This conversation between two artists and two curators will be grounded upon Cauleen Smith's current COVID MANIFESTO up on the Piccadilly Lights for CIRCA and expands upon ideas of public space and the public sphere, radical rest and reading lists, virtuality, fluidity and new modes of communicating and connecting in today's unprecedented climate.
Image: Cauleen Smith, COVID MANIFESTO on the Piccadilly Lights. Video, colour, sound, 2 min. Courtesy the artist, CIRCA, and The Showroom, London
This special Zoom conversation upon the last week of Cauleen Smith's COVID MANIFESTO installation starts with sincere reflections upon life during lockdown – from musings upon the simultaneous critique of yet embraced dependence on the internet, to a collective need for rest and reflection. The four speakers connect over alternating feelings of being overwhelmed and hopeful during these enduringly trying yet powerful times, and share insights into what has been helping them cope and find joy, from what books they’re reading to ideas about the profound and radical resilience of music.
The discussion also spans from the personal to public, individual to collective – considering if the pandemic is a portal how might public space and consequently the public sphere, the Piccadilly Lights in this case, be used as a frame to communicate and connect? Both Cauleen Smith and Enorê reflecting on their distinct activations for CIRCA – the current COVID MANIFESTO this month and Untitled as part of Class of 2020 in August, respectively – and how the real estate of a screen can transform into a tableau, a home, a space to disrupt, digitise, and claim visibility. And in reflection of the host site of Piccadilly Circus, a symbolic commercial heart of London, what does it mean to take a ‘non- commercial break’ – an aesthetic disruption aiming to respond to current issues of our time?
The four speakers continue to critically address hierarchies of success and value, and ask how do we dismantle oppressive structures of power in our own lifetime? Upon diving into all that is at once daunting and liberating about digital mediums, consideration is profoundly brought back to our planet, its beauty and its care. And finally, in a resonant reflection of the power of the bass player (one of whom who find out is amongst the group), motivation is sourced in joy, listening, and support – into a beat that vibrates, connects, and has rests in between. Pauses that embrace possibilities.
Reading List (in order of discussion):
Legacy Russell, Glitch Feminism. Verso Books, 2020.
Rumaan Alam, Leave the World Behind. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2020.
Anand Giridharadas, Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World. London: Penguin Books, 2020.
Achille Mbembe, Necropolitics. Durham: Duke University Press, 2019.
Bernardine Evaristo, Girl, Woman, Other. UK: Penguin Books, 2020.
Ishmael Reed, Mumbo Jumbo. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1972.