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Staying sane under lockdown

Recent projects, new work and Stockpiling Food For Thought

Another week in lockdown has passed and we have all been jumping from online gatherings, talks and exhibition openings to games and meetups. Zoom, Jitsi, Twitch, Mozilla Hubs and the like have taken over our offices, meeting rooms, galleries, workshop spaces, but also places to chat, laugh, cry, play, eat, drink, commiserate etc with family, friends and even strangers. There is plenty of stuff out there to keep us busier than ever, from reading material, books and art to music, films, exercise, recipes, planting, crafts and more.

Recent Projects

At FutureEverything, we have been busy with our current projects and keeping our organisation up and running at this difficult time, but also looking after and supporting each other. We will soon be posting news, opportunities and updates about forthcoming projects, so watch this space! In the meantime, you can head to our blog and meet our lovely team.

We have also been busy updating our website, so you can check what we have been up to the past few months. The start of the year was very busy; after the launch of Helen Knowles’ brilliant new project, Trickle Down, A New Vertical Sovereignty, at arebyte Gallery in London, we flew to Barcelona to set up an e-waste makerspace in collaboration with George P. Johnson and Cisco Refresh, as part of the Cisco Live! expo. And soon after that, we found ourselves in sunny Doha in Qatar to deliver our Public Art Forum, Outside the Box, a British Council commission and partnership with Qatar Museums and Qatar Foundation.

Trickle Down: A New Vertical Sovereignty. Helen Knowles. Installation shot at arebyte Gallery, 2020. Photo © David Oates

New Work

So while we’re coming to terms with life under lockdown – not something any of us had anticipated – we have been working with some great people developing new work. To give you a sneak preview, one such project is Unintended Consequences, a year-long programme of work at Quarry Bank as part of Trust New Art, the National Trust’s programme of contemporary arts. We’re developing the work in collaboration with Invisible Flock and researchers at the School of Environment, Education and Development at University of Manchester. The project is exploring the environmental impact of the industrial revolution and current challenges, but also alternative future stories. More to be revealed soon!

Until then, we are recommending some great reads to keep all inspired:

The Syllabus has a COVID-19 special edition with a daily collection of academic articles, essays, talks, podcasts, books, and loads more. Highly recommended! We are also enjoying the ICA Daily, a great curated collection of reading, viewing and listening for your inbox. We also love this co-curated #CovidCreativesToolkit initiated by Kat Braybrooke with brilliant (free) resources for creative practitioners, from digital gathering spaces to digital co-creation tools, opportunities and well-being.

And last but not least, our friends at Sensorium Festival have started a great Quarantine Weekly Special – Stockpiling Food for Thought – with a series of interviews by artists, curators and thinkers on the subjects of isolation, connection, creativity and the current crisis. Subscribe to their newsletter to receive the weekly interviews.

#CovidCreativesToolkit, Kat Braybrooke

Here is a snippet from my interview in Stockpiling Food For Thought edition #2. To read the full text, head over to Sensorium🙂

Sensorium: Why could it be interesting for an artist/curator to work with the topic of illness? What is the desired impact of such works, what kind of reaction do artists & curators expect from the audience?

Irini Papadimitriou: Although all of us experience illness, disease, bacteria and viruses, deeper knowledge and understanding about these belongs to scientists mainly. I think artists working with science and in this case, in the field of illness, disease, bacteria or viruses can provide insightful new perspectives, but also challenge perceptions. Artists involved with these topics can help reveal a microscopic, invisible to the naked eye world, a world that is usually inaccessible and scary for most people. The obvious things to say or see in illness, bacteria and viruses is the terrible and evil side, but through art we can understand microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses as other living things that try to survive.

While working with artist Anna Dumitriu, whose work I find fascinating, I learned that bacteria use chemical signals to communicate with each other, so they are a living network of microorganisms. Through the work of Giulia Tomasello I also learned more about “good” bacteria and how important these are for our bodies and health.

But to go back to the topic of disease, artists engaging with this can reveal not only medical processes, but also ethical issues, as well as the politics, financial gain and inequalities. In a crisis like the current pandemic, it becomes obvious how unjust the health system is in some places and how many people are unable to access it.

Artists can also challenge perceptions around disease. One of Anna Dumitriu’s projects that I curated for Watermans in London in 2014, was The Romantic Disease: An Artistic Investigation of Tuberculosis. A brilliant long term research and investigation of historical narratives around Tuberculosis that aimed to explore and share the misconceptions, myths and superstitions around the disease. The Romantic Disease has been one of the most exciting projects to be involved with and engaged audiences in brilliant ways, through the exhibition, workshops and talks.

The Romantic Disease: An Artistic Investigation of Tuberculosis © Anna Dumitriu

Sensorium: Some people say this pandemic will accelerate a wider paradigm shift in society. Do you agree? Can you describe how you see the importance and potential impact of this event on a larger scale?

Irini Papadimitriou: The past few years, we have been witnessing crisis after crisis. Just to think about the more recent events e.g. from the fires in California and severe floods around the world, extended bushfires in Australia, frequent extreme weather phenomena and now the pandemic. It’s during critical events like these and the reaction of governments, politicians, corporations, companies etc that make us realise how wrong we have been doing things so far, repeating the same mistakes, but also show the selfishness, injustice and huge inequalities in our society.

During the Coronavirus pandemic it’s been really reassuring to see so many acts of kindness, but on the other hand, also worrying that such a huge number of people around the word live in extremely precarious situations without access to health, shelter and steady income. It’s also a reminder about how fragile our world is.

I have been hearing and seeing reactions from some people saying that this will also pass and we will go back to normal. I am not sure though what we mean by normal anymore. I don’t want to be pessimistic but I feel that unless we change radically how we think and act, we will only get out of this crisis to enter another one. So I very much hope that this pandemic can at least serve as a lesson for changing attitudes and hopefully avert the next crisis.

Thank you Lucia Dubačová, Célia Bugniot and the team at Sensorium!

We also recommend you check out edition #2 of Stockpiling Food For Thought with Anna Dumitriu, one of our favourite artists!