JEMAGWGA Gwylene Gallimard & Jean-Marie

Conversations with Time 2


There is a situation exemplifying a tragedy for which no outsider enemy is responsible: the so many blocks of barely standing façades of West Baltimore – a war zone. It never failed to deeply touch Omari Fox and I every time we were there. No world war took place in West Baltimore. This has to be repeated in whatever medium we have on hand, as it looks to me like a civil war is still being fought.

Then, Jean-Marie and I went to Pittsburgh. I felt like a cool breeze. Although the city had been impacted by the industrial changes of the late nineties, Penn Avenue, around the block which houses the Pittsburgh Glass Center, illustrates a couple of centuries of architecture in various stages of renovation or creation. A very daring contemporary green building made of steel, glass and concrete, acts as a beacon for the future. For the installation – Conversations With Time #2 – we chose to oppose a representation of this post-modern building with a large canvas of mended Baltimore façades designed as a giant puzzle. Confronting a fragile glass building with a decaying Baltimore row of houses could possibly generate hope. To reinforce the energizing function of the new amid ruins, the back of the green building became a storage space for smaller Baltimore puzzles, a repository.

The installation recalls tools and materials used in the original project “Conversations With Time” in Baltimore, and words – heard or seen there. Booklets, which generated dialogue, workshops and even two scripts could be studied. However the installation is not a documentation. It is a memorialization of the intense and emotional time in West Baltimore. Our mending together pieces of the façades tells of our hopes to mend inter-generational relationships – and our regrets to be so far away.

“Conversations With Time / West Baltimore” when communicated to others, brings some permanency to a discontinued / abandoned (?) project.

LAST UPDATE: IN 2014, we – a CONVERSATIONS WITH TIME team – are going back to Baltimore to collaborate with SHEILA GASKINS, author and director of “THE LAST HOUSE STANDING: A Play About The Highway To Nowhere” in Baltimore and the injuries from ‘Roots Shock’, on people being displaced. “Conversations With time” and “The Last House Standing” were part of ROOTS Fest, the 35th anniversary of Alternate ROOTS in 2011 as works/programs in progress.

This is our way to honor the people who participated, to keep our collaborative work, and continue to raise expectations. It talks of the people of West Baltimore as we were intimately -although very temporarily – West Baltimoreans.

We wanted the piece to appear as a staged painting. It called for a silent performance and became a “tableau vivant.” There was a twist to it though. The silent actors (Jean-Marie Mauclet, Phinias Chirubvu, Dan Brawley, Omari Fox, Kerryl McCord and Gwylene Gallimard) came to life one by one with a question. And the audience was to answer.

1- This is a work-in-progress. Can it become a memorial to a past event, celebrating the funeral of a past community and at the same time become a platform for further changes?

2- I did not participate in Conversations With Time in West Baltimore. So I would like to know if you think that this piece creates its presence? And does the title fit the work?

3- How does my presence as a silent actor impact your perception of the piece?

4- West Baltimore has liquor stores, guns, etc at every corner, all sanctioned by the government. What is your position on that politicized statement?
(The question was actually formulated as a spoken word poem by Omari Fox)

5- If you make an art piece with or inspired by a community, who owns the art when it is sold?

6- Conversations with Time’ first audience was the participants. You are my second audience and that piece has been modified/created for you. Since I trust you, tell me what you don’t like about the piece?

Most photographs are by Journey Brave

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