As the world came to grips with the COVID-19 pandemic, San Francisco instituted a shelter in place order in March 2020 to contain the outbreak. Public spaces were closed down and social and economic activity ground to a halt. The impact of this was awesome and extreme. I was preparing an installation for the Artists Showcase at Gray Area in June 2020, but it was not to be. Unable to produce an in person show required a complete change to the project I wanted to make. But more important was the question of how to react and survive in the midst of a contagious airborne illness.
Writing has been a discipline and therapy of mine for many years. It’s more for myself than for sharing with the outside world and it became the way for me to process the experiences of this time. I found myself unable to complete any other kind of work during this time – the overwhelming experience of watching a disease kill off a sizable portion of our people is disconcerting to say the least. As I worked through my own experiences, the processing (writing) itself became the basis for this work. I started using the words as subjects for animations. Part of what I had started creating for the installation was animations that used social media experiences as a basis for the content. Those animations then became the basis for the animations in this project.
In the midst of this, we had social upheaval on a level that we haven’t seen in a long time. The physical changes the population was going through by staying home and limiting their movements had started to take an effect on their perception of time and thus reality itself. As creatures that are defined by the space/time continuum, any change in one of those aspects will change the other. The brutal murder of George Floyd by the police lead to an overwhelming outpouring of grief and anger. Our minds had been primed to experience the world in a different way and the spark of George Floyd’s death ignited a change that is, as of this writing (June/July2020), consuming not just the United States, but the world.
Videos of black folks being hurt and killed by the police have been a regular, and a more recurring, occurrence in our society. The violence by police against the black community was always there and in 1991 it was revealed to a vastly larger audience when the beating of Rodney King was taped and broadcast. 30 years and many more videos later, we find ourselves in the same place we were then. When the inertia of culture and the power of tradition get combined with conscious and unconscious decisions to maintain white supremacy, society gets prevented from dealing with these issues. So, when people ask, ‘why this video, why now?’, it is the combination of several factors: Trump, a plague instilling existential dread, perceptual changes brought about by physical experiences, and the effects of social media on people.
When we saw ourselves back in the same place and time we were before and that’s when we realized that time is meaningless when space collapses.