#StayHome: 20 Weeks of Gratitude, Week 13

Part 1: Livestreamed Concert

This week had been planned for months to be a special one at work, with the official launch of a pet project of mine on the occasion of The Feast of the Annunciation. Circumstances have complicated all plans, and yet, have also made this particular one even more relevant than I could have imagined. To express this strange transvaluation of all things in these self-isolating times, I want to share some of my favorite creative responses to COVID-19. I’ll say more about how that connects to what I’d been planning later.

First up: Dubioza Kolektiv, an eclectic rock band from Bosnia & Herzegovina, who will stream their first Quarantine Show on YouTube in a couple hours. Check them out every Monday at 8:30 pm CET / 12:30 pm local time in #Seattle.

“Stay connected and disinfected!”

Part 2: Curated Content

SOL(idarity) TV is a Seattle-based initiative from the same folks who organized the Storytelling Strategies for Dismantling Racism workshop I went to some time ago. It’s POC-focused and described as “a platform for escape and engagement—a space to create and share content from the solitude of quarantine, self-imposed, or otherwise.”

I’m not entirely sure what to expect from the project on the 30th, but the Facebook group has grown exponentially in less than a week, spreading rapidly from a single email sent out to everyone who’s ever trained with NonWhiteWorks. That alone has been a fascinating window into this vibrant social graph.

Part 3: Meaningful Art Projects

Today @csideview will post her second “art under quarantine” lesson on “Something Meaningful,” a Facebook page she’d set up during her MFA many moons ago—a project I’ve had the privilege of seeing develop from the very start. It was a project that took inspiration from the therapeutic uses of art and spiraled outwards to explore the limits of the artist identity through the frustrating twists and turns of having that identity formed and challenged by the art academy; now, Christine’s work is meandering back to its freshwater sources.

Today is also the Feast of the Annunciation, which is one of those odd church occasions that recalls a Christmas story in the middle of spring. It’s the day we celebrate when Mary said “yes” to God, but I also like to think of it as a time to consider God’s communicative action itself. That’s why St. Gabriel the Archangel is the patron saint of communicators. And that’s why today I pray for everyone in that and other adjacent fields—the wordsmiths, the curriculum crafters, the tech supporters, the color coordinators—all who tend to that intangible glue of our social reality, without which, we’d be merely individual.

Check out Christine’s videos, express yourself, and while you’re at it, support a Seattle Artist by scrolling through her page to see what else she‘s been up to.

Part 4: FaceTime Portraits

I don’t know @johnkeatley and he certainly doesn’t need any promo from me, but I’m so impressed by the stoic beauty of his series of quarantine portraits through FaceTime.

Pulling off photography that crisp through a digital connection is impressive enough; using that to effectively and compellingly bring out the interplay between intimacy & isolation that so many of us are experiencing right now is even more so.

I don’t usually like portraiture, tbh. It demands too much, works too well. “The face is a politics,” one philosopher wrote, and its emotive power is just that: power—power to move, to manipulate, to set up hierarchies of difference. That’s why that same philosopher wanted to “dismantle the face.”

But it’s funny how a crisis puts things in perspective. The power of the face is like the tyranny of neighborliness or the despotism of strangers on the street stopping to say hello. It’s weird but we notice when it’s missing.

Check out John’s daily portraits and read the captions too. Give yourself permission to feel.

Part 5: Crowdsourced Zine

As many of you are already coming to realize, this time of fragmentation has created a great swell of reconnection and dialogue—I know this from my own conversations with friends and from the various projects I’ve been highlighting this week. One hope I have from all of this is that we remember the things we missed, so that we might come out of it all with renewed appreciation. Like how missing human touch might help us remember to be more tender. Or how missing social interaction might help us remember to never flake. I’ve seen the many outcries against looking for blessings in disguise, but that’s just polemic—it doesn’t matter how we operationalize what’s going on, it will still operate on us in ways that far exceed our intellectual parameters.

Today’s project is a simple but much-needed celebration of the tactile—@ravenscribbles is planning a globally-sourced zine of our locally-felt quarantine, and it’s open to all:

“Artist? Maybe an illustration, doodle, comic, or photograph. Writer? Have you got anything to say about what’s happening? Or, send me your best quarantine jokes. Perhaps an account of how things are going for you? Looking after your kids? Send in one of their drawings or stories!”

Deadline is April 11. Give Katie a shout.

Part 6: Online Radio

Ya Makan is a hub of “neighborhood” radios—from #Beirut, from Tunis, from Bethlehem—that came together to stream music online in response to life under quarantine. The one from Palestine is called Radio Al-Hara, and they have the strongest social media game at present—look them up on Facebook and see.

The thrill of tuning in to a creative cluster like this is self-evident, so I’ll use this opportunity to point to another initiative about to come into the mix: @ridersrightslb are planning a crowdfunding campaign to help financially-support around 15 bus drivers hit hard by the ban in Lebanon on public transport operations during COVID19. These transit workers are basically day laborers, with no government regulation or protection—informality has been a gap-filler wherever the state is absent, and so, mutual aid is a necessary response, now more than ever.

I’ll share more as I learn more. If you’re willing to help, get in touch with Riders Rights. And then, maybe just maybe, the guerrilla radios of Ya Makan can help boost the signal when the time is right.

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