Paranoia as a System: Jonestown

This piece was created by Ainsley Wilkinson and Anna Wright.

The materials for this piece included nothing but a large piece of paper, black and red ball point pens, rulers and templates. 

When looking for conspiracy in the world around us, we were drawn to some inconsistencies we had heard about the Jonestown massacre and the public information in the US vs the reports that were made in Guyana. Especially considering the politicization of the massacre in the US after it took place, how it was used to prove the inefficacy of social utopias, we decided to research further. This took us to the article “The Black Hole of Guyana” by John Judge, who dove into the realities of slavery and exploitation that really took place.

Our work started by trying to place every person, event, and overlap that took place before the mass suicide on a map to be able to diagram the event as a whole. We found this to be overwhelming not just to put together but to appreciate as art. This led us to simplify the important events, categorize cult members movements in black, and government agencies movements in white, and lose the representation of a map. The diagram is still geographical, but appears less so. Doing this cleared up the point of our piece and allowed us to draw the attention of the viewer to the suspicious intermingling between high ranking cult members and people with power in government. It does not tell the whole story, but it works to uncover the narrative that has been fed to the public for decades. We also created a smaller version of the piece that further pushed together this mix between red and black and call out the incriminating behavior that took place. 

Author: Anna Wright