a social distancing exhibition on Popwalk

Many of my friends who teach at universities all over the country are sitting at home wondering how to translate their very social work into something that can happen over a vicarious connection of wires, websites, and zoom video. Perhaps we collectively saw this coming. Maybe it came from out of nowhere. But we are now faced with the need to rethink our daily interactions with those around us. Some of these changes might be welcome, or even exciting, but the human race is a species that remains healthy through interaction. Generally, we do not fair well in a social vacuum for a long time. 

Carolyn Cannuscio, the director of research at the Center for Public Health Initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania said, of our current situation, “ I think it’s a hard time because many of the recommendations we’re making are about increasing the distance between people, but of course, being close to people is what makes life a pleasure.” 

For these reasons, we are organizing a Popwalk exhibition that takes the pulse of our emotions and thoughts on this situation. This exhibition will challenge artists to think of ways to address the idea of social distancing, using Popwalk. Here is the curatorial statement:

We have all been asked to distance ourselves from our neighbors to stem the tide of Covid-19. This is not a natural state for human beings. Community is written into our DNA, and this makes the current situation difficult for many people. There are many who, for medical or other reasons, already need to be isolated from their community.  The act of cutting off individuals from a community is a punishment that has a long history and still continues in both official and unofficial ways. In our current situation, this distancing can be seen as a necessary social tool, an individual act of community service, or even a gesture of generosity to others who may be more vulnerable. For this exhibition, artists will address the idea of social distancing, isolation, and community. The works will be exhibited on-site through the Popwalk smartphone application. Participants will be able to access the video artworks, but only when they have arrived at the location intended for the exhibition of the video. The exhibition will attempt to fill the space of the city with answers to the questions: what does isolation feels like? How do we come together when we are physically apart? What does the space of our distancing mean to us as a culture? How can any place link us to our community?

Popwalk is an exhibition format for video and audio works of art. For this exhibition, that might be a video of a site-specific performance, an animation, a work of music or spoken word, or many other kinds of work.

The works for this exhibition should connect artistically, conceptually, or philosophically to the spaces in which they are exhibited. Do you want to choose a public square that has been filled with people until just last week, and now stands relatively empty? Do you want to exhibit your work from a lonely hill that overlooks your town? What does the space tell you about what it means to be human around (or not around) other humans? 

Our hope is that, as we are able to move throughout our cities and towns, we will be able to access these works, and feel a little less alone. Perhaps these works can act as a monument to the collective care that was manifest through staying at home. Perhaps they will speak more about the fear of our time. Hopefully they will do all of this.  

Do you have an idea for a work that would fit into this exhibition? Comment on this post. Do you know a place that would be ideal for a work in this exhibition? Let us know. Do you have a work that you want to submit? Go to http://www.popwalkapp.com and submit it!

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