Designing Douen Islands: Kiskadee

When I play the piano—as opposed to when I am listening to piano music—I don’t hear my mistakes. My mind is too busy imagining an idealized performance to hear what is actually emanating from the instrument. In this sense, the performative aspects of playing the piano inhibit my ability to hear.
— Peter Mendelsund, What We See When We Read

Douen Islands is a performance. As is the act of reading. It takes place at Alice yard, the backyard space of the house at 80 Roberts Street, Woodbrook, Port of Spain. 

This was once the house of Sean Leonard’s great-grandmother. Four generations of children played and imagined in this yard, and now we continue this tradition. Alice Yard is a space for creative experiment, collaboration, and improvisation.

This year's installation of Douen Islands: Kiskadee was not a show. Like Mendelsund—rather an idealised performance full of mistakes—imagination at play. Bocas, just a deadline.

Enter Douen Island: Kiskadee—a yard now reading space. “Alice Yard an aviary:” as poet bird caller Vahni Capildeo types, and utters in tongues and chirps, on her book cover/billboard. Her verses, punctuated with lush cinemagraphs taken from the Orinoco Delta by contemporary artist Luis Vasquez La Roche; a kiskadee on a wire. A moving picture book.

All the world’s a stage
— Shakespeare

Enter Alice Yard—a reading space now bird cage now flutter of pages. Where words become lines become movement of soca/contemporary dancer Candace Thompson, who makes her debut in Alice Yard, live streamed from a dance studio in Brooklyn, NY projected onto suspended strips of white cloth layered—dancing in the wind. This makes the space soft, calm and alive. In the way, are 3 cages that float and subtly sway. Within are books, chalk and charcoal; a pair of slippers in case; a mirror to reflect; and manuscripts to edit. On entering, pages are curtains and reading is simply a performance.

Ahead is the Annex now Orinoco Delta. It drifts behind a steel cage, in silence with mangrove as a horizon. The yard now a boat, a raft adrift. Comes across a douen kiskadee, a sporadic animation by creative Kwasi Shade. Land is reached and Luis transports us back to Vahni who is loud, bold, masked, and omnivorous—drowned out by the sun drenched silence of the floating Delta, and by literary kiskadees perched on the balcony of a twitter branch, outside—pruned by the good folk of Northeleven and malnourished by Rodell 'turnt_urn' Warner

Saturday night, and it's kiskadee night at the yard:

Andre Bagoo
Elisha Bartels (bird-lady)
Peter Christopher
Breanne McIvor
Sharon Millar
Shivanee Ramlochan

A splendid line of poets/writers — The Kiskadees — a wild rumpus in a chatter of call and response. Kis ka dees calling kiskadees calling kis kadees . . . a beautiful flautist named Martina Chow to accompany the chorus.

It's here in Alice Yard, where from my knowledge, everything was done for the first time, browser-based and streamed from the internet: looping videos on Youtube, live streaming with USTREAM and Twitter Ticker, and tracks from Soundcloud. This marks a new art direction for myself personally as a designer: creative coding (Processing, P5, HTML 5, CSS, Javascript) which treats the web platform as a serious toolkit for designing and creating digital and interactive work, from open-source software to online collaborations. A medium for Trinidad to unlock. 

Douen Islands: Kiskadee was not a show. It was an idealized performance full of mistakes and firsts. A first draft with a yellow feathered chest and gyrations. A stab at global theatre as Marshall McLuhan might call it, in cahoots with Vahni Capildeo. Playtime with Tati, featuring a Trinidadian cast and a passerine bird. Full of imagination and hopeful duende.

many presents, one time.
— Vahni Capildeo

Special thanks: Leila Capildeo, Performance Philosophy, Ali's Pet Store, Jimmy Abouds, Andre Zachery, Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste, Sharda & Prashant Patasar, Sean Leonard, Gabriel, G, Nicholas Laughlin, Josh Lu, Gerry Anthony, Samantha, Mathew, Sean, and Johann (Northeleven).