Oddly enough, the coronavirus epidemic may be starting to decline when the world is commemorating one year of the first COVID-19 case and lockdown ordinances. Since the first few days of the epidemic, the community of arts has been essential with many changes, including the following.
- It changed to more remote models
- It made fresh models to engage with culture
- It kept us as sane and connected with each other as possible
- It promoted profound thoughts
- It rose to challenges
- It faced pressing political and social problems fearlessly
- It helped to take us to a state of new normal
The ‘Art In The Plague Year’ exhibition features photographs, drawings, videos, multimedia art, and audio parts all by artists from various areas in the world. The exhibition is split into themes of Body, Absence, Presence, Nature, Ritual, Dystopia, Justice, and Encounters, plus it is organized by the California Museum of Photography. It is ironic that the show may last for good online despite it not being presented in a building. That appears fitting because it brings to our mind the essence of almost all experiences from the last year, with the internet.
As with many other top shows from 2020, it has many videos, VR pieces, online site-based projects, sound artworks, and other artworks in the multimedia format that liven up the online experience.
In the exhibition, you can experience jostling emotions because artists look unflinchingly at numerous crises that unfolded in layers, similar to their works themselves. Some artists rely on magic and poetry to find meaning in it, and they center human nature in narratives full of salvation and hope. In the exhibition, you can view:
- Nature as a nihilistic and nurturing force
- Mutual aid in the form of a potential antidote
- Violence in the form of a deadly and perpetual dynamic
- Humor in the form of a way to deal with mental issues
- Fantasy and dreams in the form of a way to process trauma
Artist Bootsy Holler from Los Angeles photographed epic revisits to nature, which involve intimate contact between the body and natural settings. A lot of us experience solace in those environments in the epidemic period, and we seek a feeling of being connected to something bigger and eternal. Those photographs not only celebrate that comfort, but they also bring the feeling to mind.
Artist Mikael Owunna from Pittsburgh has made ethereal portraits. He has hand-painted his African-American models’ bodies in a manner that creates fluorescent, starlight-inflected and cosmic visuals that change the phantasm of demise into a show of light, color, infinite peace, and soul. Owunna’s works are in the ‘Infinite Essence’ section of the exhibition.
In her video entitled ‘My Mother’s Titanium Hip’, Jill Miller from Berkeley looks at her parent’s unexpected demise during the epidemic from the perspective of daily quarantine life. Here, she presents the unstable state of human experiences mediated with technology, when losses and trauma increase, the world transforms into a bizarre kaleidoscope of fragments and glitches, and it gets trickier to define reality.
The Mexico City-based Stefano Morrone is also interested in exploring our mental health. The eccentric street portrait photographs of Morrone offer form to a state of being confused.
Kiliii Yüyan from Seattle presents photographs from ‘Thin Places’, a project that lets us view the earth from a more fear-inducing or less comforting point. It focuses on what appears to be an uprising, as ‘the natural world rose up to assert itself’. The rising speed of climate change, the coronavirus, and wildfires expose the fragile state of that world, plus its capacity to disrupt our effort.
Santa Monica’s Sara Jane Boyers presents hypnotic photos of empty auditoriums light up with the so-called ‘ghost light’. It is a custom of leaving the light in the vacant space of the theater stage.
Jody Zellen from Los Angeles presents ‘Avenue S’, an epidemic-inspired inclusion in her online site ‘Ghost City’. It is a form of personal worldbuilding attempt that reacts in and to the shared isolation state ‘imagination ameliorates’.
Qianwen Hu from Berline pays tribute to what her friends experience each day through the online site ‘Another Day’. With over 600 contributions of artists from many different parts of the world, Qianwen Hu’s book utilizes daily life as a means of knitting a broken world.
Huntington Beach’s Tyler Stallings looks at daily life experiences with a wrier approach in the artist’s short film entitled ‘Three Disasters In a Stairwell’. This piece of work lasts 43 seconds, and it warns that disasters always stay hidden in all sorts of places.
Andrew Thompson from Colton, CA presents artworks from his series titled ‘Chemical Landscapes – Scarring Land & Time’. The series started at an initial phase of the coronavirus quarantine experience, plus it honors the physical dangers of social, climatic, and apocalyptic upheaval in photograph-based works.
Los Angeles-based artist Peter Wu is the founder of EPOCH, a VR website gallery that addresses themes of struggle, entropy and dystopia.
Antoine Williams’ ‘Othered Suns’ is a sound installation with a run time of 14 minutes, which puts together many audio pieces. Those parts include found audio from the Isabel Wilkerson book ‘The Warmth of Other Suns’, Osamu Dazai’s novel ‘No Longer Human’, and Antoine Williams’ ‘The Black Fusionist Society Manifesto’.
The sound installation represents shelter and a state of living in exile, and it breaks the past into the here and now for a more loving and conscious future. To do it, Williams places the African-American body in a long-time condition of change, migrating, and seeking. It is a condition that has implications of radical distress throughout emotional, generational and physical time and space.
You can view all of those and many other artworks on the official website of the exhibition. The works are not behind a paywall, so all you need to see these works is a mobile device or computer with a reliable internet connection.