Today, we’re got a the first in a new series of guest posts by VCS faculty member Amy Wilson:
I’ve started all of my newly online classes with one tentative question, which I’ve tried to ask innocently and openly, while also being slightly afraid of the answer: How’s everyone doing? We’re in this crazy time where none of us know what we’re doing or what the future holds, it’s a more loaded question than I wish it was. And yet, I’ve felt really compelled to ask, and try to remain open to what the answers could be.
We all belong to multiple communities – professional, familial, geographical – and VCS is one of them. As I think about how this crisis is hitting us, I immediately saw in front of me how it was affecting my community in Jersey City, but I wanted to reach out to some of the people in our larger VCS community (alums, faculty) and how they’re doing. We’re all on different paths, and doing different things. But we’re a community of smart, creative people, who I think the world of, and I thought if I reached out and saw how others were dealing with it, maybe it would help me find direction myself.
I reached out to people I had current emails for. If I missed you, I’d love to hear from you and what you’re up to. Contact me at email@example.com and let me know: your name, your occupation (self-defined!), how COVID-19 has affected your life or practice or both, and what creative project you’re working on now. I’m very open. I don’t care if you’re baking bread or drawing with chalk with your kids or painting masterpieces. We’re all making and doing and being in this moment, and I’d love to hear your version of how you’re getting by.
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Berny Tan (SVA/VCS BFA 2014, Goldsmiths MA 2019)
Artist, curator, and writer
How has COVID-19 affected your artistic practice, or your life, or both?
I had been taking a break after finishing up my masters in London, and had just moved back to my home country of Singapore at the end of January. The outbreak in Singapore was under control initially so my life felt much the same, but we went into our version of a lockdown on 7 April. Nonetheless, I tend to spend a lot of time by myself in my home, so I haven’t felt too affected by the isolation – I have some personal writing projects I’ve been trying to complete anyway. I did have a job as a project manager for a large-scale site-specific art exhibition lined up, but that has been pushed back till at least June or July.
I started an Instagram account at the end of March that was meant to be a casual visual archive of the use of tape to enforce safe distancing measures in Singapore (see next response). I did not anticipate that it would take up so much of my time, but it’s grown significantly beyond its beginnings as the whim of one Sunday morning. I’m now contemplating how I might frame it as part of my art practice, especially since I can see some resonance between the project and the conceptual inclinations in my artwork.
What creative projects are you working on now, if any?
I’ve started an Instagram account called @tape_measures that functions as a visual record of safe distancing measures in Singapore during the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, it focuses on how tape has become the main medium of enforcing safe distancing in public spaces around the country, and has inadvertently transformed the urban environment into a series of vernacular graphic interventions.
I find it especially interesting that people adapt and respond to safe distancing laws in diverse ways, depending on their individual resources and approaches to problem solving. What would seem on the surface to be a very basic system – do not sit on marked seats, keep one metre apart from others – has been completely elevated by all these subjectivities that still have recognisable commonality. It’s become this new visual language that can be straightforward, or scary, or amusing, or even confusing, such that it almost feels like this surreal, city-wide, community-driven art project that captures this strange time and space that we’re all inhabiting.
While I’ve gained a sizeable number of international followers and submissions, the account will remain focused on my city. In future, I hope to transform this project into a physical and/or digital publication. If made available for sale, proceeds would go to NGOs in Singapore that are working very hard to support marginalised communities through this pandemic and beyond.
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Pete Franzen (SVA/VCS c/o 2013; received degree in counseling in 2019)
Mental Health Counselor and Personal Care Attendant
How Has COVID-19 Affected My Art & Life:
I still go to my care-giving gig but I can’t give the lady I work for hugs anymore. I try to be extra careful when I go out to do errands because I don’t want to get her sick. She calls this crisis “not-enough-Coronas-to-go-around” and keeps talking about the keg party we’ll have at the end of this.
I had to move my whole counseling practice to video. I see clients on video from the desk in my bedroom. I try to sit at an angle so you can’t see the bed or the dartboard. It is much harder for me to focus without the grounding presence of another human being in the room, but I am glad to be able to keep working and enjoy trying to support people going through the pandemic and also to have a chance to hear how so many different individuals work to process this situation. I brought my noise machine home and my partner wears headphones all day to protect my client’s privacy.
By the end of my time at SVA, I realized I wanted to work with people and didn’t pursue work in art, but making things is part of my life. Since the pandemic, I have been using drumming to produce trance states and visualization of spontaneous imagery, which I paint. I have seen and painted monstrous hands ripping apart bodies, men embracing and weeping, couples dancing, birds of prey with human faces pulling fish out of the water, and endless halls of doors.