(Un)Imagined Lives

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$39,330 raised of $25,000 goal
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Funded on December 01, 2022
    • 157% contributed

Bridging continents, oceans, and centuries, I’m developing a new film that centers on queer, Black folx displaced by colonization and linked by speculative imaginings of joy and sexual freedom. My project, (Un)Imagined Lives, draws from Christina Sharpe’s monumental biographical journey, In the Wake: On Blackness and Being, and similarly seeks to redefine the cultural contributions of Black folx, our relationship to land, water, and voyage—the nebulous space connecting us to various continents in the wake of slavery. Through research in the rural American South and the southern French coastline, I hope to create a tender, exciting, and experimental filmic odyssey that connects us to the spirits once lost underneath the Atlantic Ocean.

About This Project

This project is deeply personal as well as broadly reflective of many untold and unexamined histories.

We rarely talk about gender, sexuality, queer-ness, and sexual proclivity when we speak about the Middle Passage. I’ve been struck by this idea. How many queer, trans and gender non-conforming Black folx drowned as they crossed the Atlantic? How many of my queer-kin haunt the Atlantics? I feel compelled to imagine what their un-imagined narratives were and are, bringing their un-imagined lives to the surface.

In 2023 I will embark on an artist residency at the Camargo Foundation in the south of France. Along that area’s coastline there are numerous enclaves, bathhouses, saunas, and watering holes, as well as a heavy infusion of North African immigrants. My family shares an entire unbroken generational lineage with the Berber people of Mali; that is, until slavery brought us to the United States.

Displaced from our land, I ended up growing up in the American South—Greensboro, North Carolina, to be exact—in an embattled locale of racial divides where Confederate flags flew freely across the street from my elementary school, middle school, and high school.

Over the last four years, I have returned to various regions throughout the American South to conduct ethnographic research collaboratively with other queer, Black, sex-positive folx. These collaborations utilize a multitude of art forms, including audio, film, photography, ceramics, and textiles, all specifically targeting the rest, leisure, and access to water that is denied to those living in the wake of slavery.

With my trip to Camargo, I can now add a new dimension of this work by incorporating parallel research and multimedia collaborations with queer, Black folx in this southern French corridor. I seek to metaphorically, and literally, connect my never-before-seen American South digital film work with new 16mm film taken during my Camargo residency to make a feature film that bridges continents, travels the distance over water, and synthesizes years of sexual exploration.

Currently titled (Un)Imagined Lives, the project combines my love of archives, sculpture, sound, film, and textile into an embodied installation that will be shown first in Chicago and then throughout the South, and ultimately France (with dreams of having an exhibition of this work in North Africa).

I seek support to produce, direct, edit, and share this project with the world. In (Un)Imagined Lives, our bodies and our histories slink into a liminal exploration of uninhibited sexual odyssey, an incantation to connect with the sexual spirits lost underneath the Atlantica multi-voiced monumental memoira story rarely, if ever told of Black sexual freedoms explored with care, joy, and authenticity.

STRETCH GOAL! Thanks to all of your support, we reached our initial goal of $5k in record time, which means we are now shooting for a bigger goal of raising $25,000 by World AIDS Day (December 1st)! We need to make this film project a reality. Please continue to support and share with others. Thank you for believing in the mission, the message, and the project. 

Thank yous

Contribute any amount or choose from the levels below.

  • $25
    Personal thank you on social media ($25.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $50
    Above, plus exclusive access to my weekly digital travel journal ($50.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $100
    Above, plus a 1-hour virtual Q & A about the film with Derrick (Winter 2022) ($100.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $250
    Invitation to a private Director’s Cut screening, plus a virtual studio visit with Derrick, and all else listed above ($250.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $500
    A signed, original, 8" x 10" photographic print by Derrick (limited edition of 30), plus all of the above ($250.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $750
    Your name acknowledged in the film credits, plus an invitation to the private Director's Cut screening ($750.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $1000
    A private, virtual consultation with Derrick for your organization, collective, or individual (specifically in the areas of queer liberation, racial equity, facilitation, and transformative sexual justice) ($500.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $1500
    Custom light sculpture (limited edition of 5) created by Derrick, plus invitation to the Director's Cut screening, the Q & A, and access to travel journal ($750.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $2500
    (For institutional contributors): screening rights to share during events until 2025 ($2500.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $5000
    Custom thank you package by Derrick including all of the items above ($2500.00 is tax deductible.)

Derrick Woods-Morrow

Gary & Denise Gardner Fund Awardee

Derrick Woods-Morrow's work is a meditation on deviation and disruption, on language and representation, and on growing up in the American South. Currently based in Chicago and originally from Greensboro, North Carolina, he explores through his artistic practice Black sexual …

View Derrick Woods-Morrow's profile
  • Update 1: Travel Journal Entry 1
    Posted on June 08, 2023
     Two smiley, Black folks, taking a selfie. Cliff recede in the background, as foliage wraps the edges of the photograph. Directly behind them sits a very blue body of water, the Mediterranean Ocean.


    Me (Derrick Woods-Morrow) with 3Arts Camargo Fellow, Keyierra Collins hiking the Massif des Calanques in Cassis, Fr.

    Dear (Un)Imagined Lives supporters,


    ça vaJ'espère que cet e-mail vous trouvera bien.

    How are you doing? I hope this e-mail finds you well!


    First and foremost, thank you to 3Arts for stewarding this amazing experience, and thank you to each and everyone of you for your support and generousity. The enrichment it serves my life, and this project, are important and immensely valuable.


    I am reaching out to let each of you know that I am currently in Cassis, and at the Camargo Foundation. So far I have been here for exactly two weeks and have visited the following places, and met with the following folks in the community:  


    1       La Cité des arts de le rue - Lieux Publics - (a cultural organization offering a place of creation and production, a shelter for artists who make public art, and community, the basis and subject of their creations). While there i was also able to see, Un dimanche aux Aygalades, which houses a botanical trail along a river where large public art interventions that engage the community are installed.

    2       Palais Longchamp, Château-d'eau de Marseille (Marseille water tower) and musée des beaux-arts. The architecture is a mix of influences with pagoda roofs, abyssinian griffins, roman columns, and the water is directly imported from the river La Durance about 70km. (there's an interesting history

    3       Musée des Civilisations de l'Europe et de la Méditerranéen (The Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilization - currently housing 'Connectivities', an exhibition about the great port cities of the Mediterranean in the 16th and 17th centuries.

    4       Through the Camargo Foundation met with a young Algerian curator named Mael and discussed various aspects of the queer of color community in Marseille, including the Algerian War, and French Colonialization

    5       Eric Dehorter of PrioriTerre, who has lived in Marseille since childhood and who creates eco-documentaries about the region. Addtionally he has invaluable knowledge about ecological, trading routes and multicultural histories of Marseille and the surrounding region.  


    There are very few words to describe the opportunity to spend time here for the summer. I already feel very connected to region in various ways and my french is improving. The Camargo Foundation has been extremely generous in connecting me some really exciting scholars, artists and folx within the communty as well. I'll make sure to update you all on some of those dialogues as well, which will take me to various special archives in the area, and meet with migrants in the LGBTQ+ communities who are situated at the perpherials of French society, but whose ancestors built and created much of the institutions of this highly global city. Working on (Un)Imagined Lives has been generative in so many ways, and continues to energize me as I journey and challenge myself to rest, research, and enjoy the diversity of the region.


    Additionally, I am also very thankful to you for helping me exceed my intial stretch goal. With your support I will be able to stay in France until early August, and have begun to acquire professional equipment for the development of this work. As, I am still navigating the research phase here in the first few weeks, and will begin filming in mid-July. I am also hoping to partner with a non-profit to shoot some portions of the film in North Africa (TBA) - more on this later.


    You will receive updates and news as the project continues to develop. 


    Lastly, if you are in Chicago over the course of the summer, Gravity Pleasure Switchback, my first major solo exhibition, is open from May19th to August 5th at Gallery 400 (400 S Peoria St, Chicago, IL 60607).


    Please stay tuned while I am traveling and making work. I'll touch base again soon!


    meilleurs voeux,

    et avec un grand merci,


    Update 2: (un)Imagined Lives becomes S.E.X Firm
    Posted on January 19, 2024


    Dear (Un)Imagined Lives supporters,


    Happy New Year! I am reaching out to give an update on the project (which has grown substantially). It felt important to acknowledge that after sometime the work developed into more than a film and that the new direction offered  both I and collaborators more access to a future where we have more critical agency and potential growth.


    First, I wanted to let everyone know that I am currently at the CPW - Kingston, a residency in upstate New York, where I will be printing all of the 'reward' work from donors and supporters. The photographs chosen will be one of three prints recently showcased in my exhibition Scirocco/Arifi, which debuted this winter at Engage-Projects in Chicago. I'll be reaching out next week specifically to those who are eligible for prints with more information. For folks eligible for a studio visit, and bts about the work I'll begin scheduling those for summer 2024.


    More on the development of the project >>>


    Whereas (Un)Imagined Lives benefited exceedingly from my first full summer in France, the project evolved into S.E.X Firm or Speculative Etymologie(x) Firm, a living maroon community that explores the various potentialities of inhabiting an uncontested, sexually liberated Black society across the Diaspora. Film documentation, ethnographies, and archiving are still the basis of the project. However, the project has expanded scope to have a virtual and physical footprint where you can port into an archival matrix, where you can re-charge, and experience a variety of pleasurable in/actions from other folks across the Black diaspora. My hope is that the work ultimately, creates multiple points of engagement and interventions into ever-evolving physical and digital Black Diasporic archive, by blending the aural, sonic, and physical histories of Queer(x) Black Folks through the use of contemporary technology. And my hope is that the project redefines our contributions to Global cultures by creating a filmic pleasure archive that integrates machine learning, 3-D printed, augmented realities and tech forward approaches that seeks to extend lineage, and acknowledges contributions of rarely recognized Black histories that have always been and will always be beyond their attempted erasure. This not only satisifies my intention to work interdisciplinarily, but also in a variety of communities thinking through how to image blackness in the future. As a result, I have applied to many residences, a significant portion across the Global South this year in order to grow the community of contributers as well as partner with more organizations that may be interested in supporting the project. It's bigger now. More thoughtful, and more speculative.



    So, Where does this leave us? What happened last summer? It grew, it developed, it changed, and it extended my understanding of the possibilities of what this project could be. The funding for the film acted as seed funding that allowed me to reach curators, migrant groups, and to better understand the ways black (queer) folx in locations of colonial contact are surviving. While in France, I spent substantial time familiarizing myself with the culture at the Camargo Foundation, and also I was able to meet with partners, SOS Mediterranee (an international maritime, and humanitarian organization dedicated to saving lives at sea – often African Mirgrants), CEGIDD & AIDES (sexual health, and STI prevention organizations serving the greater community), Eric Dehorter (a highly regarded environmental Journalist responsible for PrioriTerre), and two Queer Migrant support groups Groupe Migr LGBTQI+ Solid of Marseille and Dr. & Im. Ludovic-Mohamed ZAHED of the CALEM institute that shelters Asylum seeking queer migrants from Africa. In some cases by simply being involved with these organizations, collaborators and interlocuters in France would connect me directly to relatives in places in the Global South which allowed me to see how the web could grow, and develop no matter where I am. Without a doubt this enriched the work and helped me see what the work could and should be.


    Whats Next?>>>


    As some of you may know, I am a Schiller Family Assistant Professor of Race, Art, and Design at the Rhode Island School of Design, and have been pushing the institution to support this work as well. I recently was made aware that S.E.X Firm is one of the the inaugural recipients of RISD's expanded Field Fund, allowing me to return to France this summer where I will continue research in Marseille, Spain and Bordeaux. Equally I have applied for a Professional Development Fund award through the institution in order to expand the digital footprint of S.E.X Firm. Aided by the Creative Visionary Grant from the Black Artists, and Design Guild, my hopes are to have an interactive web-platform that showcases the film, and ethnographs up and running by Spring 2025.


    ***please check out this Artist talk of mine from CPW - Kingston I speak candidly about the above project, including last summer and plans what it will become in the future.


    Thank you for your continued support, and patience,

    I am very excited for what this project is becoming.

    It means alot to me, and many others.






    Update 3: Prints and More
    Posted on February 11, 2024
     a black figure on shoaled beach stands with their back to the viewer. They are wearing a white swim dress and cap. Underneath them the water is still, and sky is clear. The ripple of their shadow trails off into the bottom of the image.

    Photograph by Derrick Woods-Morrow  

    Frederick on Lake Pontchartrain | After Lincoln Beach (2019)

    Dear (Un) Imagined Lives supporters,

    I am writing to you from my residency at the Center of Photography Woodstock in Upstate New York. I will begin teaching at the Rhode Island School of Design again starting next week, but will remain here part time as we are printing works for last years crowdfunding campaign, and I much like the cabin by the fire in the woods feeling of this place (many thanks to the Leonian Foundation for sponsoring my residency period). Until the end of February "Black History Month" a small print sale is happening on my personal website. For anyone who donated at the print tier there is a code '3ARTS' associated with all prints that will allow you to claim your print for no cost. I am still raising funds as the project will take me across multiple continents and countries - ALL OF THE PRINTS ARE FOR SALE - and if you are interested at this point in having one or more of the works, any and all support is greatly appreciated. A little more information -  Each Print is signed on the back, and will be shipped out when my residency ends at CPW March 1st.

    A Special Edition Print for SALE - I have included in the print sale my photograph Frederick on Lake Ponchartrain | After Lincoln Beach (2019). It was one of the photographs taken prior to the pandemic that really set my hopes and dreams in motion. As of last month the edition of all sizes closed. In some way it is my best-known image and was included in the landmark CPW exhibition “Photography Now 2019: The Searchers,” chosen by curators Maurice Berger and Marvin Heiferman. Berger, who died in March 2020, was a noted critic and champion of Black photographers, particularly, Gordon Parks, Dawoud Bey, and Nona Faustine's work. Maurice was critical and thoughtful and is the subject of Marvin's  recent “Meet the Artist” talk at CPW (view here). The 14x11-inch print is only available until the end of Black History month, and equally is created for CPW also celebrates Berger’s legacy. Proceeds will go towards CPW’s AIR program, Harambee, the Fire Island Artist Residency (where I am currently on the Board) and to support the expansion of this project. The print will be unavailable from March 1st onward.  

    Details about the photograph are here:

    Title: Frederick on Lake Pontchartrain | After Lincoln Beach (2019), Archival Inkjet print, 14 x 11 in. (sheet: 15 x 12 in.)

    Edition: Open (through Feb 29, 2024). Price: $500

    Lastly, as many of you know now the project is ongoing, developing and expanding. I am very fortunte to announce I have been supported by a RISD EFF Grant (to support further research in France this summer) and a Professional Development Grant (to build the virtual and digital footprint for the project). More news coming soon...

    Thank you for your continued support - if anyone has questions please e-mail me at derrickwoodsmorrow@gmail.com.



    • Thank you to the following for contributing to 3Arts with the recommendation that we support this project.

    • Scott Henrichsen

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    • Bill Farrand

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make it work


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 Additional support provided by: 

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