Cape Town Chronicles – Dean Arlen

Freedom is what you make it, and an understudy sees the light

Fort San Andres, the Museum of Port of Spain is located in the heart of the city, South Quay, Trinidad and Tobago, and the gallery is at street level, making it accessible to the public, and the bustle of pedestrians and street hustlers. In conjunction with the National Museum of Trinidad and Tobago, Dean Arlen has managed to curate a visual exhibition that truly brings art to the public. Entitled, “Cape Town Chronicles,” the Fort’s lower rooms have been transformed as if a graffiti artist had canvassed across a vacant building and defaced it with an aerosol can. The rooms are filled with photocopies, interspersed with twelve posters, digitally enlarged and mounted in grid formation.

These posters are from his sketch book specifically made for the purpose of his six month South African residency, and where he drew inspiration from. “Cape Town Chronicles” touches on a subject uncannily too close for comfort. This show gives a glimpse of Cape Town, South Africa, and because of its apt location, it offers a highbred of public and private art viewing and also as a forum where the public can see the possibilities of Art without feeling intimidated by the space.

Mr. Arlen has personalized the space by deliberately marking the territory with familiar public and unwanted symbols. He uses slogans such as, KFC or the Blimp as part of a controlled show. This shows that persistence and good curatorial groundwork can result in an exhibition worth seeing. “Cape Town Chronicles” may open the eyes of young males, from an introspection of Africa through a local artist, showing that power is not in the weaponry to oppress, but from the mind to be free of it, as with the Great Nelson Mandela. Mixed with line drawings, colour washes and collage work, “Cape Town Chronicles” speaks of a newness from an oppressive society, and where its new freedoms may erode the very fabric of its struggle, and with the gangster attitudes here in Trinidad and Tobago, we have no clue what it means and in the bigger picture. Trinidad and Tobago is not as unfortunate as it seems, and it does not fathom the horror to be subjugated by cruelty and oppression. Let this be a forewarning, and that we have the strength to pull back from such an abyss.

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