Article by Nicole Gurgel (Albuquerque, NM) | November 3, 2015
From fall 2012 through spring 2013, multi-media artists Gwylene Gallimard and Jean-Marie Mauclet, facilitated an art-with-community project in Jackson, MS, sponsored by the Mississippi Museum of Art. The artists, who work together as JEMAGWGA in Charleston, SC, were invited to Jackson as part of the museum’s C3 Series, Creativity-Conversation-Community. Together with numerous community partners, they developed The Future is on the Table #4, which was comprised of participatory 3D representations of existing Jackson institutions or associations which were brought together in the museum’s garden. In the words of JEMAGWGA, these then became “‘containers for dialogues, activities, and dreams of the community.”
This year, JEMAGWGA, along with Ennis Carter of Social Impact Studios, have been hard at work at another iteration of Future #4: www.thefutureisonthetable4.org. The website, which contains a multi-media timeline of the project and is designed to host further conversations about it, both documents and reactivates Future #4. It points to documentation’s dual purpose as both a record of work done and a springboard for further action.
The website also aligns with one of the underlying principles of JEMAGWGA’s engaged practice, that their ”work should create opportunities for content to show up independently of us.” Like the original project, it is clear that this website hopes to be a container for community dialogue and future visioning. Users can comment on each page as well as join in the larger conversation in the forum, responding to prompts about the whereabouts of the sculptures, the relationships built through the project, and how the project created “memorials of value.” Every page is alive with photos and often video of participants interacting with and expanding the project. The site, like the original project, makes it clear that the beating heart of Future #4, is the community who built the sculptures/structures.
As the launch of this next phase of Future #4 approached, I was in touch with Gwylene and Jean-Marie, as well as daniel johnson, who served as field coordinator for the project. (daniel, subsequently, was the lead artists for the 2014 C3 series and now is the Director of Engagement and Learning at the museum.) In keeping with the spirit of the web-based conversations Future #4 hopes to enliven, our exchange occurred over email. Here are these artists response to the my question: What are your hopes for the website? How do you think it will inspire further action / imagining?
Jean-Marie: In an art-with-community work like this one, one of the keys is the development of a common history, a common memory. Communities acquire their unifying traits and strength from having built “something” together. Also, in our case, since we do not (want to) know where a project will end up, it is always prudent to mark the itinerary. Prudent and necessary for referencing, situating, legitimizing, organizing.
daniel: The creation of this website presents a second invitation to the greater Jackson community initially joined together by this project … The community is now invited to reawaken that story and collaboratively move it forward. I am interested to see if it helps us all see a bigger picture of what happened at the time and what has transpired since. My hope is that it will be a platform and space to continue to engage the ideas we presented at the time and that it will aid us in efforts to move forward together in activating those ideas in Mississippi.
Gwylene: For me personally my waking up in the arts and activism did not happen in one day. It was always within daring situations that I did progress and it is important for me to pass on the journey I went through and the one I am still going through. Not a psychological journey, but a social-justice, art-justice one. It was never a healing process but more an attempt to build a road to freedom of thoughts and rejection of fears of failure. I always thought that the accumulation of my works could help many, if nothing I learned on the way was kept secret. And what I learned is not easily found or taught in the art field or art history since the 70’s or even at ROOTS. I do not want to compete. Everything can be used. Every question is so welcome. There is no copyright. I wish to give all my knowledge, as if I was a senior, an elder ready to go away.
Please give www.thefutureisonthetable4.org a warm welcome — explore it, comment on it, share it on your social media. If you are interested in learning more about their documentation process, or building your own web-based documentation hub, check out this how to guide, developed by Ennis Carter of Social Impact Studios.