The Guard: An Intervention at the Barbados Museum

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I had the pleasure of working with interdisciplinary artist Nyugen E. Smith this month during his residency at the Fresh Milk Platform here in Barbados.

During our intervention, The Guard, at the Barbados Museum and Historical Society on June 26, Nyugen and I staged an endurance performance to examine ideas of ownership, security, and visibility in three of the BMHS's rooms: the Cunard Gallery, the Warmington Gallery, and the Prison Cell. 

The Guard placed a barefoot Smith as the museum’s sole guard over a five-hour period as me in the role as “Professional Staff”, observed and documented interactions between museum visitors and The Guard. As both participants and observers, we took note of our invisibility and hypervisibility as visitors walked through the museum’s galleries. 

This project examines what it means to actively inhabit a place rooted in a past in which your marginalized ancestral presence underpins all that is on display. Surrounded by representations of the wealth of the Caribbean’s plantocracy and its governing sword, colonialism, both Nyugen and I wrote about the reactions to our intervention as well as the corporeal and spiritual effects of holding space on a site dedicated to a colonizer narrative. 

Deliberately ignored and excitedly discovered over the course of the intervention, we are currently creating accompanying text to examine what it is to be living ghosts with an interplay of two voices made singular by the act of remembering. Each of us weaves a line from the present to the past and back again while acknowledging our bodies as interloping vessels of time and possibility.