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Wilmer Wilson Creates A Window Into Two Cities

Wilmer Wilson IV

For some, a party flyer is nothing more than a bothersome nuisance cluttering windscreens as they vie for the attention of potential patrons. However, for Wilmer Wilson IV, they provide a window into a city.

For almost two months, Wilson has been taking in Kingston flyers and found objects working toward the creation of an art exhibition that will explore Kingston and Washington DC, through the words and images found on their ephemera.

Wilson is wrapping up his summer residency at the New Local Space (NLS) and the exhibition, dubbed Lagan, will open on August 10, 2012. For Lagan he will use the flyers found through walks around the city or donated by those who heard about his project as well as staples and other found objects.

Wilson, is a graduate of Howard University, and after his stint in Kingston Jamaica, he will be heading off to the University of Pennsylvania to pursue an interdisciplinary MFA. His trip to Jamaica, however, is his first extended stay out of the United States, and so a part of his work is to portray the city but to remove some of the perceptions he may have brought with him.

While in Kingston Wilson took the time to explore the local art scene“It takes a lot of work not to have expectations of a separate culture than the one you’re coming from. So, part of the work that I’ve been doing is deconstructing the expectations that I have of the uses of a certain rubric of paper ephemera, that I had been looking for.”

So, Wilson explains that he has had to chip away at the the exoticized portrayals of the island and its capital city. So while from afar, Kingston is a city in a fog of weed smoke, he realizes that not all Jamaicans imbibe; there is the recognition that although Rastafari is a globalized movement, in Jamaica it remains a subculture; and that rather than a beach front, the city is a modernized; and of course perceptions of violence, a spectre which haunts the city.

“The notion of violence kind of overtakes the city from afar,” Wilson said, explaining that friends and family had expressed concern at his decision to come here. However, his experience has thus far been a pleasant one.

He admits that two months is not a very long time to research the city and its relationship with its paper ephemera, but some things have spoken clearly from the images emblazoned on the flyers he has found.

“I don’t presume to have an answer to the quality of the entire city through these instances,” Wilson says. He speaks, cautiously, guardedly, and soon admits that he is very concerned about misrepresentation.

Yet, according to Wilmer, though our flyers a sense of idealism, as well as elements of desire about lifestyle and values  are revealed. And though he avoids labelling it, Wilson also admits that he has been struck by the “even skin tones” displayed on the flyers.

He explains that he will contrast the objects found in Kingston with those he brought with him from Washington DC.

“In DC I found a lot of lottery tickets,” he explains. “So there is a much more palpable sense of loss than I found here.”

But Wilson’s own artistic desire as relates to the ephemera he is collecting, goes beyond this Lagan installation. Though his collection began with no specific goal in mind, he now recognizes its potential as an archival body which he hopes to extend beyond just the spaces in which he lives.

He explains that his fascination with ephemera goes beyond this exhibition. Wilson points out that although ephemera are often treated as a nuisance they contain densely coded, culturally valuable messages.

“I don’t maintain to be discovering value. I’m trying intently to avoid the saviour complex,” he says.  Instead, he hopes that Lagan will accomplish one simple feat, and show that the ephemera that often litters the city’s streets, our windshields have something to say about who we are and together are a little more valuable than they seem.