So how do we say goodbye to another year? As usual it felt like it passed in a flash, but looking back it was plenty eventful. I spent Christmas with my folks in the West Indies, it’s funny - artist friends insisted that it would be a great inspiration, perfect for rejuvenating my work. I have made some small gestures towards this, but have been more preoccupied with hanging out with as many cousins as I can find, tracking down new beaches and drinking plenty of the local produce. Going into 2013… there are things I want to do, things I have to do and things I don’t really want to do at all. I’m going back to my studio, which fills me with both excitement and trepidation. Although I’m feeling a change in terms of what I want to make -there is still a project I cannot put down, but there is also the desire to make some mess in a way a can’t do at home. Someone told me recently that there’s a filmmaker inside me waiting to get out. He could be right who knows, now the seed is planted, things have a way of materializing in unexpected ways.
I have definitely taken the holiday as an opportunity to read however. I was put on to a book about another black hero of a swash buckling kind. This one the Black Count was the father of Three Musketeers novelist Alexander Dumas. His mother a slave (from Haiti) his father an aristocrat, Alex Dumas was a real military man, fighting during the French revolution in 18th century France and the inspiration for many of his son’s stories. One of the clinchers for buying this book was the proposition that civil rights and liberties could be fought for on all levels in France at that time including racial ones. It’s within that context that this man rose quickly to the rank of a general. Although the effects of the revolution on French West Indian colonies has been widely documented in books like the black Jacobins, I had never thought about the situation in France itself. I’m not really into war stories or war films a such, the book takes a lot of information from military records so there is much detail about his campaigns, (which makes it harder work for me) but the idea of this man is compelling enough to read on. I know the book is biased and the long dead can be glorified, but reading this book you wonder how a man so accomplished and respected could have ever be forgotten. Read along and you realize how protracted the French revolution was - subject to the wills of several factions and individuals. By the time Napoleon came in to the mix those early principles of equality and liberty were some what compromised.
I am trying to work out why I’m so interested in these men (Maurice and Alex Dumas) on one level I think its about acculturation, the ‘When in Rome’ factor. They became citizens, learned the rules and excelled to be exceptional. They were extremely noble men believing in something higher that of their commanders and they both paid a price… In many ways I think of this in terms of an art practice, the conviction needed not just to keep it existing - but to give it life. The Maurice piece played with the idea of a relic. The relic gains more metaphysical power through the continuation its story. Maurice’s weaponry and remains have significant symbolism in Austrian and German royalty. There are heraldic objects fashioned in tribute, I think there is an order of St Maurice in Italy also. So I think continuing to write the story of the object I made in tribute to him creates a mythology for it. But I started it so long ago – it’s all getting a little fuzzy. I’ve got to work out how to get it back on track.