Art in a time of coronavirus.
For me, the strangest thing about living the COVID-19 pandemic is how normal things take on a strange tilt.
Thinking about heading to the supermarket, I say “Let’s wait and see how many deaths there are today before we go.”
Everything normal is slightly askew, awry. Last week, the supermarket wouldn’t touch the bags we brought. No surprises there. This week, a huge sheet of plexiglass was set up in front of the check-out operator.
The floor is marked out with yellow squares where you stand. The shopping carts sprayed with disinfectant with every use. Every day, every one is a little bit more wary.
Unemployment spikes while we work from home.
Chris has been working from home for three weeks now. Early May looks like the earliest he can go back. My studio is shutting down, these are the last few works I’ll be able to make in a while as I can only sketch at home. We are the lucky ones. Unemployment-benefit sites crash with demand.
Obsessing over COVID-19 infection rates.
Never a math nerd, I obsessing over infection rates. There’s a macabre beauty in mapping its spread.
In the epidemiology, the intensity of an infectious disease outbreak is measured by R0 (R Nought). Smallpox is 5-7, meaning for every person that gets infected, they will in turn infect five to seven other people. Measles is crazy, it has an R0 of 12-18.
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is estimated to be 2-4. I’ve chosen a mid-range of three for these works.
One person infects three others, then nine people, then twenty-seven, then eighty-one.
The numbers rack up very quickly. In four days, one person could have led to the infections 81 people. That’s what I’m exploring in these artworks.
I found the photographs in The Paper Hound in Vancouver when I was waiting for my US Visa to be processed. That’s when these ideas started to percolate in my head. Then, people thought it was China’s problem.
There’s something strange about the found photos.
There’s no people in them. The landscapes are deserted. And the images themselves are repeated but at a slightly different angle.
It helped me work with repetition and get the sense of normal things being not quite normal. Askew. Awry. Like I mentioned earlier.
With each work, the infection spreads. As the scale of this pandemic is unprecedented in living memory, I expect there will also be an explosion in creativity. As we are locked in, we escape in our minds.