Tirzo Martha

Interview with Tirzo Martha

Tirzo MarthaTirzo Martha is a visual artist living and working in Curacao, Netherlands Antilles. The artist is known for his public interventions and socio-cultural projects. www.tirzomartha.com

As “history as present” (Groot) is constructed through performance or re-enactment, our selves as subjects become more apparent in the present creation of history. Self is recognized as the individual within the national collective memory. “Tell Me the Truth” created by Tirzo Martha in 2005 is performance art, which almost literally inserts the present subject into the ‘hands’ of the past. The black, bald headed, semi nude man creates a joint narrative with the carved figure, re-configuring the present in the presence of the past. The present (the man) literally rests on the arm and the nail of the statue, narrating the story of the present as ‘resting’ on the work of the past. The precariousness of the man seems to speak both of the fact that present society is built on the pain and hard work of ancestors and the act of lying seems to suggest the precarious placidity with which the ‘present man’ lazily rests on the toil of ancestors. At the same time, the statue’s gesture implies a readiness to crush the man with his strength as he is poised with mallet in hand, suggesting violence between past and present or violence between those of African descent.

  • What does the Caribbean mean to you?
    The Caribbean is the ideal laboratory where experimentations have no limits. It’s young and still developing. It is the space where a lot has been made possible, for example racial mixes and religion that adapt and adopt.
  • What if anything is the significance of location – what role does location play in your understanding and experience of the Caribbean?
    In spite of the fact that the islands of the Caribbean are divided by the Caribbean see they are still united in the different aspects like the past history, religion, social and cultural development and political issues.
  • What does the Caribbean mean to you?
    For me, the notion of “Caribbean” is inextricably linked with that of “invention.”
  • Can you relate a story from your past that seems to describe your experience of “Caribbeanness”?
    A thing of the “Caribbeanness” is bad communication and I’ve been tortured a lot by lack of communication between the island on the different levels. For example if you want to visit an island in the Caribbean coming from an other island in the Caribbean it takes some planning and traveling time to get there. Communication from person to person can also drag on. If people don’t know you they don’t react or communicate in a fluent way.
  • In what ways has Caribbean culture been used as a politico-economic  tool? What role have location, the artist, media played in this?
    The Caribbean has been used as the territory where everything is possible. Big companies have moved their headquarters to the Caribbean to evade taxes. All the resorts that have the function of “off terrain spaces” for the locals-Tourism has also created its off limit conditions on the islands. The neo colonial characteristics of tourism are creating a lot of tension and contradictions on the islands of the Caribbean.The media in some cases have been supporting all this under the coverage of job creating opportunities. Some artists have been protesting against this system and others live from it.

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