Ashleigh Deosaran, Ten Woven Windows (Series), digital photography, 2019-2020
These prints are architectural interventions used to manipulate the light and shadows formed by large windows throughout my home in Trinidad. The compositions obscure the view of the world outside, but allow varying degrees of sunlight to pierce through layered materials, including spray-painted paper, acrylic paint, batik-dyed fabric, and grids of metal bars welded into the window frames. Barred windows can be found in many Caribbean homes; this burglar-proofing is considered a necessary architectural fortification against invasion.
The series of geometric abstractions, inspired by the shadows of the metal grids, were placed against the windows to block the view from inside and then photographed. Thereby, the works preclude the viewer’s access to the natural environment, an often-sanitized and commodified element of the Caribbean. By overwriting the view from the windows, the works disrupt the historic representation of the tropics as paradisiacal, pristine, and even uninhabited spaces, ranging from colonial landscape paintings to early 20th century photography and tourism industry marketing. Instead, the series offers a more complex, less exoticizing visual representation of the environment by highlighting the historically and socially-mediated interface between nature and architecture in a contemporary Caribbean context.
Given the global afflictions at the fore—both the current Coronavirus pandemic and the 400+ year brutalization of black bodies—the symbol of the covered-up or secured window has become more prominent. This work begs the question; from whom do barred and boarded-up windows protect when the more immediate and insidious perpetrators of violence—our own supremacist and colonial attitudes—already live within? From the physical windows of our homes to the digital windows on our screens, we have collectively looked out at the world around us and borne witness to acts of unthinkable state-sanctioned violence. We have also witnessed the superhuman courage and indefatigable spirit of those who seek justice. I urge the viewers of this series to re-assess their definitions of danger and criminality in a world wherein the legacies of white supremacy and colonialism form the foundation of the law itself.
Ashleigh Deosaran (b.1992, Trinidad and Tobago) is a multidisciplinary artist, writer and curator. She is currently based in New York City, where she earned her B.A. in Fine Arts & Psychology from Pace University (’16), and her M.A. in Modern Art: Critical and Curatorial Studies at Columbia University (’19). She researches contemporary Latinx art with a focus on the archipelagic Caribbean, often through the lens of queer theory, post-colonial thought, and/or diasporic studies. Her work has been exhibited and published in the United States and the Caribbean. She is currently interested in futurity, science/fiction, and technology in contemporary Latin American and Caribbean art.