St Andrew’s Crossbreed (September 2019)
Curated by Kirsty Kerr, Culture& Trainee Assistant Curator
Objects: Plastic cup of Irn-Bru, sugar cubes, framed and unframed Google maps marking locations in Jamaica and Scotland, Scotch Bonnet peppers, MacGregor and Kerr tartans, ‘Pinoy Jokes’ t-shirt, embroidered name labels, rice grains, dried heather flowers, antique vitrine.
In this new exhibition for ‘The Case’, Kirsty Kerr explores the Scottish heritage that she shares with Culture& Director, Dr Errol Francis, as a vehicle to interrogate hidden historical narratives and the struggle to identify with one’s cultural background. Whilst both have names that connect them to Scottish clans and tartans (Errol’s mother’s maiden name was MacGregor), they have each experienced situations of unbelonging, with the ubiquity of whiteness as default raising issues about what it means to look Scottish “enough” to claim them. ‘St Andrew’s Crossbreed’ is a series of assemblages that explore the complexity of heritage, and the limits of names as holders of identity. The title references both the X-shaped saltire flag and antiquated notions of ‘breeding’ as an indication of status, seen in colonial racial classifications such as the Casta system.
On the upper shelf, a triptych of grouped objects investigates the connection between Scotland and Jamaica, the birthplace of Errol’s parents. The only countries to share the Saltire flag, the link between the nations is also revealed in the fact that over 60% of Jamaican surnames are of Scottish origin. Scottish place names also abound on the island, with Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow and Inverness appearing on the maps of both countries. Unavoidably, these historical associations reveal a dark legacy of slavery, as plantations driven by Britain’s appetite for sugar transformed Scotland from one of the poorest to one of the richest countries in Europe at the turn of the 19th century.
On the lower shelves, two assemblages playfully represent the experience of being biracial. Of mixed British and Filipina heritage, Kirsty explores the sense of confusion and unbelonging that can arise from being born to parents of different cultural backgrounds. In one piece, her embroidered Scottish name tangles across a t-shirt covered in jokes in her mother’s tongue – a language she doesn’t speak. Visible on the label is the word ‘Halu-Halo’, the name of a traditional Pinoy dessert that literally translates as ‘Mix Mix’.
About ‘The Case’
‘The Case’ is a new curated micro-museum series that raises questions about which objects are worthy of being collected and exhibited, what system(s) we use to group them together, and which narratives and questions arise when we do so. Exhibitions are set up in an antique vitrine, existing online only and curated by New Museum School trainees with invited guest artists and contributors.