Quarantining Creatively

The Art of Quarantine: 8 works That Prove Social Distance Breeds Creativity

We tour eight made-in-quarantine works that truly take the distance out of social distancing.

The Art of Quarantine: 8 works That Prove Social Distance Breeds Creativity

Covid-19’s growing global footprint may have cancelled concerts, shut museums, and halted film productions, but the pandemic is no match for the sheer force of creativity. Even under lockdown, myriad creatives have found ways to keep crafting, producing, and spawning art as a means of comfort and entertainment. And no, singing an off-key “Imagine” into your iPhone front camera doesn’t count. Instead, let’s tour eight made-in-quarantine works that truly take the distance out of social distancing.

01 | Charli XCX: How I’m Feeling Now

Forget knitting or doodling; for Charli XCX, a quarantine craft project (besides painting rocks) means writing and producing an entire record, tentatively titled How I’m Feeling Now, from scratch. “I’m only gonna be able to use the tools that I have at my fingertips to create all music, all artwork, all videos, everything,” the electro-pop artist announced on Twitter. And she’s delivered: “Forever,” the album’s first single is here, accompanied by a video made of clips sent in by her fans. In it are shots of open roads and beaches, but more so, quotidian scenes of lives spent indoors, as Charli sings, “I’ll love you forever / Even when we aren’t together.” Now, that’s the stuff quarantine diaries are made of, Madonna.

02 | Banksy’s Bathroom Art

What’s a street artist to do when his canvas is locked outside? Well, according to Banksy, he makes art anyway. Observe his latest tour de force, which features his signature rodents running amok in his bathroom. The work was unveiled on his Instagram account on April 15th with the wry caption, “My wife hates it when I work from home.” All of it is a typically cheeky comment on quarantine that coincidentally and unprecedentedly reveals more of the still-anonymous British artist than he probably expected to. “Imagine being a famous artist and this is where you live,” went a user comment, and another, “Wife?”

03 | Bono: “Let Your Love Be Known”

Trust Bono to jump in with the requisite ballad to bring us all together in one stadium-worthy, flame-bearing chorus. Dedicated to the Italians and healthcare workers, the U2 frontman’s “Let Your Love Be Known” is a paean that stares down the pandemic and social isolation with love and song. In a video recorded in his home in Dublin on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day, Bono croons to a poignant piano accompaniment, “Sing and you are never alone / Sing as an act of resistance / Sing though your heart is overthrown.” We’re not crying; you’re crying.

04 | David Hockney’s iPad Paintings

“Do Remember They Can’t Cancel The Spring” goes the title of one of David Hockney’s latest iPad drawings (which are literally that, works made on an Apple product). It’s an apt maxim for these strange times and an uplifting reminder that not everything goes away with a shutdown. Just behold the work itself: a cluster of yellow daffodils sprouting out of a green expanse, signifying life and renewal. Currently sheltering in Normandy, the British artist is working on more of these paintings on his trusty iPad, refusing to let the blossoming of this year’s spring go unobserved.  “We have lost touch with nature rather foolishly as we are a part of it,” he told the BBC, “not outside it.”

05 | Art on Animal Crossing

For obvious reasons, Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons, released in March, has become a hit among a world of gamers in the process of self-isolation. But the life simulation game has also become somewhat of a project for artists and designers who’ve been populating their virtual islands with museums, art, and Supreme hoodies. For one, installation artist Shing Yin Khor has recreated iconic works such as Barbara Kruger’s “Untitled” and Robert Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty” in her corner of the game. Notably, she restaged Marina Abramoviç’s “The Artist Is Present”, inviting other players to participate in the performance piece. Here, social distance is only a physical construct.

06 | How Can We Think of Art at a Time Like This?

Yes, art may not be everyone’s priority at a time like this. But for many, art is an equal outlet and salve, a tool for reflection and resistance under the most trying of circumstances. It’s why curators Barbara Pollack and Anne Verhallen launched this online exhibition that collects artist responses to the ongoing pandemic. Every day, a new piece is unveiled on the site, which so far, has arrayed works by Ai Weiwei, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Carlos Motta, Miao Ying, among others. Visitors are also encouraged to engage in its public forum because as Pollack put it, “This may be the new universal.” So how can we think of art at a time like this? As this exhibition illustrates, we do it together.

07 | Saturday Night Live at Home

America’s late-night show hosts may have lost their live audiences, but it appears, not their mojo even as they WFH. Ditto the comedy institution that is Saturday Night Live, the latest episode of which was crafted by a cast and crew working remotely. Still, it mined laughs from sketches on Zoom etiquette and Twitch streamers, a charmingly homemade Weekend Update, and an opening monologue by Tom Hanks, one of the first celebrities to be diagnosed with Covid-19. An inventive and experimental exercise, the episode made play out of SNL’s usual form and format, distance be damned. None of it was live, but it sure was kicking,

08 | Between Art and Quarantine

Hey, you’re not the only one bored at home. Visit the Dutch Instagram account Tussen Kunst & Quarantaine and you’ll find that everyone’s pretty much idle—but making the best of it. The art history project has invited folk everywhere to restage classical artworks using only the objects and people they can find in their households. Cue imaginative remakes—constructed with pillows, rubber gloves, lettuce leaves, young children, and of course, rolls of toilet paper—that capture and conquer the realities of life amid a pandemic. Quarantine may bind us for the moment, but as these posts remind us, art has always been doing so.

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