Some of the world’s greatest artists photographed in lockdown by Maryam Eisler
LUX Contributing Editor and artist Maryam Eisler has been photographing some of the world’s greatest artists over FaceTime and WhatsApp for LUX. As the project evolves, our online exhibition Confined Artists – Free Spirits: photographs from lockdown by Maryam Eisler will grow, accompanied by musings from the likes of Marina Abramovic, Larry Bell, George Condo, Eric Fischl, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Marilyn Minter, Shirin Neshat and Laurie Simmons. Below, LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai introduces Maryam’s brilliant and original oeuvre, and Maryam herself muses on her inspiration, after which we present her works in all their raw and un-retouched digital glory.
The lockdown around the world is having an unprecedented effect on every aspect of human life. Many people have lost their jobs or have seen their businesses imperilled. Others feel helpless as they see the suffering and sacrifices around them.
In such times, the raison d’etre of creativity and artistry comes under scrutiny: who can have time for anything unrelated to the clear and present danger caused to humankind by these strands of self-replicating RNA?
But creativity is part of what it is to be human. Somewhere in our DNA (itself a complex remake of the same nucleic acid that is coronavirus) is a program for the unique human desire and ability to create art, and appreciate aesthetic, for its own sake. Some of the greatest artistic creations in our history, from the temples of the Nile to Picasso’s Guernica, have emerged from horror and hardship. Artists cannot stop creating, even if the art world, that very contemporary construct, has temporarily stopped working.
When Maryam Eisler, one of our contributing editors, called me with an idea, a couple of weeks into lockdown, I knew it would be worth listening to. An artist and author, Maryam is the archetypal peripatetic global art world citizen: born in Iran, educated in France and the States, resident in London.
Maryam said she had started a project photographing her favourite artists as screenshots on FaceTime and WhatsApp. I said it would be an honour to run her project as an online exhibition, and also in the pages of our summer 2020 print edition. The project gained momentum, to what you see here today: some of the most celebrated artists in the world, captured in a casual moment, on a phone, and unedited. A true sign of our times. Over to you, Maryam.
Darius Sanai, Editor-in-Chief, LUX magazine
I woke up on April 1st 2020 to another Groundhog Day determined to initiate an original creative endeavour, out of confinement.
Art and photography are my greatest passions, so I decided to freeze-frame this epic moment in history, by inviting visual artists to share their thoughts and wisdom for a larger community of spirits, similarly confined in space and time, but not in mind.
Artists have always been visual philosophers and recorders of history. Today, more than ever, they have the potential to give heart and inspiration, where needed and desired.
As such, I have had the privilege to ‘virtually’ photograph these searching minds, presently bound by their private and intimate spaces. For this series of artist portraits, although limited physically by social distancing guidelines, I was aided by technology, and so I used FaceTime and WhatsApp to capture my subjects, in mind and in soul, with careful prior planning and dialogue – sometimes sharp, and at times blurry, bound by the realities of WiFi logistics. Intimate and searching moments, frozen in history.
This has been an emotional journey, given the extraordinary challenge humanity is facing. It has also been a personal journey of rediscovery, into what makes each one of us tick; what makes us rise in the morning and fall into slumber at night, and where we go, and what we do, in between. It is in times such as these that Malraux’s Human Condition and Sartre’s Existential Anguish take a whole new dimension of their own.
It is my hope, that these images and accompanying poetry, reveal very personal, delicate and emotional moments; honest and forthright, direct and inspiring, intermingled with the pain of sorrow borne by each one of us, for threats new and unforeseen. But most importantly, it is my sincere belief that these are messages of hope and renewal.
What seems to be a common thread in all of the interviews, is the desire for us all to come together, to seek a better self, and to make a better world. One depends on the other, and our futures on them both. Setting aside differences and individual prejudice is vital, if we are to survive this moment in history, and face the future challenges which no doubt await us.
Artists and activists, thinkers and doers, we can each make our contributions by widening the streams of positive thinking and action. Life is complicated enough, let’s try for a little cheer with a creative bent.
As my favourite poet and song writer Leonard Cohen wrote: ‘There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in’.
And the light will get in. Of that, I have no doubt.
London, April 10, 2020
CONFINED ARTISTS – FREE SPIRITS
An ongoing exhibition created by Maryam Eisler and hosted by LUX magazine
Portraits are presented chronologically, in the format of a lockdown diary
June 2, London, Home
Ironically, self isolation is not new to most artists. Most artists work as solo practitioners and their ideas and concepts can be in isolation to mainstream society. Considering that, the social isolation has not had a major emotional or physiological impact on my state of mind.
However, the collective uncertainty and disruption of routine has created moments of reflection.
These times are once again, a reminder of our fragility as humans. Somehow when survival comes into question, every other struggle and strife becomes petty.
As a diasporic artist, I am used to changes and transient state of existence. My work has been a reflection of human condition and has addressed our venerability in the past. It has thrown open the disparity in economic and social systems around the world. The issues of excess and privilege are at the forefront of our minds. How privileged are those that CAN quarantine.
The notion of privilege, power and its abuse takes us towards current demonstrations in US, which have a profound effect on me. It appears someone has to lay their life, each time, to snap us out of our placidity towards discrimination. I am deeply touched by the emotional vigour of the protestors and the range of symbolic idea, through which they express themselves. Kneeling in honour of George Floyd has to be my favourite. ‘Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come,’ Victor Hugo.
These extraordinary times have reminded us of our collective faith as mortals and our sense of responsibility towards each other and our planet.
I believe I may address concepts that effect us humans collectively, more, and focus on the universality of issues that the current uncertainty has revealed. Perhaps it’s too early to assess if it has had a life changing impact on me, I believe it will reveal itself in time. One thing is for sure: nothing is forever.
June 2, Chelsea, Manhattan, Studio
I’ve mostly managed my pandemic experience by trying to stay in the moment. But, in recent days, my focus on self-preservation seems a distant memory. It was shocking, but not surprising, to see the video a week ago of another blatant and brutal murder by police of an unarmed black man, George Floyd. And it’s stunning to see so many people, mostly young and peaceful, break quarantine and take to the streets to demand social justice and accountability. This afternoon our lawless, sadistic would-be-dictator president used military force to remove peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square in DC, so he could deliver a speech to assure peaceful protesters he’s on their side, preach law and order, and threaten the country with military force before strolling to St. John’s Church for a photo op with a prop Bible. The danger of the pandemic is still here, and I hope the protests are not a catalyst for waves of new infections in the coming weeks. We’ve got a lot of work to do and now is the time to stand in solidarity and listen to black people. BLACK LIVES MATTER
June 2, London, Home
Head sludge, treacle time, flat space, lead head, and lots of Nots: not knowing, not doing, not working, not being present, not going out, not being able to focus, not coping, not checking emails, not watching the main news channels. I think the Nots are important to help think about what we need to do – and that list is massive.
I have been thinking about hunger stones a lot recently – an inscribed stone that acts as a hydrological landmark, embedded into rivers during 15th Century droughts to mark the water level, as a warning to future generations that they will have to endure hardships if the water sinks to this level again. The pandemic is our hefty, stoney warning sign which has made visible what is most urgent.
June 1, London, Studio
I understand the world by making art, so in a period of huge crisis and transformation, the only way I can come to terms with it, is by making art about it. I’m painting at my studio every day, creating my new series of works, the Viral Paintings. My whole day revolves around the creation of the works. I spend a couple of hours each morning reading the news online, then I pick one or two articles to print out and start working on the canvases I stretched the previous day. I paint for two or three hours each day. Those hours of painting in the studio are my sole focus; afterwards, I’m completely exhausted. The next day the whole process starts over again. To me, there is a very strong element of performance and ritual in the creation of these works. It is important to me to engage with one of the most significant stories of our time, in real time.
June 1, Beirut, Lebanon, Home
ليال و نهارات في زمن الوباء – Nights and Days in times of pandemic
Today, as the coronavirus spreads, the country is broke, and the people, robbed and ruined, are breathless, in a state of exhaustion. The virus has delivered a final blow to the country, which was already down, and a violent blow to our uprising—a blow which is beyond us and against which we are helpless, forced to pause, at worst, to sleep, at best to grow introspective and reflect on politics. The future is uncertain, dark, our worry worries are two-fold. How will we make it, and what will become of our uprising, which has been for the most part peaceful, even joyous and sometimes violent, but certainly of an unexpected scale in our history. How to carry on in this state of emergency, when we can no longer gather in a public square? These restrictives measures on our movement and associated surveillance suit all the states of the world well. Indeed, our government hastened to dismantle the tents and installations belonging to demonstrators on Place des Martyrs and Place Riad el Solh. Since October 17th, my artistic work has been suspended. Caught up in the excitement and the hope of change, there was no place for art. Many of us have been emotionally overwhelmed, our thoughts focused on one goal: radical political change. What can art do in such circumstances. I have asked myself this question a thousand times, for months, without ever being able to answer it. The idea of pursuing my artistic research seemed impossible to me, just as creating a work testifying to this revolutionary moment would be pointless. I wanted to fully experience my commitment. There was no room for poetry, or even for melancholy, only anger. Was this a form of hardening, a result of years of sadness and anger born of having seen everything around me being slowly destroyed? Anger at myself for waiting too long to revolt? Today, after a month’s confinement, I decide to write a few lines. After the first week of sadness and anxiety, I quickly settled into a state that resembles that of an ideal retirement, alone. My house being also my studio, my days should have been little different from those before the coronavirus, since I rarely went out during the day, and most often at night. However, everything is different. What has changed is the perception of my inner space, the rhythm and discipline that I instil and the pleasure that I experience, along with my state of alert in the face of imminent danger. My body itches. For the past two days I have been frantically scratching myself, my legs, my arms, my chest. Is it an allergy, or the signs of an unlisted illness, an unrecognised symptom of Covid 19 or the effect of fear of being infected. My body itches, I want to hug a human being. To feel an embrace, a hug, a kiss.
When will we be able to hug a parent, a friend, a lover again? What will happen to beautiful encounters, will we trust the unexpected, the unknown, a stranger? I wonder if I will ever again kiss and make love physically. Will virtual sex take over? In confinement, I often think of the summer of 2006, when Lebanon was under siege, bombed by Israel for more than a month. Although the situation is not the same, the feeling of being in a closed space-time, in an exceptional state governed by its own rules and conditions, is similar. And lo and behold, yesterday, when I was walking, a drone flew over the sky without anyone being able to see it. At nightfall, the continuous, incessant, heavy noise reminded me of this Israeli drone, which night and day flew over the sky during the war of 2006, and whose uninterrupted humming I had recorded from my balcony.
This text was used for the voiceover of the short video (below) commissioned by Daraj Media and IMS in April 2019 as part of “Living in times of Coronavirus”:
May 29, London, Home
When I was younger I was an avid bird watcher, but since living in London, I’d lost touch with my avian friends.
During lockdown they’ve been singing louder and clearer than ever, uninterrupted by the usual shouting of inner city hubbub.
I’ve been reminded of the power of their songs and my connection to them, which I could describe as almost spiritual. I can imagine life outside the confines of home and away from feelings of anxiety and stress.
It’s reminded me they need our protection, and so this spring I’ve rejoined the RSPB and rekindled my love affair with birds.
May 29, Tamale, Ghana, Home
What’s the relationship between the dead and the living? How do we resurrect ghosts within a time of crisis? What do ghosts and crises have in common? Can failed revolutions lead us to think of crises as a form of material to create new forms within the 21st century? What does the gift economy and crises have in common? Is it possible to imagine a future using death and decay as a starting point? What constitutes a parliament or a place of gathering? Are ghosts implied within historical places of gathering? What is a constitution of labour and its ideological implications?
The Parliament of Ghosts is a place of many gatherings using the failures of history as a starting point for artistic production. The process of building a place starts with an assembly of various labour forms and techniques, it is the constitution of labour that defines any given form. These labour forms have produced many ghosts across time and it is important to allow them to shape the ideas and embodiment of place. The haunting of place and the constitution of labour might lead us to rethink about the role of capital and its paradoxes. Proposing new forms between the art world and its audiences, its promises and failures.
The constitution of labour is at the centre of the universe and the centre has no limits. It is important to pay attention to the gift economy with these uncertain and difficult times so the generations which emerge from the crisis can create new values and systems not just based on circulation of capital but through an act of will. The introduction of play into the place of gatherings might yet be the next revolution with this century? Can the processes that constitute art be a gift to society………..?
May 27, Comporta, Portugal, Home
Retreating to a working space beside an estuary and surrounded by rice fields, you might consider the world’s dilemma almost anathema and apart .
This remote rural enclave slowly dictates an uncompromising benevolence of nature. Due to a heavier rainfall than average, rice was planted late this year. The farming community prevails regardless, necessary and vital as always .
My field of endeavour lacks any such pragmatic or fundamental necessity.
Back to the existential questions surrounding the idea of an art practice as essential.
From this reclusive exile, purpose can seem as remote as the location; however, there is possibly a scintilla of hope.
Subtle acts of empathy emerge from a place of quiet reticence .
We are all poets in lockdown when we find a nostalgia for what lies ahead .
As the master of melancholy Fernando Pessoa reflects ‘…to possess something is to lose it. To feel something without possessing it, is to keep it, because in that way one extracts its essence.’
Perhaps, the restrictions on our personal freedoms can be an enlightening revelation if we consider that suspension is a timely interim. We move on…
May 27, London, Home
This current ‘Lockdown’ moment has been super interesting for me as I have learnt about my reliance on the physical audience and experience. The interaction between the art and the audience is fundamental to my concept of art; not being able to experience physical art except online is kind of flattening my perception.
May 26, Toronto, Canada, Home
I can say with certainty that the 2020 we are living in now is not the one I envisioned as we began looking ahead to the new decade at the end of last year. It’s an understatement to say that this new reality we’ve been thrust into has sent a shockwave through our society, our economy and our individual lives. But as an artist who has spent nearly 40 years photographing the largest examples of human incursions into the natural world — what I’ve so often described as “business-as-usual landscapes” — this shockwave seemed ever more prominent when “business-as-usual” was all but suspended, indefinitely.
It is disorienting to have observed our collective industrial experience on this planet — the seemingly endless propagation of our human destiny — through photography for almost four decades and then to see that version of “normal” shattered in the blink of an eye. There’s no doubt that the ravenous human appetite to conquer Nature, and the extent of these behaviours, has led us to where we are today: isolated at home with a new pathogen determined to wreak global havoc with no regard for party or geographical lines. It’s a stark reminder that our reach into Nature has gone too far, that we are on a dangerous trajectory and the scales are frighteningly unbalanced. What’s more, it’s clear that the global call to action against this virus is a test run for our inevitable and impending fight against climate change. But we have to remember, however, that while there may one day soon be a vaccine for this virus, there is no vaccine for climate change.
Over the past few weeks, I have been inspired to go back to my origins of photographing in these natural landscapes – viewing nature as a kind of painting. Looking at abstract expressionism and trying to find that place through photography. Going back to the shrubs and bushes of the forest. Going back to my home, nature. During this time in isolation I am creating a suite of images looking at nature, with a percentage of proceeds from the sale of the work going directly to support the arts sector in Canada. The arts have taken an oversized hit during these times and will continue to suffer enormously because of this crisis. And yet, it is the artists, musicians, filmmakers and performers to whom we are all turning for catharsis, relaxation, distraction, entertainment and, perhaps most importantly, hope. As the great artist Gerhard Richter once said, “Art is the highest form of hope.” Artists now need our support as much as we need theirs.
The slow reopening of society will bear its challenges, but I hope it will also bear positive changes as we reevaluate what it means to live and work on a planet whose resources, habitats, and biodiversity are both finite and precious.
May 26, Berlin, Home
Despite all the current horror, it’s time to step back and try to re-imagine the world beyond this forced STOP. We need to reconsider our objectives as humans, as beings who have been given a unique chance to inhabit and share this beautiful planet. We have in fact been given a special gift, the opportunity to fully re-evaluate our lives. I think we will all experience a form of catharsis, rethinking our value systems whilst bringing more humanity into our lives, ultimately leading to a better existence. I feel very privileged to be living in Berlin, in a country where political decisions are based on science; during the first couple of weeks of the pandemic, all political parties came together in solidarity, putting all their differences to the side. That is admirable.
Today, with all the discussions taking place around cuts in arts funding, people are asking themselves what the world would look and feel like without art, without books, music and films. And suddenly, we realise the importance of beauty in our daily lives as a counterbalance to our fears. Or like François Cheng put it in Cinq méditations sur la beauté: “In these times of overwhelming misery and blind violence, of natural- and ecological disasters, it may seem inappropriate to talk about beauty. A provocation, almost a scandal. But it is precisely this that makes it clear to us that beauty – as opposed to evil – has its place at the other end of a reality that we have to face. I am convinced that it is our urgent and permanent task to face these two mysteries, which are the two poles of the living universe.”
May 26, Saint-Paul de Vence, France, Home
What I feel now is that we are in a time machine capsule, but we don’t know whether we are moving towards the future or returning to the past.
May 25, Los Angeles, Home
During this time where we are taking care of each other, it becomes even more revealing who is not taking care of us. While COVID 19 has introduced catastrophic outcomes, it has also done something significant. It has revealed the structural flaws of our economic, political, social, healthcare and educational systems. Problems and challenges which, as artists and citizens, we must not only observe, but also react to – particularly in the United States. It has deeply shaken my trust in the system, but it has also enforced my trust in my community. And when I say community, I mean the community that supports me across the globe. These individuals include family, friends, artists, writers, curators, roommates, studio mates, mentors, healthcare workers, neighbours, all of whom have reached out, not to ask “how are you being productive,” but rather “how are you taking care of yourself and how can we take care of each other.” While our systems have fallen apart, our love for each other has strengthened. During this time, I continue to work on my textiles, but rather than finding fabrics in the world, I am, for the first time, making them. I’d like to dedicate this photo and textile to all of those who have dedicated their time to their communities. And while we are in this position, sharing love, we must consider that this is, in fact, just the beginning of what should be some radical structural changes.
May 24, Brooklyn, Home/Studio
I have been in my Home / Studio in Brooklyn for the past 4 months. I spend most of my time here anyway, alone in the studio for long hours, but it certainly feels different when it’s no longer a matter of choice.
I have been having the most vivid dreams filled with signs and symbols that are working their way into my paintings.
I have been reading, gardening and spending time with my two young daughters – their spirit gives me hope.
We have to trust in the future, and I hope this great pause makes us better going forward.
We can think about who we want to become, how will we take care of each other and how will we take care of this earth we live on.
We are only guests here, so hopefully the good that comes out of all this is that we remember that more often in our everyday lives.
May 23, Strachur, Scotland, Home
The current pandemic beautifully illustrates how strained and fragile our social and financial buffers are.
The chronic, unsustainable economic inequality pandemic, could also do with finally being vaccinated.
May 23, Gurgaon, India, Home
We all know we’re going through a big crisis; all of us slowing down has led to some good things too. It’s a time to reflect and maybe we needed this to do so. However, the most painful and unjust thing has been the condition of migrants workers walking home.
May 22, The Bronx, Home
Several weeks ago, I received a frantic voicemail from my cousin at 7am. My uncle was dead. She was frantic with shock and loss. When I reached her later, her shock had morphed into utter outrage. The local community funeral home was no longer accepting bodies. Before I could muster a word of consolation, the very real dilemma of finding a host for his corpse dominated her focus. Fortunately, another relative, employed at New York City hospital, agreed to do a favour to the family and provide temporary storage for the body. The helplessness I felt, the desperation in her voice, the horror of peddling the dead body of a beloved parent in a city overrun with corpses. This is my reality…one person removed, in a multitude of relationships, from devastating human loss without the comfort of dignity or time or grace.
A neighbour recently shared a nightly encounter with a foul odour on his commute walking to the train from work in Brooklyn, each night for the past week. After the issue was resolved, he learned that it was a massive refrigerated tractor trailer overrun with dead bodies that had been emptied to make room for more. It was the stench of decomposition and death. Over the past month, I have relayed countless times to friends and family reassurances that I am fine. I must also remember that the gift of protracted time and increased creative focus I relish daily was underwritten by deeply personal losses en masse. As much as this is a season for recalibration and renewed commitments, it is also a season of death. Let us not forget.
May 21, Tel Aviv, Israel, Home
“…things get broken, and sometimes they get repaired, and in most cases, you realize that no matter what gets damaged, life rearranges itself to compensate for your loss, sometimes wonderfully.”
Hanya Yanagihara | A Little Life
May 20, Los Angeles, Home
I flew from Los Angeles to Cape Town in early March to start a trans-Africa journey. My boyfriend and I planned to travel improvisationally north to Morocco, landing finally in London for my exhibition at Gagosian in June. Instead, we stayed put. The Western Cape is, as everyone says, spectacular. Huge green mountains push right up to white sand beaches. The Indian Ocean is clear and chilly. The South Atlantic, clearer and chillier. Schools of tiny fish swim at your ankles. Penguins hang out on rocks. The Cape Floral Kingdom is incomparable on earth. Hiking is crushing flowers with every step. And the light! South Africa is also, as I expected, an emotional jolt. Half of Capetonians live in densely populated townships – Khayelitsha, Mitchells Plain – where government-built housing is brick with running water but most shelter is informal construction, corrugated metal with shared water taps and toilets. The biggest TB and HIV/AIDS epidemics in the world are ongoing in South Africa. Poverty pushes right up against wealth.
So, when President Ramaphosa went on TV the evening of March thirteenth to announce COVID-19 lockdown, it was strict. No planes in. No planes out. Cargo ship crews not permitted off vessel. No walking dog. No walking outside except to market or pharmacy. No driving between districts within city. Ten thousand field workers dispatched in door-to-door COVID testing and screening. No alcohol. No cigarettes.
Thirty-five days later and only 3,500 known case in country, we took a repatriation flight to London organised by the Canadian High Commission. From there, traveled home on a near-empty British Airways flight.
The view from my window in Los Angeles differs little from when I left. More walkers, most in masks. Springtime verdancy belies an unfolding global emergency. The structural weaknesses of the United States and uncanny similarities to South Africa – two countries with exaggerated wealth inequality – are revealed. On any given night about sixty thousand people in L.A. are homeless. Of those, nearly 5,000 are children. Kids not going to school aren’t getting enough to eat. Less than half of L.A. still has a job. Food insecurity has skyrocketed.
In conclusion, here’s how to help:
May 20, Los Angeles, Home
As we slowly come out of the lockdown in Los Angeles, life is certainly not the same. This quiet period of quarantine has given me the much needed opportunity to rethink, reevaluate, restart and reconsider everything, really. For quite a while, I’ve felt very sad and guilty about our society of excess, of mindless grabbing and throwing things away like there is no tomorrow.
I have taken the decision to be much more considerate of everything around me and spend time listening to the trees, the plants the animals and all the insects. Kissing the earth and going beyond the rainbows. A single leaf of any tree – this is the key to my spiritual life. And that should be enough .
May 20, Antigua, Guatemala
What’s going on in your mind?
I’m here in Antigua, Sacatepéquez, Guatemala, in Central America. Upon arrival here, they checked our temperature at the airport, and anyone with a high temperature was sent into quarantine. The next day they closed the borders. The president is a medical doctor and does not want anyone in Guatemala to get this virus so he has decided to take precautions to avoid tragedy. If you go outside without a mask on, the fine is 20,000$ or 150,000 Quetzales and/or 6 years in jail. We have daily curfews, and on weekends everyone must stay in—nobody is allowed out except essential workers and people going out for emergencies—from Thursday night until Monday morning. President Giammattei updates the nation on Sunday evening TV talks about what’s going on across the country.
So far, about 29 people have died here. It feels safe and wonderful here. The weather is perfect. Birds sing all day. The food is fresh and delicious. The people are friendly and helpful.
I have met two different tailors here, one weaves in the traditional method, but specialises more in embroidery, the other makes interesting tops out of amazing fabrics. The huipils—the traditional hand-woven tops that have been made here by the indigenous peoples since well before the time of Columbus coming—are awesome. The women still weave them and wear them. Each town specialises in a certain design featuring particular symbols and colours so when women wear them across Guatemala it is a sign of where they come from and a form of indigenous identity.
The rainy season is beginning these days. The sky is more often dark now, but we haven’t had lots of storms yet. It is wonderful living an indoor-outdoor lifestyle. I live in a tropical paradise and swim in a hot pool every afternoon. When I walk around birds say ‘hola!’ to me. The national bird is the Quetzal, but it only lives around Coban in cool forests so I haven’t seen one yet. I eat fresh guacamole every day.
I’ve been here since 12 March, it is now 19 May…2020. I have set up a studio in a patio here next to my room. I am surrounded by an old fountain, lots of colourful plants, loud singing birds, and textiles hanging out to dry. I paint paintings on paper of quetzales, flores, Nitido, Gel, 7-UP, Pepsi, toilet paper, huipiles. Right now, I am painting Kool-Aid jugs with runny colours. I listen to Ozuna and Bad Bunny in the patio. Through my Instagram, I am selling huipils and other textiles from a lady who works outside. At night, I Netflix and chill. When I wake up in the morning, I eat pan francés with chocolate. I live a variation of this same amazing day, every day, now.
May 20, Johannesburg, South Africa
There is an age old idiom in my mother tongue iSiswati to express impossibility. These are not normal days. My mind keeps circling on about ephemerality of life.
I have experienced seeing a lifeless body of a dear friend recently. I had witnessed both at once his energetic, love, full of jovial character against his lifeless and statuesque corpse.
In many ways, evidence suggests that my partner and I were chosen to be present in the following hours after his last moments, right before he became a fading memory for all of us, a picture greying right before my eyes.
People say, for example, when confronted with something they consider absurd “lilanga lingawa licoshwe tinkukhu” (The sun would fall and the chickens would chase it). It would have been apt, some 50 odd days ago that we would be all in-prisoned in our homes for a fear of an unseen enemy. An enemy daring us to venture out at the risk of losing our life.
The global pandemic has gripped our imaginations, put into play some of our best and worst qualities as humans. Generosity against selfishness, and somehow pairing the two together for a good outcome.
It may now be appropriate to rethink this phrase as “Lilanga liwile lacoshwa tinkukhu”(The sun has fallen and chased away by the chickens). The protagonist in this phrase is the sun, whose power has been sapped and chickens rule and have the power to chase a ball of contained fire.
We are in Animal Farm again and this time the environment, the celestials are involved.
Nature is reported to be recouping, scenes of dolphins swimming in the clearer waters of Venice, once again the night sky is not murky and stars blink brightly. Areas where life was declared over raising up like Lazarus, showing us the cost we impose on nature as the so-called caretakers of the earth.
Once in a while we hear experts of society say that the virus knows no class, race and status and yet, in contrast it has more than exposed dramatically those categories. The effect has been tragic for those who aren’t rich, to those who aren’t able to social distance in the small spaces that they inhabit. The world is rightfully topsy turvy and…The impossible has happened!
May 19, New York City
My time is spent in the studio, reading, watching news reports, trying to make some sense of what’s going on, commenting on it through my work. Isolation has made us have to live more simply again. The art world over the past ten or so years had become a series of art fairs and conferences, artists going from one place to the next, giving talks, staging performances, and so on, all of it exacerbated by social media. There was always something going on, or a place to be. It’s good to have some time to stop for a while and focus on what we want to make instead.
I have extended family members working in hospitals at the moment, helping those in need. We had a scare recently, as one of them became positive through their work with patients, and many in the family had to be tested. Things seem to be on the mend for them now, and it’s brought some relief.
With all that is going on, art is a wonderful distraction, something to focus on that makes the hours pass by very easily. I was reading too many news reports before, thinking about those that had passed, and it all became a bit much. I stopped excessively reading the news and started spending more time painting and drawing. It has definitely helped.
This past summer, I went back to my hometown in Cuba for a couple of weeks. There is no web access there, and no entertainment. I spent much of my time talking with family and telling stories on the porch. I made a couple of dozen paintings and drawings during my short time there. It made me realise how distracted I had become in New York City.
What is happening now has focused my family and I in a similar way. The kids are working on projects they’ve talked about but never made the time for. We’re cooking together, reading more books, and telling stories on the porch. I look forward for this to be over, but hope that we can keep some of the good things we’ve learned along the way.
May 18, Amsterdam, Home
The essence and purpose of my world, throughout my whole life, has been to celebrate in a very romantic, indulgent and iconographic way, the world’s last tribes who have lived in harmony with themselves, their culture and the natural environment that they live in – unlike us, in the developed world who have decided that the planet perhaps needs us. The indigenous communities of the world live the other way around. We need the planet – so the art that I create is aligned with this message, and coincidentally, with the world being in lockdown over the last few months, I could not think of a better time when my message can begin to resonate with the world, from an artistic point of view. Finally, what I have seen and felt, but also connected with and ultimately loved, through the pictures that I take and the stories that I tell, perhaps can serve as catalysts in waking the world up and finding a way to better live with one another, with ourselves, and ultimately with the natural world at large.
May 18, Santa Monica, California, Home
It’s very serious–the situation in the world today, and I’ve been talking about it for a long time with just simple words like “air, water”. We’re running out of water, the poles are changing, everything is in flux. We are looking the other way, and we have to look straight at things and decide we are going to clean it up.
I don’t think the virus is a result of our thoughtlessness of the world, but it’s partly to blame. It should be our first concern–the health of our planet. It’s where we belong. We’re creatures of this planet.
Miguel Soler Roig
May 18, Madrid, Home
A Time of Intermission 新冠病毒的故事
Over the last three months, I have been increasingly made aware of the problem we are experiencing today, given that I have been communicating incessantly with art world friends, especially those living in China, since the beginning of the spread of this deadly virus, at the end of last year.
In communicating with family, friends and colleagues globally, I think it would be fair to say that we all agree that this situation has indeed changed our daily routines. It has left us time to think that there are indeed other ways of contemplating and comprehending our existence, that life consists of much more than a handful of material goods, and that we do not always appreciate what we have, often taking things for granted. Instead, we need to be grateful for every day that we have and enjoy on this planet.
My reflective nature leads me to seek tranquillity and to keep calm with the right dose of inner peace. I’ve listened to music. I have also tried my hand at writing, and as the days went by, I never once felt bored. In fact, I wish I had had more time to spend on my new body of work.
This has been a signal to the entire world population, a global wake-up call. For the first time, we, humans, are taking steps in the same direction, allowing us to come together, as brothers. We’ve given the world and nature a break so that we can survive and hopefully co-exist. Above all, we have understood that from now on, many things will need to change. This intermission will no doubt produce a new period of deep inner thinking. We owe it to ourselves to establish new rules and new scenarios in order to carry our civilisation forward, whilst trying not to fall into the same pattern of mistakes as before, mistakes which were principally governed by greed.
We must fight together against fear, eliminate selfishness and herald empathy. At the same time, we need to understand that the greatest character trait we need to embrace and safeguard whilst isolated is that of harmony and optimism.
And along the journey, we have also quietly said goodbye to many who have left us and with whom we shared fond memories alongside the beauty of love. We have and continue to find power in faith, and give ourselves no choice but to move forward with compassion, with tolerance and with deep care for one another.
Madrid, May 15th, 2020
May 17, Seoul, South Korea, Home
We are imprisoned by the mobility of our time, and the whole world is fighting against this invisible singularity that multiplied all over the globe.
Contemplating on all the species, and each one’s egoistic survival instinct, isn’t Corona virus also ‘a life’ that fights against humanity for its own survival?
Where and how can we find the fine balance to coexist with all the species even with this fatal virus without harming each other?
May 17, London, Home/Studio
How ironic that something sub-microscopic and invisible to the naked eye has turned into a formidable giant magnifying glass for us all to peer through!
I see the Coronavirus as a magnifier that’s made our weaknesses more glaringly visible: over-exploitation of natural habitat, over-dependence on global outsourcing and just-in-time production, systemic under-investment in health services, ever-increasing income disparity and reliance on an underclass to keep the system going, unsustainable consumerism, and re-emergence of nationalism at a time when international coordination would have been most optimal. If only we had in us the humility, wisdom and foresight to heed the necessary lessons. We need a new vision.
On a more personal level it’s as if my own gaze has been changed by an invisible lens. I can’t help but intuitively flag any still or moving image that includes a human being as Pre-Covid vs. Post-Covid. I instinctively capture abstracted reflective images each time I leave the safety of home. What the lens seems to always avoid is looking at anyone’s eyes! I’ve called the photo series “Lockdown Lens: Vision 20/20”. Unbeknown to me, even my style of painting looks to have been impacted. Interestingly, it took an external set of eyes to point it out. I sent a picture of a recent work to someone I know well the other day. What immediately caught his attention was how the brush marks appeared strikingly different as if more blunt and agitated.
May 17, Beirut, Lebanon, Home
This is not the first confinement I have experienced and will most likely not be the last one either. For a Lebanese of my age, it feels strange to be forced to stay home, when the world outside is not at war. No. Being placed face to face with a virus does not indeed qualify as war. Those who have lived through an actual war will surely realise the peaceful nature of this particular confinement. I am able to draw, to sleep, to cook as well as truly give reading the time it deserves, as well as spend time organising my work, and most importantly feel no guilt while staying home. The whole world is slowing down , and it’s going to be very difficult for us all to adjust or to go back to ‘normal’.
May 17, London, Studio
My initial response at the world stopping was one of perplexity and astonishment. For once, as humans, we had to take a step back. It felt like our hierarchy had been reshuffled somewhat and we had no choice but to eat humble pie. I also think we have experienced all shades of the emotional spectrum. From the fear of loosing loved ones to being separated from family, we have all been tested in different ways.
When the lockdown happened, I had been working on my new body of work (for the last 4 years), and was due to exhibit this year. My initial response was huge disappointment and selfish anger. I had channelled all this energy to fruition, and then the universe decided that the show could not go on. To be honest, my feelings have been completely inverted, and I have been reminded to just take a step back and pause. Like so many others in this period, I have learned to appreciate what I may have considered the smaller, less important things in life before. You can notice the subtleties when there is less noise, which makes them clearer and empowered with greater vibration. My friends and family all seem safe and well for now, and for that I am grateful. I feel proud to be human, and I feel deeply humbled by the will and spirit of our frontline workers and all those who are still making our society function under such great strain.
May 16, Amsterdam, Studio
April Fool 2020
The visual narrative of April Fool 2020 gives shape to the emotions and images that paralysed me after we all suddenly woke up in the surreal nightmare of this pandemic.
Fear and powerlessness have dominated me for a few weeks now; I feel like an insignificant extra in some morbid film, the conclusion of which is entirely unknown. The plane in which we are all sitting has lost its engines – the benevolent silence is only a harbinger for what is still to come.
The supermarket shelves, emptied by hoarders, made me realise that for decades I have assumed that everything would always be there, that our dancing on the volcano’s edge would never end. Nothing could be further from the truth, and here I stand, my mouth full of teeth. Vacantly I walk around, waiting for the utter unknown, afraid of an enemy that I cannot see, and who I fortunately cannot feel yet.
The house of cards is collapsing, and we are all the joker.
22 April 2020, Amsterdam
May 16, London, Home
I have been entertaining myself during the isolation over the last few weeks with the collection of my dad’s early Polish Playboy magazines (he has no idea they are in my posession BTW). They were published around the time when I was born in the early naughties, way before we became so dependent on the network and the Internet. What struck me most was the advertising of the human-friendly technology and the Internet, which back then put people first before anything else. It’s hard not to look back at this imagery with a slight nostalgia at the times when today’s networked transformation is actually endangering humanity with vast digital monopolies and the pervasive culture of online surveillance. I miss the future, or at least the idea of it and a certain promise of comfort and safety that the early technology was offering.
May 16, Yokohama, Japan, Home
Here in Japan, the current government has been having so many scandals by now that it is almost impossible to trust the data, the information, and the stories given by them. So we don’t really know how bad the real situation is. We can not measure the size of the catastrophe. All we can do is to search for any coherent story in the internet while being locked inside our local environment. It has been very frustrating.
But one good thing is that I am spending a lot of time with my 7 year old son. It has been very fruitful taking a walk together in the park, seeing the sunset together, growing vegetables on the balcony, learning together about the universe, learning together about dinosaurs and most importantly, making a story book together, teaching him how to draw and how to make a story of his own.
May 14, Atlanta, Georgia, Home
I’ve been doing a Twitter engagement I call “Stream of Conscious” which essentially is a Trumpian tweet storm of my thoughts at a particular moment. Today’s was in fact about the impact of COVID, but more broadly, about 2020 and all that has been exposed. One of those passages, I’ll share here as it is relevant to the quote request:
2020, despite all its trauma and sadness, has also been an awakening. We all aspire to have 20-20 vision. Now we have it and it does little to elevate us if we avert our eyes from fear of seeing the truth about ourselves – however ugly it may be. Now is not the time to bury our faces. Neither should we attempt to forget the painful realities laid bare before us. I urge you… I implore you… look, and look unblinkingly. 2020 is not out to “get us”… it’s only shown us what is and what can be. 2020 vision comes with a responsibility. One can not merely “look” without also SEEING. We’ve been mostly blind, eyes wide shut. But now that we’ve seen, we must do the work to become… become focused, become more, become responsive, become better. James Baldwin is quoted as saying: ‘Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.’
So with that I say, Thank you 2020! Your lessons will not be forsaken… and never forgotten.
create like a god.
command like a king.
work like a slave.
love like a mother.
May 14, Vienna, Home
When one is packing one is concentrating on all that.
When one is boarding a plane one is involved in all that.
Over fifteen years I have done a lot of all that.
These eight weeks of stoppage have forced me to think and feel differently.
It is exhausting and hard.
No varnishing that.
One yearns simply to leave again.
To move fast. To unfeel. To unthink.
I saw a film once in which an indentured labourer ran away from his place of work. And was pursued.
During the entire film he made it five miles from home.
The furthest he had ever got.
Five miles is now my horizon.
I walk. I think. I stop.
Who knows what will happen next.
May 14, Los Angeles, Studio
Here’s my text; similar to the photo, I just used automatic functions on my phone to generate it (the suggested text algorithm in the iPhone OS which tries to predict what you’re going to write), just tapping on it blind. Oh, and leave in the ‘sent from my iPhone’ line.
hope all is well with you!
All my best,
I’m going on the hike today I hope you’re having fun and I’ll be back soon I love is a time for me maybe you could hang around for me maybe I could do a good thing and maybe you could do a good thing and maybe go get some rest I’ll be back in a couple minutes I wanna is a time for me maybe you could come and go do some work stuff for dinner 🍴 was that good good thing and maybe we could hang around and get a coffee ☕️ I wanna is a good day hope you’re doing good I’ll be there soon hope you’re having fun I hope you have an amazing day hope alls well is the afternoon and I love 💕 is the way to get a couple more of you and the family are doing well and you are doing great and I know what you wanna is like the way you want me to do so much fun you have any other questions that we are looking forward for tomorrow morning to see if I wanna is a time to get together for dinner and maybe I could hang with him in a little while and I’ll see what he wants me when you like me and I’ll send it back and then I gotta I want something that weird thing and you don’t have any other place you can have the other stuff and you don’t want it and I’ll send a check for it if that’s cool 😎 was that I like the best pizza 🍕 I wanna I love 💕 morning you want a wonderful and good evening.
Sent from my iPhone
Yan Pei Ming
May 14, Dijon, France, Studio/Home
I’ve been adapting to confinement pretty easily. And, despite the world’s worrying situation, I have managed to set up a fairly strict routine that allows me to continue to paint. Every day, for the past two months, I have been working alone in my studio from morning till night. I don’t see anyone outside of my family. We only meet at dinner time, when we watch the news on the television, together.
Lately, I have become very curious about bats, as I am currently working on a series of paintings in which they play a central role. I believe that these animals are unfairly accused of being the cause of the pandemic, when in fact they are most useful to our planet’s ecosystem. On the contrary, it is deforestation, the destruction of the bats’ natural habitats as well as their consumption that are the real causes of this crisis.
Until a vaccine or treatment is found, the emphasis must be placed on education regarding the virus as well as prevention from contracting the virus – akin to the time in the 80s when people had to be massively educated regarding HIV whilst getting accustomed to using condoms, in order to protect not only themselves but also others. Today, prevention involves confinement, social distancing, barrier gestures and, of course, the wearing of a mask. Needless to say that masks are essential, and they need to be worn by everyone. Only then, will we be able to regain a sense of normality!
There is a lot of sadness, at the moment, all over the world, with the number of deaths constantly increasing, not to mention terrible economic conditions, a direct consequence of the spread of the virus. There will inevitably be many divorces [laughs], but also many couples will come out of it, stronger, and more together than ever before. I am confident that once this crisis will be over, we will regain our joie de vivre, because that is what human nature tends to do!
May 12, Berlin
It is in times like these that the ability to change is essential and the measure of our humanity, creativity, and survival. Gao Xingjian, the Nobel Laureate in literature once said, “Solitude is a necessary condition of freedom.” We find ourselves startlingly alone, and yet more connected than ever. I hope that this world crisis will bring about a better understanding of how we can work and live together.
April 2, 2020
Robert Wilson would like to show his support of the project by kindly providing a link to one of his films: KOOL (Snowy Owl), 2006. Music by Carl Maria von Weber, arranged by Peter Cerone. Courtesy RW Work Ltd.
Opposite image: Robert Wilson, KOOL (Snowy Owl), 2006, Video still. Courtesy RW Work Ltd.
May 12, London, Home/Studio
Generally I work on a very large scale; I like to make large public artworks. I use the studio to make sections of works that get shipped out of the studio and put back together somewhere else. The studio is a place where there’s a lot of ‘comings and goings’.
That’s all changed now, there’s nowhere for the works to be shipped to and I’ve found myself working on a tiny scale…it’s a first for me. It seems right. Maybe it’s because making art seems a bit wrong at the moment? A bit bad taste ? And I’m hiding stuff from myself…or maybe it’s just a practical decision? I think it’ll be a while before I find out which it is?
May 9, Long Island City, New York, Studio
Great to see you the other day,
Everything has slowed down or stopped. We owe it to ourselves to try to appreciate this new speed. Assuming this pandemic will end, I want to look back and say I smelled the roses, not that I pretended nothing was different. Work junkies depress me.
I intentionally leave politics out of my work but personally, I’ve become consumed by them. It’s very hard to be an American and not feel totally in shock right now. We are living in a psychedelic moment; the door has been opened very wide to our reality. Only a few months ago, people were debating the appropriateness of a particular Christmas song…I don’t want to hear those bullshit conversations ever again. If we can’t focus on meaningful change in our society, we are doomed. If we, Americans, get to the other side of this pandemic without quality universal health care, we will truly be in a pitiful state.
Peace and love!
May 9, London, Studio
As the world has slowed down, the studio in lockdown is in many ways the perfect scenario for a creative; all the quiet and space to reflect on work and time to make, interrupted less frequently now by admin and calls. At the same time, it has become a distracting space, full of mental ‘noise’, anxiety and worry for the vulnerable and those at risk. Throughout, I have been reminded of the power of community and relationships on the periphery of my practice, but also of the importance at any time of the studio, as a place of refuge and retreat. I have also realised, however, that the hustle and bustle outside, the general hubbub of commuting life, all the external energy of goings-on are as important to the creative process as calmness. I’m reminded every day that basic human interactions fuel everything and can’t be taken for granted, and that as we all become more insular, many of our reference points are lost. And still, I paint, and my children fill their days with craft projects and on some level, we are each comforted by our ability to make and express ourselves, amidst the topsy-turvy uncertainty of it all.
May 8, East End, London, Studio
Memories of the past.
Reality of the present.
What is tomorrow?
Do you think this is the worse moment you have ever experienced ?
If it is, then you must give it your best shot to make it better, together with others – from this day onward and into the future. A future, we need to embrace with no fear, no regret, and no looking back, with a healthy mind and healthy body to go with it. Mens Sana In Corpore Sano.
If you weren’t happy with your life before lockdown, then this is the moment for change. Conversely, if you miss what you had before, then appreciate life, in all its dimensions, past and present, to include all that is around you now: loved ones, a rose petal, a bird singing, a simple home-cooked meal, beautiful music that transports you, memories that you cherish.
We can all keep hoping, even while we wait in this limbo. Dreaming is important, to keep our hopes alive.
We should all remember that our dreams and projects are not all cancelled; they are just postponed.
We have all suffered deep hurt or broken hearts in our lives. But we only felt the sadness because we have also experienced great happiness. One cannot exist without the other. It’s only natural to feel down, especially when individual freedoms are removed. We will no doubt regain these freedoms, only this time with the opportunity of a fresh beginning. A future en-laced with love and positive energy with people who deserve to share it with you.
When the light will return, peeking through the darkness, there will be new challenges for us all; we should welcome them and better ourselves in the process.
Social distancing, lockdown, isolation, staying home… it all hit us like a hammer. Quickly. Unexpectedly. In an alarming way. We should have seen it coming. We were partly responsible. But we were lost in greed.
Personally, I have experienced lockdown for almost 2 months in my East London home. As a Taiwanese, I have lived in London for more then 20 years, and for the first time, I feel homesick. I miss my birthplace, my Taiwanese family.
For the first time, I also have many questions for our governments across the globe, but especially here. Losing control over our individual rights and lives and leaving our trust into their hands… It all gets too overwhelming sometimes. So perhaps best to focus on myself, my work, my family. I spend time in different rooms of the house, in the garden, and I have re-discovered my neighbourhood with a fresh eye and a new perspective, walking, cycling to the grocery store. Sometimes I deliver food and supplies to isolated friends and artists. In a way, I am returning to them a little of the joy they have given me, over the years.
I keep busy. It’s important to keep going.
May 8, Johannesburg, South Africa, Studio
In a time of crises, there is always an opportunity to redefine, re-frame, and re-constitute established norms…an opportunity to begin anew. It is as if some things need to burn to ashes so that new life may sprout. At times, if not most of the time, life as we define it for ourselves gets in the way of new beginnings; it gets in the way of our healing. Often, we are preoccupied with trying to put out fires, never still…always in a panic.
Perhaps this is the time for stillness, a time to sit and watch as the fires rage and consume all the superficial things we thought dear to us, while we anticipate and contemplate what will rise from the ashes.
May 7, Los Angeles, Studio
Uncertainty isn’t easy — but as artists we have had practice. Of course I have moments of real anxiety, or a heavy heart… and immense gratitude for the workers who are keeping it all going right now for all of us…
But it’s also an unparalleled opportunity. Could we ever experience this — a break! a break! a pause! on the whole thing! everywhere! all at once! — a chance to stop moving, to reflect, to reconsider, to reorganise, realign, to hear our inner voice and all the subtler things we normally miss — if it weren’t for something big enough and scary enough to insist that we stop?
I have found this time to be a great gift.
For years I’ve been craving quiet, but while the world has been noisily marching on, and the pressure of staying in contact, of being seen, showing up, answering calls, and taking care of business have been constant, it frankly has remained a yearning that I lived with. Retreat, so essential for a creative life, has always involved a sacrifice, a FOMO, having to say “no”… But while everyone else is isolating, too, a great anxiety is eased, and I can shamelessly relish in my solitude, in my own vibe.
So I am grateful, because for the first time in years, life is quiet enough for me to feel my deepest and most genuine creative urges — and for them to make sense!
I never want to have another appointment ever again!
I’ve been able to create a routine in this time — something else I’ve been longing for for many years.
In the morning, I work on a writing/relational project about intimacy:
Perfectly ironic for this time of isolation, it involves reaching out to the people I have written about in a diary I kept from the age of 17 – 30 (the diary was mostly focused on trying to understand love and relationships) — to ask them to contribute their accounts of our connection. The conversations involved in these requests occupy my morning hours, and are themselves a portrait of intimacy.
At midday, I dance, by myself. It’s a time that I offer to my body, to allow it to move exactly as it wants to, since, for the rest of the day, I order it around.
In the afternoon, I am in my studio, where I am now, working on these paintings that have something to do with decoration, religion, celebration, performance, ritual — the way we set certain moments apart, elevate them from mundane experience, make them sacred. Even the difficult ones. Even, maybe, like this one.
May 6, Sao Paolo, Brazil, Studio
For me, this lockdown has made me reflect on the importance of everyday things we often take for granted. We are so fortunate to have technologies like social media to stay in touch with loved ones.
Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh, Hesam Rahmanian
(with their dog Mozafar)
May 6, Dubai, UAE, Home/Studio
We have been privileged to be working and living together in quarantine for many years and we continue to do so now. So, these past months haven’t made a big difference to our living/working routine, although it has indeed brought us some challenges, as it has for many across the world!
We have replicated a version of today’s cities in our home and decided to create an environment in which we have more power over the way we plan our lives. To many, it may seem like a life in confinement, but we actually really enjoy it. We wake up in the morning, at the same time as the birds in the garden, and match our activities to the movements of the sun. There are discussions every morning regarding a recent book we’ve read or a film we’ve watched, all of which always gets redirected towards our work. In every corner of the house and the garden, we have activity stations which we use on different days of the week. Cooking and table arrangements are equally important to us, and we use that space and culinary moment of the day to create installations with dishes and cutlery we love, including the food itself.
The video below is a record of a period of time, working and living in quarantine; it is made with our phones during our daily activities/routines. It also borrows verses from Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish whilst referencing Iranian poet and film director Forough Farrokhzad’s documentary, The House Is Black. The video tries to demonstrate life’s transient moments, while the world is on pause – in solidarity, against the Covid-19 virus.
This artwork is an invitation to vigilance. Our aim is to show that time is different from duration – duration is finite, but time, on the other hand, is like a third path, a product of the imagination.
May 5, Countryside, Austria, Home/Studio
Let’s be grateful for the wind who brings the smells of the spring.
Let’s be happy that quietness gets space now.
Let’s dream that our nature heals.
Let’s think of our beloved ones.
Let’s start being slow.
May 4, Greenwich Village, Manhattan, New York, Home
“To see a world in a grain of sand and a heaven in a wildflower, hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour” -William Blake
I have almost died 5 times in my life. As a 12-year-old, I spent 6 months in a hospital for acute appendicitis that burst inside me. I was given last rights by the local parish priest twice. Decades later in the 80’s I was thrown out of a 1913 Model T ford car across a highway. I stood up without a scratch. And then sick with Aids in the 90’s. I was given 3 months to live. My memoirs (I’ve Seen the Future and I’m Not Going) that was published last year has all this in it and more.
My sister said to me after she read my book “I guess you’re here for a reason.” I grimaced at her statement. Then I was thinking “Why am I here?” Then this little thought came to me, “You are here to experience joy.” I wasn’t stunned, I enjoyed the statement. I thought, “Yes why be miserable? Why constantly complain?” Even when I was dying, I wanted to enjoy that day.
Who will care about all my petty concerns years later? Most likely no one. All that’s left of the ancient world is broken statues and crumbling architecture. And I’m sure people at the time complained or thought how important they are.
When I was sick and dying from Aids in a slanting 5 floor walk-up near Times Square (since I didn’t have the strength, I didn’t leave my flat for one year), I didn’t want to die or be in such physical pain. And I was used to being in confinement. I started to live just for the day I was in. Not the next day, nor the next week or month. I focused just on the day and what I wanted to do.
And now in this global pandemic I’m home since early March. My apartment is decorated to my liking, I have my dog for companionship. I have my books, television and a phone to see and speak with my friends. I’m making drawings at home while I listen to music.
As artist Sonia Delaunay said “…I want to express myself before disappearing.” I wake up some mornings thinking “Not this again.” But then I forget it and go on with my day. I had a friend who worked at a hospice and she related that the most constant deathbed regret was “I wish I had enjoyed my life more and had fun.” That’s how I feel. I don’t want to be a bitch my whole life and then die. I don’t want to fight with people, be nasty to others or complain how horrible everything is. I want to look for the silver lining and walk on the sunny side of the street. Leaving my cynicism aside. Who cares anyway about being miserable? I’m not interested in heading down that road.
Since I’m not vain enough to say there is nothing after this or there is another life after this (please no reincarnation – I have no interest in returning), I only know my life as it is.
I might as well enjoy it.
May 4, London, Studio
We probably all agree, in some state of paralysis, that these are strange times. Everybody knew this would be coming; books had been written about pandemics, movies have been made about exactly this scenario, scientific studies were commissioned and state exercises staged, and yet it is deeply surprising, unacceptable and massively worrisome that our systems, governments and societies were shamefully unprepared when Covid 19 appeared. Now, we can only hope that we collectively behave a little more intelligently, coming out of this crisis, than we have when going in. Maybe and hopefully, we can employ some of the hard learned lessons to change our future behaviour and become better, fairer, more considerate and more empathetic societies.
In all this craze, art could and should become more relevant again and not just a tool to make tons of money. Some of the best art was created in times of war, distress and crisis. As people crave new ways and approaches to almost every aspect of their lives, artists can lead the way, inspiring others to think outside of the box, to be socially and politically critical, to heal, to recover and to protect our spiritual and mental health as well as our personal freedoms.
I truly hope that as many artists as humanly imaginable will emerge from this crisis unharmed, stronger, and financially able to continue their calling. The world needs art, music, theatre, literature, dance etc more than it admits and knows. It will be fucked without.
Fuck off Covid 19!
p.s.: And a massive loud and roaring THANK YOU to all the people who put their lives on the line during this pandemic working on the front line. We should all pay them a deserved vacation when this is over.
May 3, Greenwich Village, Manhattan, New York, Home
Everything I knew on May first 2020
Our notion of self is delusional. Our identity is a fantasy. In our true nature we abide in eternal light and the world is perfect. Buddha Mind, Atman, God, the names are many, the experience of our true nature is one. At times we may get a glimpse of it through beauty and art. Truly we are only the Witness, pure, blissful, undefiled, of the fantasies of the self. These fantasies are neither good nor bad: they include joy, pain, fear, hope, they even include our own death. Whether we are aware of it or not, our true nature remains untouched, so all we need to do is to observe tenderly our skillfully woven delusions and enjoy the ride!
In this mystical view, refined through the ages by countless sages, even the pandemic is just another facet of the sufferings we encounter when we forget our fundamentally compassionate, ecstatic nature.
On the other end, if a big truck is going to run you over, will you sit and meditate or will you run for your life?
The pandemic is the dress rehearsal of the future. The pandemic is visible, the future is invisible but it is here, cleverly made invisible in plain view: twenty years of illegal wars for oil, the reckless destruction of biological and cultural diversity, the transformation of the American republican party into a suicide cult, the triumph of an economic order whose goal is to make lots of indifferent stuff and indifferently throw it away, man-made poverty, man-made tyranny, man-made refugees, at the root of it all man-made economy.
The economy is not a dogma dictated by God, the economy is an invention of men.
There are partisans of this economic order. To them, economy comes first and human life is just an afterthought, a hindrance to the aimless accumulation of wealth.
If the market could get rid of the human race it would. The partisans of our absurd economic order, which we all know is killing the earth, like to tell us: ‘this is life.’ Maybe what they mean is ‘death is life’. Or maybe what they mean is: ‘your death is my life’. Fighting to save ourselves would be inelegant. Fighting against the partisans of death would turn us into them. We have to change with them and not against them and this will require great imagination, more imagination than the most accomplished artist can ever offer.
It is an old story, playing one time too many: the lambs coming to the rescue of the wolves.
It is happening now, a few blocks from where I write: first responders, nurses, doctors, firemen, workers holding the city together, embracing the silent but eloquent simplicity of love and service. Light attracts darkness, but darkness breeds the light.
West Village, New York
May 3, Mumbai, India, Home
The lockdown is, for me, a novel experience as I imagine it is for every individual in the world.
Although I am separated from my family at this moment in history, I am blessed to be dividing my time between two homes in Mumbai. My 85-year-old mother’s beautiful garden flat that I grew up in, stamped with her good taste and my own flat nearby filled with books, photographs and paintings. As I navigate the space alone at home, I feel the absence of my daughter and husband. There is a loss of personal connection, but the vacuum is filled with the presence of our beloved beagle Shoji and our loyal live-in carer, Fatima. These times will pass is what I read in their eyes.
They say a pandemic shatters the past before it thrusts you into an uncertain future. This lockdown has turned me more inward than ever. I find myself reaching back to a past more than 60 years ago, to letters— beautifully handwritten in ink on onion paper (the ink still blue)—by my father to my grandfather asking for his daughter’s hand in (arranged) marriage; to his diaries where I find many a mention of me; to photographs from a time I never knew. I find a letter from an 80 year-old-family friend who willed himself to die after playing his favourite symphony on the piano. I find our wedding invitation designed so beautifully by my husband, a typographer, 26 years ago to the day. I find my daughter’s birth horoscope written in a language I cannot read. I must get an interpretation.
So while the skies are bluer and we can hear birdsong, I find myself wandering into the archives of my past wondering if the present is not history enough.
May 3, New York City, Studio
ME, MERASELF AND I.
Loneliness is a concept I am familiar with. I have spent over half a decade working in solitude and understand that now more than ever, it is my duty to continue doing so. But you can tell a lot about where I’ve been mentally during the last two months of self-isolation by my recent Google searches. Will eyes burn from too much computer use? How long can a human go without taking a shower? Difference between online viewing room and website? How long can a human go without talking? Can you catch the virus from takeout? How to make espresso martini? How to block someone on Zoom? VR galleries 2020? Online nightclub 2020? Street art allowed or illegal? What is the penalty for playing music from balcony to boost morale? Homemade masks how to? How to calm anxiety? What is CBD? How to order weed online? Is Kim Jong-Un dead? How to temporarily disable every social media account? How many years were in March? Essential definition? Is art an essential service? Is paint an essential object? Are artists essential? Are galleries essential?
Am I essential?
May 3, Cotswolds, UK, Studio
I have the privilege of staying in a country house. For the first time in over thirty years, I picked up a garden fork and planted a vegetable garden. A farmer’s son; memories of milking cows, chickens, ploughing fields, hay making and harvesting on warm summer evenings filled my veins like a bolt. I yearn for this again, registering the beauty of earth’s fragile bounty, but yet now, sadly, I also realise how we have abused it. This wake up call is nature’s way of speaking to us, asking us to stop, to take note, for if we don’t, we will have, ultimately, self-destructed our own species. I believe in human tenacity, and it is not too late to take account of our lives, the important things, rather than charging manically around the world obsessed with “I want…I want…”: greed. I see this in my art world, fairs everyday of the year, people paying tens of thousands of dollars for a “Banana skin”. I know that was the artist’s point, but was anyone really listening?
Let’s get off the oil barrel, out of those planes, clean the oceans, produce and consume locally, love thy neighbour, respect the old. Only then, shall we have “hope” again and a future for our children.
Edmund de Waal
May 1, London, Studio
Just over five hundred years ago, Dürer woke from a dream:
‘In 1525, during the night between Wednesday and Thursday after Whitsuntide, I had this vision in my sleep, and saw how many great waters fell from heaven. When I awoke my whole body trembled and I could not recover for a long time. When I arose in the morning, I painted the above as I had seen it. May the Lord turn all things to the best.’
The volume of water makes the earth shake. The wind and the sound and the slowness of the deluge, the inevitability of this apocalypse is terrifying.
You wake up and don’t know where you are. A plain with low hills and fields. Somewhere from childhood. And the heavens have opened and the waters are coming down, the waters are coming towards you. It is the apocalypse: the world turned upside down. You can hardly breathe.
During the night you are exposed. You are alone.
We follow Dürer, his line of thinking, this moment of exposure. It is his aloneness that talks to us. He cannot control what is happening, only record what he remembers, what he sees, what he feels. This exactitude is not protection. It is a way of approaching what is happening when the world is unstable. During the night we are alone and vulnerable, the certainties disappear. Dürer paints and writes to see what will happen, to feel the edges of his control.
We return to these fears.
We need solace. We need certainties but we also need to know that others have been in dark places before us. And that is why Durer matters. And the poems of Celan, Mandelstam, Emily Dickinson: poets who know solitude.
I am alone in my studio. But it is a freighted solitude.
April 28, London, Home
When I hear or think of the word ‘Lockdown’, being a photographer completely immersed in the photo visual world, I realise that most of my life has been spent in a self-imposed isolation. Alone, with my psyche, which I have learnt to enjoy. Obeying the wishes of my subconscious. Hopefully, during these challenging times, people will connect with a part of themselves on a deeper and more personal level. Keep looking! A picture is worth a thousand words.
‘Lockdown London’, David Montgomery, 28 April 2020
April 28, London, Home
On many levels, my work has always been about the structures we hang our lives on, their underlying fragility and the need to cling on to any ideology that sits in front of you; never has that been more relevant, certainly in my living memory. I once was not allowed to call a show ( probably rightly so ) ‘Whatever Gets You Through The Night’ and here we are. I am, nonetheless, and in some ways, positive about this, because when you have to sit in your own skin for a while, it begins to fit you better.
April 28, Sussex, UK, Home
In this moment, my thoughts have been revolving around notions of absence, death, departure, entropy.
A hole cannot exist without a host;
a hole is contained within something else.
Holes exist as cracks, tunnels, valleys, indents.
They are everywhere -they are visible, invisible.
They are incomprehensibly large and unfathomably small.
The ubiquitous thing that is not has captured the imagination of artists for centuries – from Hieronymus Bosch to Hepworth to Whiteread and Kapoor.
Holes are the departed people we loved. Their spaces filled only by our memory.
April 26, London, Home
The world might have come to a standstill but that doesn’t mean life has to stop – and it definitely doesn’t mean art should stop! Artists will continue to make and produce – maybe even more than before.
April 24, Paris, Home
This time is about pushing the reset button, about sitting with yourself and about isolating yourself from what you understood life to be. A time to think, to meditate, to observe, to wait… It is a blessing, in many ways, that we were offered this pause in our lifetime; maybe it was needed so that we could fix what was broken for the generations ahead. A time to change some of our habits and to get closer to one another. I hope we will be more aware that the most urgent matter for us on this planet is the preservation of nature as well as our environment.
I also hope governments will start giving more priority to science and healthcare. What we are living now is a reminder of how fragile we all are, of how we should share the same goals and of how we should start to see life.
April 23, Panther Mountain, New York, Home
ART AND SUSTAINABILITY IN THE TIME OF COVID-19
I’m never one to be bored. There are still not enough hours in the day.
For me, this period isn’t so different from my normal routine, except for the lack of socialisation and travel. It’s hard to believe that this time last year, I was doing the finishing touches for my exhibition at the Helmut Newton Foundation in Berlin. What a difference a year makes.
I’m lucky to be nestled away on 25 acres with my family, surrounded by thousands more acres of wild land, in the heart of the Catskill Mountains. We can’t see our neighbours from here.
COVID-19 has perked my survival instincts, so I’ve spent a majority of my time working and living off the land. We tapped maple trees, collected sap, and made syrup. I’ve been bottling my hard apple cider from last fall. I try to go trout fishing every day, and look forward to wild-turkey hunting season. We’re foraging wild watercress from the stream, starting seeds, and getting the garden ready. Being self-sufficient means less trips to the market, safety, and peace of mind.
This is a dark time. I think about my 99-year-old mother, my family, and the future of the collective planet, this big six-degrees-of-separation of illness and death. The death of my friend Peter Beard came as yet another gut punch and wake up call.
I do think about my work a lot. I’ve had more time to re-edit past sessions and look for hidden gems. I’m not one to be locked in my studio or glued to my computer all day. I’m not interested in doing virtual photographs. I look forward to shooting analog “in the flesh” again so to speak—it will make me appreciate the tangible aspects of what I do, and never take being up-close and personal for granted. For now, I walk the land, analysing how light and seasons change from day to day with all their idiosyncrasies. Winter to spring is an amazing transition in slow motion. I search out new locations, daydream new ideas, and yearn for the time when carefree human interaction is possible again.
April 23, Saint Louis, Missouri, Home
It seems sad, but it’s what I’m feeling.
I hurt most days. Do you? I listen to songs—a lot of James Taylor and Jackson Browne. You know how lines haunt? Mine has always been from the song These Days. ‘Don’t confront me with my failures, I’ve not forgotten them.’
I want to be held each day. I want to hold. Do you? Let’s hold, just hold. Just today. Because I don’t know what day it is—it’s just today.
April 21, The Berkshires, Massachusetts, Home & Studio
I am filled with gratitude:
I have a home to shelter in.
Food to sustain me.
Work that inspires and challenges me.
Love that fills my heart.
I’m surrounded by nature.
I feel safe.
My heart goes out to those who don’t have these blessings.
Now is the time for a new level of consciousness.
Rob & Nick Carter
April 21, London, Home
We are all desperately missing contact with friends and family during this period. It seems unthinkable now, but just nine weeks ago we launched our “Dark Factory Portraits” in a packed gallery at Ben Brown Fine Arts, followed by a fabulous after party at The Groucho Club. How distant that memory seems. Luckily we have been able to continue working during ‘lockdown’ behind closed doors, painting remotely with our robot. In many ways, it is an ideal project during this pandemic as the genesis for these portraits is simply a photograph. Collectors have been afforded the time to go through old albums with a sense of nostalgia, selecting their favourite image to be painted by our robot whilst they watch from home as the portrait evolves in real time via a webcam.
April 21, Boston, Massachusetts, Home
It seems as if life has been on hold these past few weeks – for everyone. I am always straddling two cultures and identities, as a Lebanese/Palestinian, and as an American. It feels as if the news is always dividing us as “them versus us” and now, here we are a “we”. We are all in this together, in the same boat, with life at a standstill and reduced to the confinement of home. This virus is such an equaliser, making all of us re-evaluate our shared humanity, our fragility, and our priorities.
Isolation and confinement have offered me the gift of time at home with my family, and in the studio with my work. I had almost forgotten how precious both are. With time and space to re-evaluate what matters, I have reached out to my friends, and started visiting them and making their portraits through their windows. A new project about “connecting across barriers” has emerged. It humbles me how many people were willing to be part of this, but also how important the human interaction, that we often take for granted, is. Despite the fact that we only communicate across a physical barrier, we are really, and truly making a connection.
When life goes back to normal, I hope we keep that empathy, kindness, interconnectivity alive in us.
April 20, London, Home
I find myself in-between a binary of two poles of opposing modalities:
The year is 2020,
Technical versus Magic
Existence versus Essence
Instrumental versus Ineffable
Heaven versus Earth
Monolithic versus Multitude
Noise versus Silence
The Map versus The Territory
Logical versus Mystical
Capital versus the Commune
Magnificence versus Abject
Stasis versus Transformation
Nature versus Culture
Liberation versus Subjugation
Substance versus Style
Ascent versus Decline
Shallow moment versus Deep Time
Sacred versus the Profane
Health versus Plague
Sunlight versus Destruction
Esoteric versus Exoteric
Compassion versus Indifference
Thought versus Speech
Sobriety versus Intoxication
Fragility versus Strength
Joyous Miracle versus the Mundane
Sensual versus Mechanic
Shining versus the Darkness
Rhythm versus Infrequency
Idea versus Image
Flow versus Barrier
Ancient versus Modern
Authentic versus Counterfeit
Imaginary versus the Material
Virility versus Exhaustion
Concrete versus the Fluid
Limit versus Continuum
Animism versus Monotheism
The mountain versus the Sea
Everything and Nothing.
My fear is that without a functioning economy, art becomes an unreachable luxury as most artists will not afford the time and mind-space to embark on production.
Maslow’s Law outlines the pyramid of basic human needs required to fulfil the self-actualisation process of artistic potential. This is necessary to release the variable physicality of art to its audience and the world.
April 16, London, Home
What we have lost in these times is personal connection. So I wanted to delve back into my archive in search of those moments of affection and touch. In doing this, it has made me appreciate how powerful those emotions are.
April 15, London, Home
This pandemic has made many things visible. We’ve seen that our NHS and public services are more important than ever. That BAME people are disproportionately affected by Covid-19. Only weeks ago the Home Office deemed as ‘low-skilled’ those now known as ‘key workers’. I hope the current visibility of these issues will prompt positive and lasting change.
April 15, Coventry, UK, Home
I have been travelling curiously around the world for the past eighteen years. Never once did I say no to a journey. All of a sudden life and travel stopped. This unfortunate time has made me think and feel about all the thousands of tiny things that I have picked up along the way, and stored in boxes at home. I always knew a time would come when I would do something with these memory-based trinkets…from things I picked up on stage with Adam Ant and the Mötley Crüe to the stage glitter when I danced with Macy Grey, Kesha and Kylie Minogue, not to mention bottle tops I found in Kenya and which I buried for years. The sequins I ripped from Michael Jackson’s jacket. Hundreds of hours of couture embroideries, and anything I saw beauty in along the way. A champagne cork from the Tzars’ stash, a pin from Lindsay Lohan, a lace Donna Karan once gave me, a Union Jack bow tie Kate (Moss) wore in a loo on a night out, as a joke. Religious trinkets from when I was a child, Victorian jewellery my dad collected and tribal jewellery from around the world. Rubbish I found on the beaches of Iceland, and on the streets of London and Coventry, where I grew up. Swarovski crystals fallen off my ENO opera costumes and a collection of stones. All of a sudden, all of this became part of my three dimensional artworks which I have started making on my mother’s kitchen table, late at night, whilst watching Star Trek and drinking Earl Grey tea, hiding away from the world. Each stitch or drop of glue brings back a memory, making me appreciate life now, more than ever. It has also made me appreciate the people I have met along the way, now more than ever. And even though the future is uncertain, I have no doubt that these ‘armours’ will end up in my next museum show, alongside the electric filter face mask and the leather gloves I wore to the Tate Modern to see the Andy Warhol show, terrified of human touch. That night, I knew would be my last night out. It’s all become part of my journey, all these pieces that have come from the times that have made me who I am today. Now, more than ever, I am curious and excited about the future. What I have learnt, however, is that love and human touch are the crux of life.
Anne Sophie Cochevelou
April 15, London, Home
Quarantine could actually be a blessing in disguise. Confinement is the perfect working asceticism for artists. No distraction (derived from the original Latin sense of “divertere” – things that divert us) from our primary mission. No frivolous party to go to, no disruptive phone calls, limited supplies that make you more resourceful within the given constraints. Tremendous creativity will rise from this austerity.
Working from home, a practice that was long seen as a sign of unsuccessfulness, is now fully legitimised by the lockdown. Like an artist in residency, in the comfort of one’s own place.
Omnia mea mecum sunt ‘All that is mine I carry with me’ as the stoic Seneca would say. I can loose works. I can loose commissions and projects, but I can’t loose my creativity. Through this curse, I feel blessed to be able to endlessly enjoy my own company, and travel through my boundless imagination. I wish I would have the luxury to experiment boredom for only one day.
April 14, Los Angeles, Studio
I hope you and your loved ones are doing well. I’m here in LA, sheltering-in-place at home with my dog Mr. Brown. My heart goes out to everyone who is suffering, and to our many heroes who are risking their lives on the frontlines of this terrible pandemic to save ours. Stay home, stay safe and please be kind to yourself.
April 14, London, Home
My priorities of yesterday are no longer those of today.
Catching up with oneself…
That’s all that really matters.
It has taken a while for us humans to get accustomed to the idea of this democratic disease which has caused ravage in all four corners of the globe. However, we are slowly learning to adapt and eventually overcome the obstacles, together. For now, let us assume our share of individual responsibility by staying home so that we are able to help each other.
April 14, Paris, Home
The abusive pursuit of profits, the mad extraction of materials, the toxification of air and water, the over-production of superfluous consumption, and the cult of the speed of life have turned the planet upside down. We are eternally interrelated with the planet. When humans destroy nature, they destroy themselves. There is an urgency to reset this relationship and to breathe new life into an intimate, harmonious, total participation in the universal cosmos.
The world has paused. What a relief. It was going too fast… The fear of missing out, the pressure for progress, the daily deadlines … all have vanished…leaving this vacuum to be filled with total spontaneity and uncertainty. Suddenly we have migrated into cyberspace, to a new continent. I am overcome by a constant ebb and flow of our perception of reality. I oscillate between attachment and detachment with reality. Sometimes haunted by the fear of losing contact with reality. Other times finding pleasure in losing my grip on the real. The Covidian context shines a spotlight on the death of reality. Life seems more iridescent than ever. Overwhelmed by the vastness of free time for the first time. As time slows down, I grow young again. Suddenly I look at nothing and see everything. I let the importance lie in my gaze and not in the thing I am looking at. Experiencing the instant, liberated from the remorse of the past and the apprehension of a planned future. And then the frustration arises. The virtual world will never have the same significance as physical contact, as a hand that caresses you.
Let’s be guided by hope, not fear, to re-enchant the planet once more. We miss the unique visions of provocative past thinkers who helped us glimpse the unimaginable. Let this uncanny confinement be a resurrection of the soul in its absolute alignment, a portal towards a new universal cosmic awareness. May our fervour lead us to experience these circumstances, not as tensions, but as a potential for awakening.
April 15, Tehran, Iran, Studio
Confronting the difficulties and historical uncertainties of the past few decades, my people have tried to protect and empower themselves whilst facing an unpredictable future. That future is now happening in real time, the difference being that now, those fears and uncertainties are shared with other nations of the world. Art can, does and will offer answers and solutions to sooth these tensions and fears. Art at this moment in time is my personal saving grace.
April 14, English countryside, Home
What an archaeological moment this is, each and everyone of us rummaging in history, interrogating everything we thought we ever knew.
The unknowable knowns.
Amidst the vast bags of second hand things which we all carry in our heads, language must take up most of the entrepôt.
At this fugitive time, it is language which seems to effloresce, all the words burning bright, vibrating against each other.
Express, depress, impress, suppress, repress, compress, seem to be my morning’s raiding party today.
Just another emotional ambush.
Tuesday ? April 2020
April 14, London, Studio
When I was sick, I watched all of Star Trek Next Generation. It’s set in a future where humans have distinctly got it together. It’s an oddly optimistic reality where war, poverty and climate change are a thing of a primitive past, and where humanity seems united, brought together perhaps by a common sense of its own fragility, in relation to the vastness of space.
April 13, East Coast of America, Undisclosed Location
I hear a scraping sound, the data being removed from our communications devices.
A voice said: Our patterns are recognised, passed around and commodified.
Q: Humanity can’t be measured in metrics or can it?
Then something thought, “Do one thing each day that you never did before, then you can’t be quantified.”
“Yes”, they said, “Then we will be human.”
Michael Craig Martin
April 13, London, Home
Nothing that has happened in my whole life has shown so clearly as the pandemic that we are all part of a single shared humanity, and that society, community and family are our expression of that humanity.
For years we have seen the role of the public realm criticised, derided and diminished, but in crisis it has been the state that people everywhere have looked to for guidance and protection, and we will ultimately hold those who have controlled the state accountable.
We have watched in amazement that there are some people willing to risk their lives to save ours, and that we are ultimately dependent on many who are paid and respected least.
The pandemic has revealed more forcefully than ever the shameful inequalities that victimise the poor, the minorities, the migrants.
Let us hope that these lessons that seem so clear now will not be forgotten when this tragedy passes.
April 13, Upstate New York, Home
Sometimes artists don’t have many words. Sometimes artists are not ready to perform. Sometimes artists need to withdraw. Sometimes artists need fewer distractions and more silence. In fact, we all do. We have been experiencing a global existential crisis for some time. We’ve finally been made to stand still, to retreat into our homes, our families, ourselves. Let’s first survive this pandemic. Let’s absorb all this collective silence, all this ambiguous not-knowing, and use that energy to build better worlds.
April 13, Switzerland
I heard birds during our phone call, singing loud and free. It is such a sad moment for every human, but nature seems to be doing well. I am temporarily in the mountains by Switzerland, by a small lake. I see birds I have never seen before, mandarin ducks that never made it past the shooting in Italy and the Balkans. Probably for the first time in one hundred and fifty years they did not hear the sound of guns. (I imagine they fly lower than our common ducks.) Most of all, I miss my friends and Athens. I miss the stray cat I feed every night. (A kind neighbour feeds him these days). I have my watercolours with me, and two pads, with lots of sheets left in them. I paint every day.
(with her dog Penny)
April 13, Northwest Connecticut, Studio
(Some, not all) artists are used to a solitary life. I’ve talked to friends who say isolation is not that different from the way things are usually. While I applaud their efforts to normalise the situation, I say it’s as different as hell. No one is used to having their solitude controlled. If you live in a small town you might want to go to the local bar at night. If you live in the city you may want to buy yourself something glamorous for no reason, or eat burgers at a diner in the middle of the night. There can be one or a thousand human interactions in a day. After 9/11 or hurricanes Katrina, Harvey, Maria and the California wildfires, people came spilling outside, blinking in the sunlight and hugged each other… Meanwhile, as we see our inner cities being ravaged we are starting to understand that even our isolation is a social and class privilege. I’m waiting to see the impact of all this solitude, which feels like it is occurring in the middle of an unprecedented tidal wave of “connectivity.” So many contradictions, inconsistencies, incongruities to reckon with. @lauriesimmons
April 13, English countryside, Home
You’re it. Or is it me?
Who will cough you to your grave?
Boils, locusts, gnats and memes.
Exodus, Netflix, Famine and Allergies.
Inequity of souls.
150, 525, 675, 1002, 10 000
Graphs and chickens, bats and ventilators,
Toilet paper politics,
Under the skin semantics.
Did I harm you with that kiss?
April 13, California, Studio
The ARTIST OF TODAY represents invisible things.
The basis of my work is doubt, unknowing, loss of
self, and questions not answers.
This will create a sense of never arriving,
and therefore, freedom and liberation.
Bill Viola would like to show his support of the project by kindly providing a link to one of his films: The Messenger (1996).
April 13, London, Home
Although we are clearly not all in the same boat (some are much sturdier or in more privileged dwellings than others), we are all weathering the same storm. A storm which, for me, is only evident upon pause and reflection, where my day to day as an artist has suffered little disruption. It is a storm in concept whose effect will eventually seep into all our lives and most certainly make us all pause and reflect.
April 13, Poughkeepsie, New York, Home
“…At least not until now — because now, in the era of the virus, a poor person’s sickness can affect a wealthy society’s health. And yet, even now, Bernie Sanders, the senator who has relentlessly campaigned for healthcare for all, is considered an outlier in his bid for the White House, even by his own party…Whatever it is, coronavirus has made the mighty kneel and brought the world to a halt like nothing else could. Our minds are still racing back and forth, longing for a return to “normality”, trying to stitch our future to our past and refusing to acknowledge the rupture. But the rupture exists. And in the midst of this terrible despair, it offers us a chance to rethink the doomsday machine we have built for ourselves. Nothing could be worse than a return to normality. Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.” – An extract from Arundhati Roy: ‘The pandemic is a portal’ published by the Financial Times on 3 April 2020
Medium: Ink, pastel & acrylic on paper
Dimensions: 23 1/2″W x 34 5/8″L
April 13, Hudson Valley, New York, Home
Since I live alone and have been sheltering in place, I have had to learn how to cook for myself.
The surprising thing is that making meals has become the highlight of my day.
Cooking has taught me that even in the middle of a pandemic one has the capacity to learn things, to experiment, to improvise and—dare I say it—experience joy.
This spirit has spilled into the studio, where I am making work that looks nothing like I have ever made before.
Whether it is rubbish or not is irrelevant: what matters is that in response to a new world, one has to develop new skills.
Matthew Day Jackson
April 12, Brooklyn, New York, Home
I am trying to pay attention to the things I will miss when we are all able to see each other again.I consider myself so lucky to know that there will be a great many things. Artists are working and there will be great things to show from this moment and some less great, this much I can guarantee.
April 12, El Paso, Texas, Studio
One rightfully long sentence:
Of course, with the coronavirus upon us, I am afraid if our small crew of four old comrades, including myself, stumbles at this late stage in the game, that is, after nearly over 40 years of working out at the Hill, we might have difficulty finishing the fourth building; and I am worried, too, about the all too mortal voices of family and friends—I could not bear loosing any of them—and so, with a strange sort of silliness, I now find myself embedding colourful glass marbles into the trunks of old trees.
Thanks to Cinco Puntos Press, publisher of Letters to Goya: Poems, Titles and Letters to the Dead.
April 12, Brooklyn, New York, Studio
I am writing today from New York City where it was announced that more than 10,000 people have died from Covid 19. I have lived in New York City since the summer of 1986 and there is simply no reference to work with in attempting to describe what is happening here. As Covid 19 is now cresting with hospitals stretched beyond their limits with inadequate equipment and preparation, seriously ill people are being turned away who later come back in critical condition. Doctors and nurses are working in dire conditions 24 hours a day, helping the many who are stricken. The streets and parks are nearly empty with only the constant echoes of sirens filling the spaces once inhabited by the gathering of humanity that was New York. Online one reads about the ineptitude of Government at the top level and the struggle that local authorities are having getting critical supplies and funding. Yet, daily there are constant signs of the strength and resilience of those who are here for the duration…Those who are working to keep New York fed and operational on every level from local delis to neighbourhood urgent care to EMT’s Fire and Police…Those wearing masks doing essential work, and those self quarantined and social distanced making sure the curve is flattened. Art seems far away hidden behind passwords in exclusive virtual viewing rooms, or languishing in inboxes filled up with notices and invitations to non-existent art fairs. Having personally spent the last four weeks with the persistent symptoms and ups and downs of a comparatively mild Covid 19 case, while caring for my girlfriend whose had a moderate case, I know that this virus is unlike any I have seen or experienced. It is scary in that once it starts one does not know how bad it will get. I am grateful that it has not so far been bad for me though it’s been quite difficult at times for my girlfriend. We are recovering while in quarantine watching films and cooking all meals at home. Wearing gloves and masks, I walk the dog through desolate neighbourhoods. Runners go by with sunglasses and designer cloth face shields and police cars patrol with LEDs that remind everyone to maintain their distance. Invisibility fragility selflessness and bravery are everywhere and nowhere at the same time.
April 12, Upstate New York, Home/Studio
I made this image in Photoshop, it’s called Quarantine — I’m about to start a painting of it. It mirrors what I’m feeling these days about the precariousness of our situation. We just have to take it a day at a time.
April 11, Los Angeles, Home
These blurry weeks have brought a slowly descending dark blanket nestling around my shoulders. My innocence and denial have shifted to trying to keep my head above this suffocating shroud. Emotions magnify exquisitely like looking through the lens of a mist laden spring morning. I’ve always walked around my tiny house talking to myself but lately, I have taken to listening to myself. I am shocked! ‘What? You did what? Peter, that is weird! No! Yes maybe.’ But beyond the gentle nuzzlings of my cats Mickey and Martin Friedman, I’ve received messages from the distant past…a friend or two…could be twenty years ago or fifty. They want to tell me that I mattered to them back then. And still do now. It makes me get up, throw off my black cloud coat, walk outside and stand up in my walled garden. I don’t even bother to put on my pants!
April 11, Amsterdam, Home
The past few weeks I’ve spent at home with my husband and daughter in Amsterdam. We are just trying to do our share by staying home and we hope to contribute by not allowing the virus to spread too fast. I think a lot about my studio, and I hope I can get back to work in some way or another soon. I keep thinking about this sentence from a poem: ‘we are in this with each other, the way the night geese in migration need the stars.’
be well, be better, wherever you are.
April 11, London, Home
I have struggled to be creative in isolation, not because of the imposed alone time (I have done residencies that placed me on isolated islands for months). No, what I am talking about is the continuous shifting of timelines, events and fear levels. It is hard to find stillness long enough to create. I hang on to the thought that art will always survive, with or without the “systems” that support it today. I am slowly absorbing that constant adaptation and change will be our new reality. In the meantime, I am focused on staying home, staying healthy and taking care of my family.
April 11, Amsterdam, Home
I’m participating in the ‘Biennial of Painting’ at Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens in Belgium this summer. The title of the Biennial, ‘Binnenskammers’, addresses interior spaces – from the psychological to the (a)social, the artist studio to institutional spaces of confinement. In a strange twist, this theme, chosen long ago, now has added relevance in the midst of the pandemic.
The current confinement has two faces: it’s scary, sad and can feel like we’re all stuck in a strange sci-fi movie. At the same time, on a personal level it also brings a much needed pause and allows me to focus on what is truly important. I have more time to walk with the dog, work in the garden, have wonderful phone conversations and notice beautiful details in nature. It creates room and space for ‘inward’ looking. Creativity is often born out of a crisis (on a large, or personal scale).
April 10, East Hampton, Long Island, Home
I am in self quarantine with my family in East Hampton. Everything is different for us, as for the rest of the world, and we don’t know what’s next, but we are together and that’s our strength. I wish that everyone, but especially those in positions of power would be respectful of science. Listening to the scientists and intelligence experts is paramount for our survival. I also think that the earth is demanding the respect that it deserves. It feels to me like this is a moment of truth. We are witnessing the best and the worst of humanity in real time. Essential workers risking their lives, some for maybe $7.50 an hour. Doctors, nurses and hospital staff are our heroes. Grotesque daily briefings and the false narrative that id promoted… In the middle of a plague! It feels like a very long night. Ignorance, hatred, natural disasters and lies. For me, life goes on; I paint. I make my mark and hopefully, bring that love to others. As for myself, I have all the love right here at home. And I hope that humanity comes out triumphant and better after this.
Munich, April 10
Only to change the consciousness of individuals, of every one of us, we can change the world. This is the moment, this is our chance.
Marina has expressed her support of this project by sending a special video message:
April 9, London, Home
Boredom — Boredom — Boredom
This lockdown is boring. That much was expected when the government announced we would be imprisoned in our homes for the foreseeable future, but what is surprising is how much I have enjoyed being bored. These past days, weeks and soon a whole month, have rolled by in a pleasant and uneventful way; reminiscent of my 1970s childhood where there was never anything to do and nothing on telly. But then, as now, boredom has led to starting a drawing or a book, picking up the guitar, combing one’s hair a different way and thinking new thoughts. As I watch Ocado vans, ambulances and empty buses run up and down the hill outside my window, time itself feels different to life before the virus. The clock is running faster and slower simultaneously.
Ilya and Emilia Kabakov
April 8, Long Island, Home
Looks like we all entered the ancient times, sitting in the caves; the enemy is everywhere. These feelings of helplessness, the fears of the unknown are strong, but, surprisingly, not dominating.
We are very comfortable in our “caves”.
And we even have a visual communication with the whole world.
And this communication, the feeling of community, of solidarity with others, makes us stronger, and fills us with hope, instead of despair.
We are all trying to find ways to help people who need help; we bring them food, send donations, do everything we can to lessen the burden of isolation.
We are all in this together, in The Boat Of Tolerance – The Boat of Our Lives.
We share our feelings, our fears, our sense of humour and we know that as long as we are showing this UNITED FRONT to our invisible enemy – we will win.
April 8, Brooklyn, Studio
I work from a studio in Brooklyn, NY. As an artist, my work is solitary. But the isolation now is different from the days before Covid-19, with the separation from loved ones and the loss of any human interaction. And now there is this sense of anxiety and fear with the blurring sound of sirens filling the air as I work. A constant reminder that a life is in danger. The sound keeps me mindful of so many essential workers that are helping us get through this crisis. They don’t have the luxury to stay safe in isolation. These days, I am working on a series of drawings called “SOS,” because we can not forget their sacrifice. My wish for the future beyond this pandemic is to learn to live more than ever with gratitude and respect for humanity and nature.
April 8, Venice Beach, California, Studio
‘In these dreary times, look for sunny days.’ If you are an artist: Keep on Truck’n! If you are not an artist, keep the faith in what you do that is creative. I remember reading on the wall of a public restroom on Interstate 40 in Oklahoma: ‘Have Faith in God-zilla’. The first part was written with a marker, ‘zilla’ was carved in and added with a knife. Which one was more meaningful? Like Charles Dickens’ first sentence in A Tale of Two Cities: ‘It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.’ We are all in this together.
Peace and Love.
April 7, London, Home/Studio
Before Covid 19 bought a halt to most work, I was art directing a film to accompany Faure’s Requiem. Now, as other planned exhibitions and events grind to a halt, I’m left with this to edit. It is a film set to a Requiem, featuring elderly people fitted with oxygen masks in their final moments of life, more appropriate now than ever, or is it an unsavoury pursuit considering the gravity of things? Whether to proceed is the question I’m grappling with while others with more important jobs do the hard work outside. I can only keep honing as best I can, weaving brutality and tenderness from the inner city, with sublime and barbarous elements from the natural world, and hope the results resonate rather than appall.
April 7, Roman Road, London, Home
I’m painting (or iPad painting) one painting every day, inspired by my one walk a day, in my local neighbourhood in east London. It’s not only a diary of our time, and a very personal one at that, but a way of processing the anger, the sadness, the frustration and the general anxiety that has consumed me and all of us. I now look simply at the people (from a distance) , places and things I have seen every normal day, but now, I look at them with new meaning. I can find some solace and comfort in the immediacy of oil paint, it gives me a direct response and consequently a direct confrontation with the viewer. Only time will tell the latter part. In the meantime, there is no time to stop and think. Only time to work.
April 7, Long Island, Studio/Home
Because I’m used to spending time alone in my studio, quarantine has not presented too big a disruption. However, what enters the studio while I’m working or daydreaming are phantoms of a different sort. They are the demons of Hope and Despair, and they are wreaking havoc. Hope shows up as a two-headed monster: Sentimentality and Nostalgia. Despair slips in with his sidekick, Inertia. The days go by and even progress. My paintings start out light and grow darker. I try to retrieve what light I can without being dishonest. The truth is, no one wants to be where we are right now, but we are here and I believe this is where art and artists must stay, facing forward, dug in and willing to bear witness to our fears, vulnerability, bravery and resolve.
Paul Simon once wrote that sentimentality was aiming for the heart and missing.
Alberto Manguel wrote that entertainment was a second-hand experience of the world; learning without action and fulfilment without accomplishment.
This is the wisdom that is guiding me now.
Stay healthy. Stay safe. Stay away from me
April 7, East Hampton, Long Island, Home
So many decisions are made for us these days. We have to learn to surrender and live within these confines for the sake of self-preservation. I am not feeling particularly creative or in a working mode. I am bearing witness, and that is enough.
April 7, East Hampton, Long Island, Home
A current state of mind.
I am feeling anxious but I am also feeling optimistic. I don’t want to be motivated by fear. My preference is to be motivated by love. I want to send that love out to all those who are sick and suffering.
April 6, Santa Cruz, California, Temporary Home
These are challenging times and the future is abstract. What is for certain is that there will be radical shifts across the board, the art world included. And it is our responsibility as artists to take measured steps in order to make sure that the art world does not collapse. The key is to support our museums, the principal holders of our collective cultural memories and to ensure their sustainability as well as the preservation, conservation and circulation of our mutual practices. And for that, it is critical for us all to stay connected. The activist in me will make sure that I will fervently contribute my part to this endeavour.
April 6, London, Home
I have the right profession to thrive in lockdown. Being an artist is the closest thing to training for self isolation you are likely to find. So I’m feeling very fortunate, to have a studio full of materials to entertain two restless tiny children and the imagination to do so. If this is the new currency then suddenly I am rich.
Langlands & Bell
April 5, London, Home/Studio
Globally, we’re in this pandemic together, but it’s different for each of us. It underlines how interconnected and interdependent we all are and reminds us of the true value of human connection. We really need each other, not just to survive, but also to have a meaningful life.
April 5, East Hampton, Long Island, Home
Reflections on the way the world never was and never should be, lent itself to inventing a new one. This new world is an existential cage brought on by the fear of a contagion. Unless you turn the contagion into a creative device and think back to when you could just be left alone to yourself…no iPhone, no email..a house line and a stereo system, some paint, pencils, paper and canvas, only the best of friends and deep emotional feelings that you could share intimately …you will go mad with anxiety…now, it is about putting those feelings and memories in a safe place, and hoping for recovery to all who have been struck by the virus…and to pray to something that will keep the health workers and everyday people safe and alive. Art heals, but it has not yet cured cancer or any other disease… it’s something to experience in various intangible ways, but has not proven to have a medical impact on pandemics that I know of… Regardless of that, I still believe it can save lives in other ways…it can be an awakening from the void into a new reality that stays with you forever.
April 5, Madrid, Home
Obviously it’s a weird feeling.
What I really appreciate is the silence these days. So unusual in this messy city…
Any everyday gesture is amplified. Scrutinised. There is no time for window shopping.
They (the government) don’t allow me to go to the studio but instead, I can work in my cave, with my kids running around me, all day.
I have no choice but to accept my frustration of having to restrain my emotions and remain neutral.
Priorities are no longer those of the past: a candle on the kitchen floor, a painting (or the shadow of) on the wall.
There’s only one thing left to do: and that is to look out the window and simply wait.
Courage to all! is what I say.
April 4, English countryside, Home
I have been drawing and painting every day which has helped to take my mind away from the news. My children have been a great distraction. We play more than ever and do the things I always say I will do but never have time to do with them. I say to myself each morning: ‘Today could be better or even good.’
April 4, London, Studio
From my perspective, the world has been turned on its head. Normally I spend my time in self-isolation thinking and creating work. Now everybody else wears the masks and does the self-isolation, and I am stuck with family unable to think.
But seriously, at this time, we should all be thinking about what kind of future we want because this is a defining moment for all generations. The big question is whether this pandemic is going to bring the world together or drive more conflict. When the current lockdown phase is over there will be more unbalanced globalisation and more restrictions on the flows of people around the world. Already the pandemic has shown how important the digital and the virtual have become. As we move irreversibly into the digital, who owns the technology will be the next political front. We have already seen this issue at hand with the 5G rift between Hawaii and the USA.
Being in central London, I can see the pollution levels dropping and more wildlife returning. Hopefully, we will all consider what kind of future we want and how it will affect the environment and the new economic and political landscapes.
April 4, Vancouver, Home
This virus is like a clarion call from Mother Nature. She is warning us that if we continue to neglect her, the worst is yet to come. As the great poet Rumi told us, our existence on this earth is nothingness.
‘Oh you who is less than nothing
Do not twist yourself around nothingness.’
April 3, New York City, Home
After our tears dry.
We will walk hand in hand down the street
Lounge on the grass together.
Admire paintings in a crowded museum.
Raise a glass and toast.
Share a meal and maybe exchange a bite.
We will kiss and it won’t feel dangerous.
Sleep will come soundly.
Laughter will tumble easily.
I believe we are strong and we shall survive.
April 3, English countryside, Home
I find myself,
Writing it down
over and over again.
Birds’ beaks hammering at the window,
Leaves flickering as a shadow.
April 3, Brooklyn, Home/Studio
The challenge isn’t simply to remain content in your fortress of solitude. This moment is pressing us to rewrite a prevailing, broken ideology of privatising gains and socialising losses.
‘Sit, be still, and listen,
because you’re drunk
and we’re at
the edge of the roof.’
April 3, Upstate New York, Home
We tried to change the world; now the world is changing us, everything about us, including how we work as artists! Living in isolation has made us face ourselves and everything that we have escaped or overlooked in life. Now at ground zero, with our plans postponed or cancelled for good, there is a terrifying yet liberating feeling in the air. While the future is uncertain, we might just be embarking on a new beginning, on both individual and collective levels, with an eye on our shared humanity and a long deserved respect for nature.
April 3, London, Studio
In this moment of social flux the figure in mass feels distant and the aspect of touch taboo. Instead, I am drawn to the quiet moments of companionship, the playfulness of silence and comfort in the abstract.
April 3, East London, Home/Studio
If you are an artist and sequestered somewhere with your art supplies you are very lucky indeed. Make things. Silly things, small amusements, big projects, profound things. Don’t work to a brief. Or overthink it. Just let it flow. Make art like no one is watching. Then post it on social media like every-one is watching. Make your isolation memorable.
April 2, Los Angeles, Home
A few months ago, I decided not to fly anymore. Being on a plane or at the airport was freaking me out so I stopped. I had a show in Korea, and I didn’t go. I kept repeating to everyone who would listen that we need to stop moving around, settle down and choose where we want to be and stay. I was very stressed about all of this, and now I can see why. The day everything shut down the air was noticeably cleaner, and I saw the birds looking happier than ever. Anything connected to nature is having a wonderful time right now. It really feels like we were on a speeding locomotive without any desire to slow down before going over a cliff! This pandemic has done what we were not willing to do. I hate that people are suffering and life is very difficult right now, but I would sacrifice my health and the economy for the planet. Also as soon as this happened, I got very hopeful that this would be the thing to finally take Trump shit down. I keep praying that people in the middle of this country will wake up and see what a wretched individual he is. Unfortunately, it takes something this harsh to make people think about things differently. I hope so.
April 2, London, Studio
Fear is as detrimental to society’s sanity as it is to an artist’s creativity. We will survive the virus but the bigger test is to survive ourselves, to come out on the other end of it, with our humanity intact. I would like to believe that we will.
April 2, English countryside, Home
I set up a studio at home and have been obsessively reading books on Graham Sutherland; I think it’s because I’m isolating in the countryside and his work was so much about nature. He was very close with Bacon in the 40s and their works have strong similarities, but Sutherland’s painting is much more nature orientated. In my work, I have created a project called ‘Art against the Virus’ that will be released worldwide to raise money for charities fighting the Covid-19 virus. As part of this, have been developing a series of films, for this is where my lobster persona is at war with the virus monsters who have invaded Lobster Land.
🦞Art Against The Virus – Episode 1 🦠
April 1, Dallas, Home
Humanity went to sleep one night in one world and woke up in another… to an enemy who does not distinguish race, culture, age or ethnicity. One that transcends borders. A pathogen that knows no socioeconomic class, does not discriminate against gender, sexual orientation, political party or educational background. If it catches you, it does not care about the size of your bank account or that of your house, or the make of your vehicle. What can this virus teach us? Can this virus actually reveal our humanity? What if it showed us how to see the world as we actually should? What if it educated us that race, ethnicity, borders and socioeconomic background just don’t matter… that we are in fact one race… the human race, bound together by what we have in common, not our differences… that we all come from the same Wheel of Life, and belong to a universal Republic of Humanity?
19 has unarguably shown us that our Wheel of Life is part of a much larger one. That we are inextricably connected to other species… to nature. That we have to learn to respect mother earth with the same vigour as we learn to respect one another.
Kindly supported by Tristan Hoare, Photo London & Artnet