Walking Gregory's Neighborhood
By Tori Pelz
ABOUT THE ARTIST:
"My multi-disciplinary practice often involves social engagement by promoting collaboration and creating visual platforms for personal, place-based narratives. Through my work, I explore how places, identities and communities are constructed and reconstructed, and the fluctuation between private and public memories and narratives that comprise and contest those constructions. I am particularly fascinated with border regions, cities in conflict and transition, and physical movement as political and personal agency." T.Pelz
INTERVIEW WITH TORI PELZ
How did you make an initial contact with Gregory? How did you know he had a story for you?
I was introduced to Gregory through a colleague who knew Gregory through years of working with him in a prison theater program. I had approached this colleague for potential collaborators for a socially-engaged class project for a course I was teaching on socially-engaged art and mass incarceration. This colleague knew that Gregory would not only be a willing collaborator but that he was an incredibly gifted and dedicated poet. We collaborated via correspondence for both Walking Gregory's Neighborhood, as well as my class project, which culminated in students hosting a dinner party on Gregory's behalf.
How did you relate to Gregory's neighbourhood through his memories and stories?
It's a humbling experience to walk in someone else's place, your steps dictated by their direction. I was completely out of place and had rely on his fragmented memories to make sense of the place, a place that simultaneously bore witness to both Gregory's presence and absence.
Have you had contact with Gregory since you finished the project? What feedback did you get from Gregory about the mapped areas from his memories and what sort of impact the project had on him?
Yes, I still keep in touch with him. The dinner party that I mentioned earlier, seemed to especially make an impact, as family members who had lost touch with Gregory were able to celebrate his growth and have renewed contact with him. So, that outcome cemented our friendship, in a way. He has not seen the online version of this project, so he doesn't have a sense for the final product, although I shared a printed booklet version of this project with him. I don't want to speak for him, but I think he feels seen. Gregory is a deep well of wise and beautiful insights. I wanted to give him a platform to share his gifts, to get him out of that cell, even if only by proxy and through his words, for now.