ERNEST is a working group–currently based in the Bay Area, CA and Cincinnati, OH–and comprised of a flexible group of members. Shifting the focus away from their individual identities, ERNEST provides a democratic testing ground for making work that challenges dominant ideas about site, body, and power. ERNEST aims to create artworks, events, and situations that stimulate and build sustained dialogue around tricky topics. www.iamernest.us

With support from c3:initiative in Portland for a two-year public project, ERNEST is focusing on the empty Wapato Correctional Facility in the St. John’s neighborhood of Portland. The culmination of two years of investigation in St. Johns, Demos: Wapato Correctional Facility is comprised of a video, publication, a special print edition (printed in collaboration with Pacific Northwest College of Arts’ Watershed Press), a Roundtable event, and a series of public events.

Demos (pronounced “day-moss”) conjures early Athenian concepts of both “village” and “People” (Δῆμος). Equally, demos can be read to connote more modern concepts of the “demo,” or mix-tape, as well as the shorthand vernacular for demolition. As a collaborative group intent on testing and enacting forms of radical democracy, ERNEST uses to demos to refer to local participatory engagement, keeping methods experimental and provisional, while harnessing the power of generative de(con)struction.

Coyotes, ERNEST’s unlikely interlocutors at Wapato, burrow beneath the fenced perimeter of the jail to come and go as they please. Coyote, and an unrelenting sense of frustration, leads Demos: Wapato Correctional Facility in a transformation of the specifics of Wapato Jail into a platform for challenging conversation and collaboration. The video component acts as conjurer, the publication as a platform for voices ranging in depth and breadth, and the event component will create an opportunity for experiencing the jail on-site as well as stimulating discussion around the issues it brings up for various members of the community.