In Their Own Words: Artists on Quarantine (Pt.2)

We tracked down 12 contemporary international artists from across the world, capturing their responses to COVID-19 in their own words.

Image above: Katharine Schücke 

The art industry, usually in tune with global mobility and hyper-connectedness, is currently at a standstill. The art world is by no means immune to the current crisis: the market is sluggish and the cultural spaces we cherished and loved are frozen in time.

Artists, like the rest of us, are processing and reflecting on these strange circumstances. Some artists have even channeled their lockdown experiences into their work.

If you look at all the traumatic events of the past – world wars, pandemics, economic depressions – artists were always quick to respond. After WWI, we saw the rise of dada and surrealism, after WWII – existentialism and abstraction. It sure will be interesting to see the post-coronavirus art world. 

Keen to get artists’ perspectives on this, .art tracked down 12 artists from across the world: from Chicago to Tbilisi, from Amsterdam to Moscow. We wanted to capture these contemporary international artists’ responses to COVID-19 in their own words. Art is one of the world’s greatest unifiers. In times like these, it is our obligation to document the moment, helping these works live on to become a part of our collective memory.

Gabi Kricheli – Tel Aviv

Normally, the thing I need more than anything else to get my creative projects going is isolation. So, in many ways, these past few weeks have been a joy. I think I feel more empowered as an artist. I started working on a project I’ve been planning to make for years but didn’t have the guts to start. Besides, some of my outdoor projects are not entirely legal, so I get much more done in the empty streets of Tel Aviv during Covid.

Gabi Kricheli.

Misha Most – Moscow

I began thinking about the “Lockdown” project around February 14th. But, due to the quarantine, I received these bespoke made locks only by the end of April. That was the moment I realized that the object in the context of this transformed reality acquired entirely different meanings. I decided not to hang these locks on the doors of museums (although, frankly speaking, I did consider a few). In early May, one of the locks was placed next to other traditional “wedding locks” on the bridge next to Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. This project wasn’t supposed to be a commercial one. But I decided to offer a special edition for a charity auction to help doctors at the request of VLADEY auction – a lock and a key with an author’s manual engraving. The reader can interpret this heart-shaped lock with the inscription “contemporary art” in different ways. Now, though, during this global epidemic, it all comes down to one thing: “Lockdown” literary means quarantine. Now, all art is locked, and everything is on pause.

Misha Most

Katharine Schücke – Frankfurt

I believe lockdown affected my work in the best possible way. I guess I’m just lucky to live in Germany, in this ultra-organized country where I feel safe – and I’m grateful for it. I am used to working alone, especially in times when I’m developing a new project… so there was no real big difference. There was calmness for the first four weeks, which I would say really pushed me to relax and focus and continue. Every day was like the previous one: waking up at 7 am, going to the studio at 9 am, working until around 6 pm or 7 pm, going home and cooking something nice, and going to bed around midnight.

The large-format drawings, which I’m currently working on, have a lot of repetitive patterns and details. The figurines are strong and grotesque, being developed in an intuitive way.  

Katharine Schücke.

Natalia Zourabova – Tel Aviv

Since the 18th of March, I haven’t left my house, nor have I visited my studio. The last time I was at my studio, I felt like something was going to happen so I took some things with me: several canvases, paper, and colours. I was sitting at home and, as I always dreamed, started to experience my flat, which is situated on the fourth floor in Jaffa, Tel Aviv, as a fortress. It is an old Israeli building and it has a round bypass, which starts on a balcony, goes through the whole flat, and finishes at the same balcony but from a different direction.

Natalia Zourabova.

Alexander Morozov – St. Petersburg

Isolation is a state where one can comfortably exist. It’s a sort procedural trance, where one can cut off everything that is non-significant and empty out of their lives. Most of my projects were postponed in this beautiful, indefinite time. But from a distance, they could be seen as fairies of the Soviet stage, or as dancing dakinis. Is it worth wasting time on thoughts that create hallucinations? It’s such a sweet sensation – cleaning up your Facebook friend list, so pleasing to cut off unnecessary contacts. The virus instantly captured the world.

In response to this alien invasion, I organized a regulation of internal resistance. Work less, think less, sleep more. Try to look at the moving dreams of resistance via closed eyes. The plan failed because the virus found a defense hole and took advantage of the noosphere. The infection occurred with Zoom (those talking and theorizing heads), Skype (which kindled a sacrificial fire on the fuel of discussions, network drunkenness, and virtual fights)… and then eventually, the network hangover came.

The Alien mucus dissolved in an embarrassed present. Then, I was lucky to go out and buy materials: pencils, coal, sepia, graphite. I found beautiful watercolor paper with handmade watermarks. I began to draw, just like before, writing watermarked text. Today it’s blurred, but tomorrow it will certainly become a list and a memory of these sunny days. The memory of the fact that I’m still a man, even if our species didn’t have long to live. Let me summarize: my drawings are a space elevator, a catapult to a new planet. The masks that I recently painted are the gift to the communal piggy bank. Everything will be fine!

 

Alexander Morozov.

Ruth Patir – Tel Aviv 

I’ll admit – I used the first excuse I had to stay at home. Two months ago, when all this started for us here in Israel, I was very keen to experience this no FOMO, no need to wear anything but pajamas vacation. So, I bought a shit ton of food and drinks, got my computers (yes plural) from the studio, my PlayStation VR set and I reinvented my home as a heaven for riding out this epidemic. As a media-based artist, I am used to working from home and don’t need much space for my work. One of the things I observed was how obsessed we all got with cooking, cleaning, and organizing our homes. How we replaced our productivity outside the home to productivity indoors.

I then became curious about whether people started noticing their domestic chores, and whether families were appreciating the work that goes into keeping everything aflow. I used this time to catch up on some reading; texts about fertility and tech and historical texts about reproductive rights. Personally, I could have stayed in this space much longer, but the world was eager to return to its anxious pace.

When rumors about things going back to normal started, I was sad – I  wanted to leave a memory of this time behind. I started having a conversation with my house appliances as I knew that we would soon have to be separated once more. This is how I came to make “A premature Ballad to the end of an epidemic”, a film about the abandoned house appliances that are sad to be abandoned but also happy to be freed. For the film, I asked five girlfriends to make their best attempt at imitating house appliances. I think that together, we made a love song to domestic labor – a confused, heartbroken, heartfelt ballad for this moment.

Video artwork by Ruth Patir

Hanna Zubkova – Minsk

I am at my parent’s house in Minsk. It’s not my usual place of being, but I’m used to it. My window faces a lake, I stare at the window to give rest to tired eyes. After a while I start noticing hundreds of people picnicking, kissing,  sunbathing. These two types of 2D images – the ones on my laptop and those I see ‘through’ the glass of my window – feel as if they are representing a myth. Seeing the world as it was before, and looking at what it is now: not sure what image shows what though. This disassociation is   somehow disturbing and fascinating.

There’s no quarantine in Belarus. While the world is preoccupied with total surveillance state policies introduced at large scales, here it feels a wicked form of freedom: the state makes you decide to be your own guard. In this context, self-isolation can become a form of deviance. I continue researching an archive which I began researching before. Staying with parents might feel frustrating. We are learning about each others boundaries and sensitivities.  It seems to me that much of what is going on is about bodies and boundaries. Things now also seem to have a loom of archival dimension. My mother started a diary: she notes down everything we eat. “It’s for the future generations to have an idea about us”, she says.

Daria Kravchuk
Daria Kravchuk
is a curator and art manager with an MA in Museology from Amsterdam University. Her international projects are focused on the intersection of contemporary art, architecture, urban planning and anthropology. You can connect with her via LinkedIn.