Olivia Mcgilchrist

Jamaica – France

Olivia McGilchrist was born to a French mother and a Jamaican father in Jamaica, where she lived until she was four and to where she returned at the age of thirty to live and work between 2011 and 2014. Her work explores translocation and her mixed Caribbean cultural identity via her alter-ego Whitey placement in evocative and historical Jamaican landscapes. It questions the role of racial, social and gender-based categorization, classification and discrimination in the contemporary Caribbean space. By juxtaposing parallel realities through photographs, video installations and, more recently, with Virtual Reality, elements of the tropical picturesque are re-appropriated and remapped to evoke the complexity of the Caribbean’s hybrid identities. McGilchrist completed her Master’s in Photography at the London College of Communication in 2010 and received a Graduate Certificate in Digital Technologies from Concordia University in Montréal, Canada in 2015. She is currently a PhD student in Arts, Education and Immersive Technology at Concordia University, Montreal.


Jonkonnu / Gens Inconnus

Virtual Reality Video Installation, 3’ 10”, with sound

Artist's audio introduction

A cube-shaped pine box with decorative engravings atop a wooden structure houses an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset in which the viewer interacts with a virtual video installation of traditional Jamaica Carnival Jonkonnu performers. As viewers put on the Oculus Rift, they enter a 3D space in which two perspectives of this Carnival performance are blended and juxtaposed across three virtual gallery screens. Across the Caribbean, Jonkonnu was a festival created by the enslaved themselves as a gesture of resistance. Although the more traditional forms are slowly dying, the power of Jonkonnu remains, albeit Jamaica’s current economic hardship.

When experiencing this work, ask yourself: in 2017, what are the connections between the increase of consumer-ready immersive technology and the unfolding cultural polarisations within discourses around identity and sovereignty, which are selectively amplified through social media? How does this impact cultural spaces – such as the caribbean? can a more accessible human-machine interaction teach us how to better learn about the post-colonial other?

Made in collaboration with the Carlton Walters Jonkonnu Band (St Mary, Jamaica).

Installed in container along the harbour front, Vågen, Stavanger.

Image: Olivia McGilchrist, Jonkonnu / Gens Inconnus (2017), Virtual Reality video Installation, 3’ 10”, with sound, video still. Courtesy of the artist.