Giving Tree 

The Future Is on the Table hopes to inspire citizens of the world

For local artists Gwylene Gallimard and Jean-Marie Mauclet, a long journey is coming to an end.

For the past five years, the owners of Fast and French, a slow-food restaurant on Broad Street, have shepherded a grassroots project that has involved artists from England, France, India, South Africa, and the United States.

Now, after traveling thousands of miles and spending hundreds of hours planning and preparing, their community-minded arts project, The Future Is on the Table, is finally ready to open in Charleston this weekend.

The genesis of the project was a gift.

In 2003, Gallimard and Mauclet fashioned 56 stools out of a single piece of wood on which was painted an atlas. The stools, mounted on three steel legs, were then sent to nine artists who span a range of disciplines — painting, dancing, photography, fabric arts, film, and more.

These were gifts, but gifts with strings attached.

In exchange, Gallimard and Mauclet asked each artist to make something while keeping in mind two issues crucial to the futures of many countries — clean water and adequate shelter. The product of this gift, and of using the stools as inspiration for something new, is The Future Is on the Table.

Starting this weekend, most of the major cultural venues in Charleston — the Gibbes Museum of Art, the City Gallery at Waterfront Park, the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, and Redux Contemporary Art Center — will host installations, exhibitions, and performances associated with the project. Organizers says it's the first time all of them have worked in concert. It's another example, they say, of building community around the arts.

For Gallimard and Mauclet, "the local" is "the global." What happens here has meaning there. What happens there affects life here.

With this gathering of international artists, organizers hope to spark civic-minded conversation around a metaphorical table, where global citizens might share ideas, discuss problems, and contemplate the future of our world.

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"Across the Waters: A Gift Exchange"
by Rajni Shah

What better way to spark a conversation than with a gift? That's what performance artist Rajni Shah believes. For two years, she explored the idea of giving as a way of building bridges between people of different cultures, backgrounds, and traditions. After receiving her stools in her native London, England, she devised a performance there that involved a map of the world made of salt. The stools encircled the map. Shah wore a dress adorned with ribbons that were tied to the space she danced in. When the lights went out, she slipped out of the dress and danced over the salt, destroying the image of the world. Afterward, she gave the stools away to audience members. Each stool came with a handwritten letter explaining that the bearer of the stool was now part of a larger global community. For her Charleston project, Shah plans to work in two venues: Fast and French and the City Gallery. At the restaurant, she aims to present on-the-spot gifts to patrons, who in exchange are invited to leave "a trace of themselves" at the restaurant and engage in a larger conversation about the global issues of water and shelter. Shah says she'll do something similar at the gallery, but because these are extemporaneous actions, it's hard to say what will happen. "Theater can be a very passive place where performers see the same people," Shah says. "The question for me was, 'How do I reach people who are not in the theater?' It's important that I engage people and they engage me with whatever reaction they have. All reactions, even negative ones, are valid."
For more about Rajni Shah, go to www.rajnishah.com

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"Arpan Goes to Festivals"
by Sharda Hanumant Ghadge and Sunanda Shashikant Junjar

Imagine never having walked into a bank, used a telephone, or enjoyed indoor plumbing. That's real life for members of the Arpan Cooperative, a group of 24 impoverished women from Thane, India, where access to clean water and adequate shelter are both luxuries. As members of a nonprofit clothing company, however, these women, all of them skilled in embroidery and tailoring, have come to learn what it's like to be self-sufficient, self-empowered, and proud of being able to send their daughters to school. After receiving their stools, filmmakers Michèle Waquant and Gwylene Gallimard traveled to India to film Arpan's daily routine of making clothing for export to America and beyond. That film will be part of a video installation at Charleston's City Gallery. Two members of Arpan, Sharda Hanumant Ghadge and Sunanda Shashikant Junjar, who have hardly known cultures and customs outside their own, will celebrate at City Gallery their roles in this multinational project by presenting a site-specific installation yet to be determined as well as lead an embroidery circle.
For more about Arpan, go to www.marketplaceindia.org

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"A Conversation Tree"
by Arianne King Comer

The relationship between trees and humans is long, complex, and fraught. Before we used them to make paper, before we cut them down to make room for suburban sprawl, they were symbols of community, strength, and protection. Arianne King Comer is a textile artist who specializes in batik and indigo dyes. A Charleston resident, King Comer plans to underscore, during a series of workshops and performances, the significance of the oak tree to the Lowcountry by creating a life-sized metal-and-fabric "tree" (see previous page). It began this year as a "solar tree" (with help from Alternative Energy Systems at the Old Navy Yard), then later a "kudzu tree" (at the same location). Now it will become a "conversation tree" (at City Gallery, downtown). It's modeled after the "Emancipation Tree," King Comer says, a gigantic live oak on St. Helena Island. Key aspects of life happen under trees in Gullah culture — teaching, craft-making, and disseminating information. When Lincoln issued his proclamation to abolish slavery, the Gullah learned about it by gathering under the tree. "That's why it's called the 'Emancipation Tree,'" King Comer says. Inspired by the women of the Arpan Cooperative, King Comer created a huge batik featuring Ganesh, the elephant-headed Hindu god. The Arpan women have spent recent months embroidering squares of fabric that will frame the work for display at City Gallery.
For more on Arianne King Comer, go to www.ariannekingcomer.com

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"Tropical Ice"
by Delphine Ziegler and Aurore Gruel

The Doubs River is a northern border of France and Switzerland. Every year, when the winter cold is just right, the river freezes, becoming as flat as a tabletop. Citizens freely cross the border. They even gather socially — skating, carousing, and selling roasted chestnuts. When photographer Delphine Ziegler received her gift of stools, she envisioned the Doubs River as a large table around which strangers meet. She spent recent years sharing the experience with dancers and performance artists, including Aurore Gruel. Ziegler captured it on film and video which will be shown at the City Gallery. Affixed to gallery windows overlooking the Cooper River will be a huge 55-foot-long transparency depicting the French-Swiss tableau, a symbolic meeting of European and American rivers, the artists say. Outside, on the steps leading to Waterfront Park, will be a dance performance Saturday by Gruel. She will be accompanied by local musicians Bill Carson, Nathan Koci, Ron Wiltrout, and others. It's an unorthodox performance in keeping with the theme of water. Gruel's dance, called "Tropical Ice," attempts to raise awareness about global warming by using blocks of ice that quickly melt under a Lowcountry sun. Also on site will be a rig made of ice by students at the Clemson Architecture Center that attempts to recycle the water. "It's necessary to capture what's happening to the ice," Ziegler says. "Nature is a wonderful artist. We have to catch her before she is gone."
For more on Aurore Gruel, go to www.compagnieormone.com

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"Sense and Sensibilities: Sculpting the Five Senses"
by Phinias Chirubvu

For some, art is a privilege. For others, it's a necessity. Phinias Chirubvu leads a group of 30 students in Capetown, South Africa, in learning how to carve stone. In the bargain, the artist is teaching these kids that they can create meaning even when life seems to lack meaning. People are often without proper shelter and clean water in his native Zimbabwe, Chirubvu says. Food and jobs are scarce. So is a feeling of self-worth. When Chirubvu received his gift of stools, he used them to spark his students' imaginations. Because so many children and young adults wander the streets of Capetown "losing their senses," his students created a carving paying homage to common sense called "The Big Five: Education of the Senses." "They had nothing to do, nothing to focus the mind," he says. "Carving the stones gives them a source of income and a sense of hope in the future." Through the middle of October, Chirubvu will be the artist-in-residence at the Gibbes Museum of Art and Wilmot J. Fraser Elementary School, where he has been instructing fourth, fifth, and sixth graders on how to work with clay, concrete, and marble. Their final collaboration will be on display at the City Gallery.

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"Burqua as Shelter"
by Wok Marcia Kure

The burka is something we've seen a lot of since 9/11. It's that jet-black full-body garment, also covering the head and face, worn by Muslim women in repressive countries like Saudi Arabia. But that's only part of the story, says Nigerian artist Marcia Kure. The fact is, she says, that Westerners know little about the significance of the burka or the cultural implications that go into wearing one. Plus, there's a sense of power and protection afforded by the garment that few outsiders understand. For her project, Kure is collaborating with three local teenagers in the building of a small shelter, like a tent, that resembles a woman wearing a burka. The site will be the City Gallery. Viewers can enter through "her legs" in order to experience the garment from the inside. This is vital to understanding life from the point of view of The Other, Kure says, alluding to that concept borne in the West that marginalizes values and beliefs in places that used to be European colonies, places likely to have few white people in them. Kure hopes to appeal most to Charleston's youth, to get them talking about the complexities of human relationships in ways they themselves understand. "When I see a woman in black," Kure wrote in the brochure to The Future Is on the Table, "I see power, I see mystery. Anonymity. Sometimes defiance."
For more on Wok Marcia Kure, go to www.mariakure.com

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"Stool P.I.J.I.N."
by Omari Fox

Local poet and street philosopher Omari Fox is installing something that looks like a train station at the City Gallery. On each component of the installation is written original poetry based on themes of U.S. politics, military affairs, and globalization. "There's going to be some stuff in there on the election, too," he says. "But I guess that's all part of the same story." Fox plans to present poetry during the opening reception Saturday.


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"Capturing the Moving Mind: Management and Movement in the Age of Permanently Temporary War"
by Gwylene Gallimard and Jean-Marie Mauclet

In 2005, Gwylene Gallimard and Jean-Marie Mauclet joined a group of 40 economists, scientists, activists, artists, and writers for a 10-day journey on a trans-Siberian railway. The trip was part of a thought-experiment in the way minds work in motion in this age of terrorism and war. Gallimard and Mauclet plan to present five videos of their trip in an installation at City Gallery.


Venues

Gibbes Museum of Art
135 Meeting St.
(843) 722-2706
www.gibbesmuseum.org

City Gallery at Waterfront Park
34 Prioleau St.
(843) 724-7305
www.charlestoncity.info

North Charleston City Gallery
5001 Coliseum Drive
North Charleston
(843) 529-5011
www.charlestonconvention.com

Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art
54 St. Philip St.
(843) 953-5680
halsey.cofc.edu

Redux Contemporary Art Center
136 St. Philip St.
(843) 722-0697
www.reduxstudios.org

Performances, presentations, and events

Sept. 10 — City Gallery at Waterfront Park

Embroidery and sewing circle with Arianne King Comer, Sunanda Shashikant Junjar, and Sharda Hanumant Ghadge

Sept. 10 — City Gallery at Waterfront Park

Building the "bridge" by the Clemson Architecture Center

Sept. 11 , 7 p.m. — Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art

Performance artist Rajni Shah presents "Across the Waters"

Sept. 12 , 7 p.m. — Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art

Wok Marcia Kure presents "Burqua at Shelter"

Sept. 15-26

Stone carver Phinias Chirubvu is artist-in-residence at the Gibbes Museum of Art and the Wilmot J. Fraser Elementary School

Sept. 26 , 1 p.m. — Gibbes Museum of Art

Tour with Gwylene Gallimard and Jean-Marie Mauclet, organizers of The Future Is on the Table

Oct. 10 , 1 p.m. — Gibbes Museum of Art

Tour with artist Arianne King Comer

Oct. 25 , 11 a.m.-5 p.m. — Redux Contemporary Art Center

"We all love art, but art can be an uncomfortable issue. Welcome."

Oct. 25 , 6 p.m. — The Art Institute of Charleston

Fund-raising dinner to benefit Alternate ROOTS, $20

Oct. 26 , 11 a.m.-5 p.m. — City Gallery at Waterfront Park

"Now what? Welcome."

Nov. 6 , 5-7 p.m. — North Charleston City Gallery

"Meet the Artists: Omari Fox, Gwylene Gallimard, Arianne King Comer, Jean-Marie Mauclet

Installations and exhibits

Sept. 12-Nov. 2 — Gibbes Museum of Art

Opening reception and performance, Sept. 14, 1-5 p.m.

Sept. 13-Nov. 2 — City Gallery at Waterfront Park

Opening reception and performance, Sept. 13, 4-7 p.m.

Nov. 2-Nov. 25 — North Charleston City Gallery

Location


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