Fear: 4 packs, 10 oz. each

Fear is the name of an art exhibition mounted and curated in Canada, but produced in Trinidad and Tobago. It's the work of Christopher Cozier, whose bio notes that he is

an artist and writer living and working in Trinidad [who] has participated in a number of exhibitions focused upon contemporary art in the Caribbean and internationally [and who is, among other things,] a Senior Research Fellow at the Academy of The University of Trinidad & Tobago (UTT) and ... Artist-in-Residence at Dartmouth College during the Fall of 2007.

What's exciting about his exhibition is the way in which it's produced. It might be perplexing for most of us, who are used to the prettiness of art, the decorative quality of paintings, the controllability of our response to them: it consists of "a rubber stamp and 3x3x3-inch cardboard boxes that gallery viewers could stamp and take away with them from the exhibition." (Fear, 2009: 5)  But that is entirely the point. The boxes and the stamp symbolize the state of the world at this end of the first decade of the 21st century: consumers of the fear exported by the USA that justifies and legitimizes the way in which that country exercises its authority as the last superpower on earth. It's exciting, collaborative and subversive all at once. As Andrea Fantona, curator of the exhibition, explains:

The addition of this participatory element to the exhibition was exciting. Furthermore, producing theelements comprising Available At All Leading Stores resulted in a fascinating reversal of the production-consumption chain that generally defines North-South relationships. Here I was in Canada, producing awork of art for consumption here in the North that was conceived and designed in Trinidad. The irony ofthe process rang loudly for me. It seemed that the age-old system of capitalist development that favouredthe North had been turned onto its head, as I was now adding value to an idea, turned into commodity,conceived in the South, yet produced and distributed in the North. (2009: 5)

What's even more exciting, for me, is the way in which Nicholas Laughlin, fellow Trinidadian writer and editor, responded to Cozier's work. For J'Ouvert (for those of you who don't know what that is, follow the link and look it up) this year, he created his own riff on it: a cardboard box turned into a headpiece for the festival, on which he wrote


As he says:

For three or so hours on J’Ouvert morning, Paradise is an empty space, an absence, in a cardboard box Ibalance on my head. Watch me, turning into a metaphor for a nation bearing the burden of false advertising and false hopes. If anything and everything is for sale, if art is just another product with varying profit margins, if Cozier can taunt us with the joke of commodified Fear, then I can re-commodify, re-sell, re-brand. (2009: 15)

Oh yes oh yes.