This collection is not a response to the global coronavirus pandemic. It is not an invitation to artists to make sense of cultural, social and economic chaos. It is a space to gather and gently hold the hopes and fears of a group of artists who live and practice on the margins, to bring them together in all their sameness and differences. To lean into a place where no explanation is required, where we can breathe and not hold our breath for fear of being too much or not enough.
Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.’Arundhati Roy, April 2020
At the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic, I quickly became aware of an emphasis on ‘normal’, getting back to ‘normal’ or even imagining a ‘new normal’. The more I encountered the word, the more it jarred, prodded and poked at my own sensibility. What does getting back to normal mean if you were never ‘in it’ in the first place?
My instinct, based on experience told me, I would be made more invisible, I would be more precarious, surrounded by a medicalised binary of ‘sick’ or ‘well’. I could feel a familiar feeling of being put aside in the clambering to get back to ‘normal’. How could I hold onto this moment, to emerge into a new world with a sense of hope that maybe lessons will be learnt from a mass experience of the isolation and marginalisation that othered people feel every day.
My hope is that this publication, will be a gift, a comfort perhaps to audiences. This is for all of us who know isolation in all its forms, who don’t fit or want to fit ‘normal’. My hope is that this work will live on beyond this pandemic, that it will signify and speak to the rage of this moment, and act as a reminder that we must rage, but we must also have space to hold each other, to listen and feel that space of not having to teach or explain or make others comfortable about our way of existing in the world. This work is for all of the artists who make it a beautiful, messy, unapologetic thing and it is for you.
Kate Marsh, July 2020