the exhibition considers the connections between Carnival and performance, masquerade and social criticism, diaspora and transnationalism. Taking its title from a pun on “Mas” (short for masquerade and synonymous with carnival in the English-speaking Caribbean), EN MAS’ considers a history of performance that does not take place on the stage or in the gallery but rather in the streets, addressing not the few but the many.

EN MAS’ presents 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; the independence struggles and civil right movements; and the population migrations to and from former colonial centers during most of the last hundred years. The exhibition interrogates this history in light of today’s global forms of public address—from the resurgence of the Mardi Gras Indian and Social Aid and Pleasure Club traditions in post-Katrina New Orleans to carnivalesque protests.

Throughout the 2014 Caribbean Carnival season, EN MAS’ tracks nine artists as they engage, transform, or critique historical and contemporary Caribbean performance practices from Carnival in Santiago de los Caballeros, Port of Spain, Kingston, London and Miami to Junkanoo in Nassau, and in the New Orleans second line—or their own imaginary cartographies and invented traditions. Performances will take place according to different modes of public address and audience engagement including semi-private rituals at the margin of festival celebrations and street processions in the midst of carnival revelry.

Opening at Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans in Spring 2015, the exhibition will present an alternative take on performance art, focusing on the influence Carnival and related masquerading traditions in the Caribbean and its diasporas have had on contemporary performance discourse and practice, both artistic and curatorial. Bringing together photographic and filmic interpretations as well as material remnants or reconstitutions from the performances, the exhibition will also present some of the best photographers, filmmakers and videographers working in the region today. The exhibition will be accompanied by a publication entitled En Mas’: Carnival and Performance Art of the Caribbean including critical essays, monographic texts and extensive illustrations, co-published by ICI and CAC, and distributed by DAP.

The exhibition is made possible by an Emily Hall Tremaine Exhibition Award. Additional support is provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

The nine commissioned artists are John Beadle, Charles Campbell, Nicolás Dumit Estévez, Marlon Griffith, Hew Locke, Lorraine O’Grady, Ebony G. Patterson and Cauleen Smith.

Claire Tancons is a curator, writer, and researcher who has focused on Carnival and public ceremonial culture, civic rituals, and popular movements for nearly a decade. The associate curator for Prospect.1 New Orleans (2007-9), a curator for the 7th Gwangju Biennale (2008), guest curator for CAPE09 (2009), associate curator for research for Biennale Bénin (2012), and a curator for the Göteborg Biennial (2013) she has developed alternative genealogies and methodologies for thinking and presenting performance, including reclaiming the processional as a curatorial medium. She has written extensively about Carnival, the carnivalesque, performance and protest, in NKA, Small Axe and Third Text and, for e-flux Journal, the oft-translated and re-published Occupy Wall Street: Carnival Against Capital: The Carnivalesque as Protest Sensibility (2011) and Carnival to Commons: Pussy Riot Punk Protest and the Exercise of Democratic Culture (2012). Tancons is currently the curator for Up Hill Down Hall: An Indoor Carnival for Tate Modern, as part of the 2014 BMW Tate Live series.

Krista Thompson is Associate Professor of Art History at Northwestern University and the author ofAn Eye for the Tropics (2006). She has written articles in Art Bulletin, Art Journal, American Art, Representations, The Drama Review, and Small Axe and has curated several exhibitions, including the National Exhibition (NE3) (2006) and Developing Blackness: Studio Photographs of “Over the Hill” Nassau in the Independence Era (2008) at the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas. Her book Shine: The Visual Economy of Light in African Diasporic Aesthetic Practice on the intersection of popular photography, performance, and contemporary art in the circum-Caribbean will be published by Duke University Press in 2015.

About ICI
Independent Curators International (ICI) produces exhibitions, events, training opportunities, research initiatives, and publications for curators and audiences around the world. Established in 1975, ICI is headquartered in New York, but active around the world. ICI’s programs are presented and often developed in partnership with art institutions across the globe, therefore encouraging new infrastructures for art practice internationally, and inspiring fresh ways of seeing and contextualizing contemporary art.