At this year’s CIFF, Bahamian artist Tavares Strachan showcased the conclusion of his three-part series, The Northwind Trilogy — exhibited in collaboration with CIFF director Kristian W. Andersen and curated by Neville Wakefield. The show featured neon works, photographs, videos and, perhaps most relevant to CIFF’s audience, a series of bomber jackets. This collaboration marks an important moment for Andersen. As the director of both CIFF and NorthModern — a company with efforts spanning design, sport and urban development — puts it, working with Strachan to fuse art and fashion came naturally. “Tavares’s new project B.A.S.E.C. aligns perfectly with our vision and commitment to art, fashion and the future of our city,” said Andersen in a press release.
CIFF denotes the end of The Northwind Trilogy, which began last year in the United States. Exhibited at Art Basel in Miami, part one introduced B.A.S.E.C. to the world, an acronym for “Bahamas Air and Sea Exploration Center.” Strachan founded B.A.S.E.C. “to get the Bahamas involved in the global exploration conversation.” Works from part one presented the organisation’s core ideas: a model rocket represented future space travel; a poster detailed different methods for entering orbit; a single bomber jacket, emblazoned with the B.A.S.E.C. name, gave observers an idea of the uniform a Bahamas-based crew might use during a manned space mission.
B.A.S.E.C.‘S introduction at Art Basel was preceded by the launch of another Strachan project, ENOCH, from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. ENOCH, a satellite manufactured in collaboration with SpaceX, entered orbit to bring attention to the story of Robert Henry Lawrence Jr., the first African American astronaut selected for a national space program. The satellite remains in orbit and will continue to circle the Earth for the next seven years, flying in synchronisation with the sun.
Education is a consistent theme throughout The Northwind Trilogy. “A part of our master plan has to do with inspiring young women to make it on their own through these skills and projects,” Tavares revealed in a press statement. Further bomber jackets were exhibited at Men’s Fashion Week in Paris, this time patched with memorabilia from past missions supposedly undertaken by the B.A.S.E.C. team. These jackets were handmade in the Bahamas by a team of local women led by Strachan’s mother, with proceeds from their sale going toward developing educational programs for women.
At Northwind‘s CIFF conclusion, the jackets were presented in a series combining art, fashion and development. Neon-framed posters advertised the future of B.A.S.E.C., showing off the group’s test rocket launches. Video displays highlighted Strachan’s cosmonaut training in Star City, Russia, at the Yuri Gagarin Training Center. Central to the exhibition was a selection of neon sculptures: one, an illuminated circulatory system, and another, a lettered piece aptly titled We Belong Here.
Collaborating with Andersen, who has long emphasised community and social responsibility in the design world, suits Strachan well. Andersen’s work with CIFF takes advantage of Copenhagen’s dynamism — forming CIFF as a breeding ground for discussions about growth, international cooperation and education, especially relevant given CIFF’s recent rise in international attention. For its part, CIFF has made considerable effort to stress the importance of sustainability within its industry; a sizable portion of the company’s energy needs are met with solar, wind and water power; and the organisation has an ongoing partnership with Paris-based sustainable luxury platform 1.618.
Strachan and the B.A.S.E.C. project’s place within this discussion are self-evident. Bringing forgotten or underrepresented issues to the fore has been a theme in Strachan’s work since his early career. The Distance Between What We Have and What We Want, a project that began in 2004, featured a 4.5-ton block of ice harvested from the Arctic Circle contained in a solar-powered freezer, a potent work of environmental and social commentary. Other pieces include 2013’s Polar Eclipse, which honoured African-American Matthew Henson, the forgotten companion to Robert Peary during his successful pioneering journey to the North Pole in 1909. Despite his achievement, Henson went unrecognised for years, largely due to the colour of his skin. Only in 1944 did Congress bestow upon him the same medal given to Peary. Prior to this, Henson had been working as a clerk in a federal customs house with few aware of his explorer past.
Unlike previous works by Strachan, focused on lost figures of the past, an exploratory future is celebrated in The Northwind Trilogy, underpinned by themes of hope and self-actualisation. This was an intended consideration in the formation of Northwind; “In December of 2016, my mother and I had a conversation about making, and how much this process can provide enrichment and a livelihood to young people,” Strachan says. This might explain the posters adorning the exhibition’s walls, which feature smiling people working on B.A.S.E.C. jackets and promotional materials for the budding program reminiscent of space race-era advertising.
The real standouts, however, remain the jackets themselves, both for their form and for what they represent at CIFF. Neville Wakefield, the curator ofNorthwind, seamlessly blends the fashion and art of Strachan’s collection, accenting Strachan and Andersen’s relationship as artist and director respectively. Two worlds merge to form a single unit, in the process demonstrating CIFF’s enterprising position as a space not just for clothing industry promotion, but as a diverse showcase of artistic and fashion-linked initiatives.
In total, fewer than 600 jackets will be produced, only offered to select retailers who can provide the envisioned installation concept. Despite this limited run, Strachan’s jackets, which celebrate exploration to alien and uncharted worlds, feel perfectly welcome at Andersen’s CIFF.
words. Braden R Bjella