The Art of Isolation


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As I’m writing this, one-fifth of the world’s population are under lockdown; with the streets of once sleepless cities now eerily bereft of the vibrant life that once pulsed through it’s veins.

Here in London the museums and galleries have closed to the public until further notice, and the exhibitions and attractions that had drawn people in their thousands daily are now out of reach… or so it may seem. It turns out that this has not dissuaded nor deterred those in the arts from rehashing new and creative ways to connect with their audience. Now, a good number of museums and spaces are finding a way to bring the gallery to you.

We thought it might be a nice idea to compile a list of these galleries and arts institutions that are thinking outside of the box; with live performances, exhibitions, films, news bulletins, interactive feeds and much more to keep us connected and engaged in our isolation.

TATE Modern has launched it’s BMW TATE Live Exhibition on their website, beginning with an online-only performance from Congolese choreographer and dance artist, Faustin Linyekula in the Tanks at TATE Modern.

This hour-long autobiographical piece, performed alongside dancers Okwui Okpokwasili and Tanya Lukin Linklater, was cut short when the gallery was forced to close it’s four sites due to the current situation. Not willing to let that setback hamper the hard work they had put in to produce such a piece, the creative team agreed to record on site despite limitations and restrictions, opting to post the staged performance instead on the gallery’s channels for free. 

The National Portrait Gallery is working to provide a wealth of online content relating to it’s exhibitions (both past and present) which can be viewed on their website and social media channels.  One can expect a series of new film interviews with Robin Muir, editor at Vogue and curator of Cecil Beaton’s Bright Young Things (read the Chrom-Art article on this exhibition here).

Keep a lookout in the coming weeks for the NPG to provide everything from curator blogs, social media takeovers and filmed interviews, as well as revisiting some of their most popular gallery and exhibition tours, plus behind the scenes films from their extensive archive. 

‘We are prioritising how to connect people with the arts and each other during these unsettling times’.

– Sir Nicholas Kenyon (Managing Director at Barbican)

For those that may not already be familiar with the treasure trove of readily accessible high-quality digital content upon Barbican’s online platform, there is definitely a wealth of inspiring material to read, watch or listen for free. Beginning this April, and rolling out daily via their social channels will be a curated mix of digital content encompassing everything from visual arts and music, showcasing some of the broad range of artists that Barbican has had the pleasure of collaborating with. You can keep up to date with all of this here

In similar fashion, Saatchi is launching an education initiative, which will be inviting lecturers and artists to hold discussions and panels with live audiences.

They have just launched their digital initiative #SaatchiTakeover as a way to engage and encourage creativity in those cooped-up indoors.‘Shadows’, their first theme was unveiled last week; inspired by Belgian artist Vincent Bl, and they plan to hold more of these in the coming weeks. For those that want a more immersive experience of being inside the gallery they have uploaded a Youtube channel, featuring virtual tours of past exhibitions that you can find here

As I’m writing this, one-fifth of the world’s population are under lockdown; with the streets of once sleepless cities now eerily bereft of the vibrant life that once pulsed through it’s veins.

Over at the ICA, you can find everything from new recommendations of what to watch, listen or read, via ICA Daily; a newsfeed email compiled by various members of the curatorial team, with special contributions from ICA artists and friends alike. For those interested, you can sign up to keep informed here. You can catch up on all the previous news via the archives section on their webpage. As this situation is constantly evolving, the ICA says watch this space; as they are working on other ways to inspire and engage. 

Tune in to Whitechapel Gallery’s online channel now to watch Rhea Storr’s ‘Junkanoo Talk’ (2017)

Just as eager to move quickly and extend their reach to the public has been Whitechapel Gallery; who, in light of the current situation and it’s temporary closure, has launched a film-focused initiative of their very own. They have turned their Whitechapel Gallery Blog into a vibrant melange of work with moving images, new curatorial texts and audio recordings which boasts a catalogue of some of the brightest and most talented creatives active today.

On their website one can look forward to seeing weekly film screenings provided by the collaborative Artist’s Film International (AFI) project; with a selection of full-length video and animation hand-picked by a conglomeration of 20 global institutions. Although primarily these formed as part of a series of physical screenings, the films have been made available (many for the first time) online.

With an eclectic mix of culturally diverse work on offer, it’s well-worth keeping informed with all the exciting and exclusive stuff that Whitechapel Gallery has on offer. You can learn more about this, or view these films here

I can announce too that Now Play This, London’s leading experimental games festival held at Somerset House will be launching Now Play This at Home; a digital version of the festival which will run from 3-5 April, and aims to bring people together online through a variety of activities and live events. Check their webpage for more information as it develops, as organisers work to bring projected events from their cultural programme over to online platforms.

Time Out London has certainly not taken this whole self-isolating business as an excuse to be idle; with a wealth of informative articles on their arts page dedicated to keeping us connected and engaged with a couple of wonderfully inspiring pieces on the arts. An honourable mention would have to go to their online exhibition ‘Alfred Cohen: An American Artist in Europe’, of which the physical show (being 20 years in the making) and scheduled for Bush House at King’s College was prematurely terminated after being open for less than 24 hours.

Co-curated by the artist’s stepson Max Saunders with help from his 90-year old widow, Diana Cohen, this very personal project aimed to highlight the various paintings and bodies of work that showed Alfred Cohen’s transition from his early life in Chicago, his relocation after the 2nd World War to Paris, and finally his permanent home in Britain, with some particularly prophetic and eery images of London and the Thames depicted as empty and void of life. You can see most of this exhibition online via their online platforms.   

‘Confrontation Bergamesque’, 1963 Alfred Cohen © The Artist’s Estate.

Written by Sonny Arifien for Privilege of Legends

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