It’s an experiment

Today starts an experiment for difficult times, an invitation to exchange ideas, a work-around, a relay race passing the torch, a moveable feast, a call and response, a party line, a whistle in the dark, a note passed in class, a message in a bottle, a daybook, and whatever else we might need it to be, as a community. It expresses reverence for human creativity, and for the tenacity of working people in general.  We aim to start by sharing contributions by artists from our currently closed exhibitions, and from our residency program.

This is Emma Wilcox, cofounder of Gallery Aferro, I don’t have an IG handle or even a CB radio but if I did I would say “over and out” at the end of this post.  As an experiment, it might not always work. That’s ok. What this is not: an expectation that artists be “productive” in the neoliberal sense.

I miss you. Drop a line, or just an emoticon if that’s what you’re up to. Ask me a question, or tell us a story.

This annotated map is from one of my sketchbooks, ca. 2002, including in Aferro’s exhibit of sketchbooks from 78+ artists of all ages. Because I began as an artist well prior to smart phones, a big part of my process was printing or hand drawing or xeroxing maps, and making myself guides of where I would need to walk to try to get access to something I had seen by train. I never learned to drive, and the lived experience of walking all over NJ has greatly informed my practice as a photographer.  I would get my handmade maps ready, and then have them in my pocket as I set out into the meadowlands, or towards the edges of other industrial landscapes.  My annotations to these maps also helped me keep track of which wetland areas were dry enough to walk through, and when, in accordance with tide timetables. Revisiting these notebooks for the show reminded me of how amazing old maps can be, because they remind you of what placenames or features have been removed in successive editions. As someone who makes long term projects concerned with environmental justice, contested narratives, and local memory, the way information appears or disappears is highly meaningful. I also would make variants of these maps to help me memorize a flight route for guiding helicopter pilots I have hired as part of making images.

The particular notebook this map is from coincides with my efforts to photograph locations where Jimmy Hoffa was said to have ended up, and also, with my one time, and one time only, attempt to “photograph a lie,” which involved filling the back of an abandoned car with fish I got from wholesalers, recreating a story told during the Hoffa investigation about salmon, and someone’s mother in law. The resulting photograph was not one I judged successful, but the neighborhood cats seemed pleased.

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