Olivia McGilchrist
Film still of "from many sides". Davidoff Limited Art Edition 2016.

Olivia McGilchrist

Olivia McGilchrist

Olivia McGilchrist (b. 1981, Kingston) is a French-Jamaican visual artist exploring translocation and issues of Caribbean cultural identity by proxy of her alter-ego ‘whitey’s’ placement in the Jamaican landscape.

Questioning the shifting categories in which she belongs, from the female body in a postmodern space to a visibly white postcolonial creole identity, whitey questions the role of racial, social and gender based categorization, classification and discrimination in the contemporary Caribbean space.

Most recently, whitey has not always been present, although the work still focuses on masked figures and the act of masking in Caribbean centered practices.
By juxtaposing parallel realities through photographs, video installations and more recently with virtual reality, elements of the tropical picturesque are re-appropriated, and remapped in the search for her cultural identity.


from many sides highlights intuitive connections to the Caribbean island space; to it’s rich hues, strong contrasts, darkness and light. Portraying these sites of memory, blending stories and myths of a complex and hybrid past, the layered sequences allow the figures, trees and water to transform, merging with the surrounding land.

I am aware of the two strands of privilege I am privy to: the access to new media technology, scholarship and exposure and the insider / outsider position afforded to me by the color of my skin, as well as my gender. The challenge here is to create within yet beyond these constraints, both aware and au fait with these loaded and potentially dangerous situations, aspiring to overturn as many expectations as possible though the content, presentation and substance of the work presented in a Caribbean centered multi-media arts practice.

A staged sequence of a contemporary River Mother (or Mermaid) evokes profound connections across the region by referring to the presence of this shared mythical figure embedded within the region’s cultural space.
The elemental, cyclical ebb and flow of Caribbean waters sifts through layers of inherited histories, painting the physicality of time through light, colors, textures and sounds from nature. This ephemeral audio-visual blend offers an immersive experience in the liquid and fantasy space of the screen.

from many sides, teaser. Single channel video with sound (10min.)

Olivia McGilchrist’s art is characterized by convergence and interaction, which cancel out any need for upholding the purity of one medium (… ) Her acts of blurring the lines between each medium do not impede efforts at seeing but rather unlock the potential for greater clarity of vision and deeper insight to the many threads that comprise the tissue of living, moving and having our being in the [Caribbean] archipelago and its Diaspora.

Marsha Pearce, ARC Magazine Issue 8 (October 2013)

Artistic Statement

My practice tackles these issues by creating work that challenges the Western notion of progress (and power) that never looks back using the new audio visual space of immersive & embodied technology such as Virtual Reality and it’s unchartered “magic of presence” .

Since 2014, I’ve been investigating the possibilities offered by Virtual Reality within my experimental media arts practice at the intersections of research/ technology / education, as a compelling portal to our ‘prise de conscience’ of Édouard Glissant’s notion of ‘creolisation’, which I see as a pertinent interpretive tool against which to measure the success and limitations of immersive embodied technologies.

Juxtaposition of parallel co-existing realities has become an important and elusive aspect of my work, since returning to live in Jamaica in between 2011-2014. During this time, my alter ego whitey, was created to portray my uncomfortable feelings as a returning visibly white Jamaican in a predominantly black society. whitey’s placement in the Jamaican landscape questions the role of racial, social and gender based categorization, classification and discrimination in the contemporary Caribbean space.