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It all began long ago with an email from a scammer from Barbados. I replied and an enthusiastic correspondence unfolded. Before our dialogue came to an end, Fergal the scammer had, on my request, traveled across the island to document Bajan pop star Rihanna’s home.
Time passes and the scammer begins writing me again a year later. One thing leads to another and I find myself on an isolated beach on the other side of the planet—continuously writing his now dead email account. Pregnant, slightly confused but intensively alert, I am gliding around in Riri’s world. Through my camera I discover the ruin of Paradise Beach Club. This throws me back into a J. G. Ballard book about an imaginary vacation resort for artists and wealthy eccentrics. I google Riri paddling these very waters. I paddle myself on a cheap foam surfboard. The Barbados days are strikingly saturated, yet profoundly slow. And so warm. I keep googling, remembering, emailing, filming it all. Detached from the everyday hassle, I think differently (dream-like) and I keep writing. Eventually, my mind gets the googled paddle photos mixed up with Peter Doig’s melting canoe paintings.. This, amongst other Island experiences, builds the core of my emails to Fergal - and of the film.
Similar to what I try to do with paint, I bathed the clips in aesthetics inspired by the stereotypical exotic landscape of travel magazines. My practice specifically work with and not against the unenviable fact that I, myself, favourably consume products from a White supremacist hetero-patriarchal media-centric society. I want to question the space between the personal and the public as I strive to present an individual experience. Also, I hope my work reminds the viewer that popular media and stereotyping in general represents a projection of ourselves and our place in the world.
With my stereotyping (of landscapes and people) I hope the viewer will acknowledge and take responsibility for their own gaze and their (most likely White) privilege. We urgently need to dismantle the White supremacist hetero-patriarchal media-centric viewpoint since it is offensive towards a lot of people. So my work is about the White gaze and its privilege. This needs too to be represented so that it can be examined properly. It cannot just always be avoided. That does not mean I represent it or glorify it, but that I acknowledge it as a problem and a position of power. It is impossible for me to understand the lived black experience or too the experience of a real oppressor, but I still embody the privileged position as a white European. I am always ambivalent to the conflict between being critical of this position yet living within it. A black person does not have the privilege of ambivalence about these issues and that makes me a constant tourist in this field. My work and my intentions will always look like “a project” and that is why I have chosen to edit the film as I have, to illustrate that I can choose another subject tomorrow. Black people live with these questions on a daily.
The “I” in the film represent a rather naïve White gaze, but in reality I did not poetically and carelessly glide around in Barbados. I engaged in conversation with people on these thematics. Ironically, on several occasions people of colour people told me they were fed up with Europeans and Americans arriving wanting to discuss a theme they would rather rise above from. Those I spoke with were not academics, and they lived of off tourism, but their opinions still has to be mentioned in this matter.
Even though my discussion about privilege is committed, I will always be removed from the real conversation. It will be inauthentic of me to deal with this in any other way than through my ambivalence and “tourism” in the field. This position is more apparent in my film than in my previous painting-based works on related issues. Instead of acting through my White gaze and for example examine Afroamerican pop icons; who I find in possession of deliberately practical methods for de-colonisation and for the implementation of feminism, I am now portraying the White ambivalence, my privilege and my impotence in the struggle for justice. By unlocking how the pop icons process and deconstruct the ways in which black women have historically had their sexuality displayed, I have before sought to increase comprehension of these women's work and their transnational 'survivor-inspired' womanhood, which I find unfixed to a black experience. In the film however I am more than before deliberately portraying the White gaze and the detachment I feel from finding solutions to the problems of gazing. I have appropriated myself this time - a White European woman trying to view her own position in relation to the above mentioned problematics. The impotence is at the core of my work.