April 19, 2020
Hi, It’s 9:13pm on 3/17/20. This week's been a tornado of anxiety, canned goods, safety texts, and antiseptic due to corona virus lock downs. I really hope you, reading this, are ok.
This is a monthly column about Boston-area protest art, the climate crisis, and the urgent need for systemic change. Many problems underlying our current emergency - underdeveloped social programs, wealth inequality, xenophobia, extreme capitalist greed - are also fueling worldwide ecological collapse. The skills, values, and care required to face them both are similar, too. I'm electrified by the ways people are organizing right now. Dozens of relief aid projects, food programs, donation campaigns, and neighborhood safety checkins are being created rapidly. These are care networks built on shared well being, not money or extraction.
Last month I said making art helps me feel connected. This month I want to talk process. There are millions of ways to make art with limited resources. Thus, there are millions of ways to make protest art in a pandemic. Art itself won't prevent extinction or fix society, but it CAN spark resistance, share joy and anger, and feed our spirits.
From-scratch Recipe for Social Distance Protest Art:
1) Pick a place you can use for 2+ hours. Example: Bathroom (bless my housemates)
2) Pick 2+ materials you have on-hand. Lipstick, mirror, cellphone.
3) Start playing with the materials. I began with "Face Writing" and "Angry Eyebrows." "The Red Corner Morticing," a response to feminist short story "The Yellow Wallpaper," went further... Tiling is a smooth drawing surface...
4) Consider what you want to say, and to whom. Message: Use taxes for human survival, not funding fossil fuel companies. Audience: US residents whose money is being invested in poisoning the world, instead of social needs.
5) How can you say what you want, to the people you want, with what you have? My phone takes photos, makes Instagram posts, and sends emails. The medicine cabinet and toilet could reference the healthcare system, waste, sanitation...
6) Sketch, retry, repeat... "Medicine Cabinet Shrine" felt off-topic. "Medicine Cabinet Crypt" worked better, the red lipstick writing suggesting blood, resistance, and anger. The tissue shroud over the pills seemed too theatrical... My knuckles are bloody from hand washing. I'm devastated thinking about friends' struggles. Maybe I can revisit "Face Writing" in a more informed way...
7) Get it out there "In Loo" is a daily Instagram photo series with hashtags #socialdistanceart, #defundpoison and #livablefuture. I write lipstick messages on the mirror and my gesturing, chapped hands. "My sister lost her job. Oil execs paid millions to poison."
You don't have to know what you're going to make before you make it. Trying things out is how you learn what works and what doesn't.
From online social distancing galleries to porch singing, people are making and sharing tons of art right now. Resistance art is possible too, and necessary. These are hard times, but climate data shows we're at the tip of the melting iceberg. Rest well, love, stay put if you can, and fight.
Learn more about Extinction Rebellion and their incredible efforts at www.xrmass.org