“You’ll see that all of the videos are slowed down,” says curator Julie Crooks, about the video installations included in “Fragments of Epic Memory.” The intention, she says,“is forcing people to slow down. To watch and think about the Caribbean as a place that you have to pay attention to.”
Crooks is the inaugural head of the Art Gallery of Ontario’s new department, Arts of Global Africa and the Diaspora, and this is its first exhibition. It’s unapologetic and uncompromising, displaying work by more than 30 artists born in the Caribbean or its diaspora, alongside the recently acquired Montgomery Collection of Caribbean Photographs, a compilation of more than 3,500 portraits, landscapes and tourist views dating back to 1840. The result is an intimate invitation into Caribbean people’s history, one that both celebrates resilience and interrogates the legacies of oppression, demanding viewers reconfigure their conception of the region outside the familiar grounds of paradise.
The tensions that exist in the region are exposed: This collection is less interested in representation and more invested in unnerving the confines of a particular kind of imagined Caribbean. Crooks has taken fragments of a place often dismissed and misunderstood, and pieced them together to make a closer, expansive whole.
“Fragments of Epic Memory” is on at the Art Gallery of Ontario until February 21, 2022, ago.ca