I Still Don't Get It: Why Do They Want to be Rich Without Us?
This project started as a memorial to a housing complex, which was demolished a few years ago. Four hundred people were forced out. At that time Gwylene fabricated "SHOREVIEW", described by Neill Bogan as"a monumental remembrance of a destroyed low-income housing complex doomed by its million-dollar marshward 'viewshed'." Reflections on Evoking History: Listening Across Cultures and Communities, Spoleto Festival USA, 2001, curated by Mary Jane Jacob.
Gwylene made 60 plaster cast houses bearing pictures of the demolition and written comments gathered from the last inhabitants. Plaster casts stood on a 7'x17' enlarged old aerial map of the area.
For a year or so, SHOREVIEW became an empty field where a few protected live oaks were desperately trying to survive. Then a trailer appeared, the name of the area was changed to LONGBOROUGH. Construction started. Prices were advertised, starting at $85,000 per lot and $450,000 for the house. Today the site is almost entirely built. SHOREVIEW represents gentrification: total transformation of race and culture. We call that a bleaching of our neighborhood, with all the pains, burns and awful smells of overdose.
"Five years ago, the model I made was bringing instant, very present, actual memory to many Charlestonians. Then it showed something of the past. I knew that art objects as memorials need to remain active. They can enter art history and history as dead beats, therefore at best as a reference, at worst as a nuisance. I could not accept that for a memorial I took responsibility for. That is how I started to see the sixty small plaster houses as part of the new constructions on the site, enshrined into clear cast and colored rubber models of the new structures of Longsborough. Then, maybe the memory of a past will remain in the new shelters as a necessary ghost. Also it seems that it would show the process of demolition and construction in such a way that it may become a memorial to gentrification itself, therefore potentially generating more thoughts and discussions than just SHOREVIEW at the end of my street."
Practically this project keeps the ghosts of SHOREVIEW – that is the plaster houses with pictures of the demolition and texts by the last residents - embedded into the new houses of LOHGBOROUGH.
Jean-Marie then envisioned an installation, which consists of three independent structures built around the "Shoreview" project. Structure 1 is a 6X8X12 (H) blow up of a building in which people see parts of the now destroyed Shoreview neighborhood. Structure 2 consists of an eye level, table top-like surface carrying most of the resin casts of Gwylène's models of Shoreview’s (now Longborough) as the new houses "digest" the old ones. Structure 3 is a dumpster, in which, if one climbs a stepladder to peek, one sees one of Shoreview’s old structures, ready to be sent to the landfill.
A first presentation happened at the CITY GALLERY AT WATERFRONT PARK, Charleston SC, part of a show curated by Colin Quashie, "The Changing Face of Charleston”, February 2007.
The following statement accompanied the presentation.
I STILL DON”T GET IT:
WHY DO THEY WANT TO BE RICH WITHOUT US?
WHO ARE YOU?
WHAT DO YOU LIKE VERY MUCH HERE?
ISN’T IT BEAUTIFUL?
DO YOU REMEMBER SHOREVIEW?
DO YOU REMEMBER THE ICE CREAM TRUCK?
HAVE YOU READ MUHAMMAD YUNUS, THE 2006 NOBEL PEACE PRIZE?
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
If you have answered YES or had any positive reactions to all questions, congratulations. We want to reach you.
"I STILL DON'T GET IT: WHY DO THEY WANT TO BE RICH WITHOUT US?" was then shown at SPACE ONE ELEVEN in Birmingham AL, part of a show curated by Louise Shaw, "Shifting Planes", November 2007 and at 479 KING ST. in Charleston SC, within the "WALK" project led by Rena Lasch, May-June 2009.
Space One Eleven: www.spaceoneeleven.org
Shifting Planes: http://spaceoneeleven.org/index.php/visual-art/archives/85-shifting-planes
This work was partly funded by Alternate ROOTS & the FORD Foundation and presented at the City Gallery at Waterfront Park in Charleston SC in February 2007.
Photographs by Terry Mannier, Adam Berry, J. Wallis and JEMAGWGA