During the Coronavirus pandemic, Art Spiel is reaching out to artists to learn how they are coping.
Levan Mindiashvili is a Georgian born, Brooklyn based visual artist. He creates immersive modular installations that deal with fluidity as a current state of being and explores the shifting conditions of canonical truths regarding identity, language, and history. He is interested in expanding possibilities of contemporary cultural production, and by juxtaposing traditional art-making with social practices such as dinners and raves, his goal is to expand the outreach and create more inclusive experiences.
AS: How are you coping?
LM: Before answering this question, I double-checked the meaning of “coping,” and google’s suggestion was “to deal effectively or successfully with something difficult.” Honestly, I don’t think I’m succeeding in any of this. In the first days of the self-imposed quarantine, like many of our friends, I was somewhat “excited” to slow down. And even though two of my upcoming exhibitions were postponed indefinitely, I was thinking to re- focus, to “use this opportunity” to learn something new, to create without the pressure of having to show it publicly, to read the pile of books waiting for me for over months, to spend more time reconnecting with people through digital means.
But very, very soon, all these “opportunities” started to feel more like a pressure, yet another “expectation” of being “successful” and “efficient”. The only thing I can think of right now, are the people dear to me, who have all the symptoms but are not accepted to the hospitals due to lack of severe symptoms, and are left at the mercy of their own immune systems; people who are already in the hospitals but there are not enough resources available to help them; people who are tirelessly working 24/7 to alleviate the current situation.
Also, I’m worried about my parents in Georgia, who are a direct target for the virus because of their age and shattered health. And my sister, who lives with them and is going to work every day because her boss puts her greed over the lives and well-being of her employees (sounds familiar?). And I can’t stop thinking of the extremely precarious and uncertain financial situation of mine and almost every friend working in the creative fields.
AS: Has your routine changed?
LM: I find myself on total ”freeze” and can’t even remember what my routine was. I have waves of inspiration and motivation, especially when I read something, or mostly when I have a meaningful phone conversation, but it fades away pretty quickly. It took me more than a week to respond to these questions. I’m trying to be more present in this very moment of “today” and do one thing at a time. It might sound very ironic, but the project I intended to develop throughout 2020 was titled “Levani’s Room,” where my room is a metaphor of my own history and experiences through which I was going to address current issues and concerns. Now, as I’ll be spending all my time here, I’m rethinking how I’ll develop and present this project. All of a sudden, it became more urgent, and maybe even more “real” to me.
AS: Can you describe some of your feelings about all this?
LM: I can’t really say what I feel about all this as everything changes hourly, and I have this massive turmoil of feelings. But I could definitely relate what I think, as my thoughts come from an attempt to see everything in a bigger picture. I find it interesting and worth further thinking that the virus isn’t a living organism but a small protein molecule covered by a protective layer of fat which mutates and gets aggressive once it settles in its host cell, but the reason for death is our own immune system. Due to the amount of “fake” cells produced by the virus, our immune system enters a “state of shock”, unable to recognize our own cells from the ones reproduced by the virus, attacking them both equally. The danger is not somewhere outside, but within the systems we have built and to which we handed over the power. If there’s something we should be rethinking in these times of introspection, it is precisely these systems of power and whether they protect and serve us anymore.
Let’s not look at this as the end of the world, but more like a break up of an abusive relationship, where our needs, dreams, and desires were in the hands of the narcissistic, egocentric greed. Maybe it’s a time to regain responsibilities over ourselves again. But as every break-up, this one is also inevitably accompanied by a sense of loss. And it’s OK to grieve right now. It’s OK not to be productive or extraordinarily creative. It’s OK to just be sad and not to want to dance in front of the laptop, or just to be a “downer.” We all have to accept the fact that there are no “right” or “wrong” ways of dealing with it, but the only one – our own – and we will find what that is as time passes.
AS: What matters most right now?
LM: To understand that this is not the end of the world, nor a temporary inconvenience. This is an inevitable change towards a more conscious, aware, and responsible society. And all these conditions shouldn’t be perceived as obligations or pressure – but as means and tools of power to build the world we want to live in. The world pandemic once again proved our interconnectedness and interdependence. That any action in the most remote place of the planet might have a massive wave of consequences. Every person should decide what role they take in it. We have to be very kind toward ourselves and those in close proximity to us, and understand that giving and sharing is part of growing and receiving.
.AS: Any thoughts about the road ahead?
LM: Well, no matter how long this situation will last, we have elections ahead, and now is the time to make decisions wisely. The way out from this crisis, the future of millions of people and of the country itself, will depend on the candidate we will hand the power and our trust. I would stop for a second and take a close look at who to vote in and would pay attention to what they promise. If our main priority is the well-being of every American (and by American, I mean every person who lives in the United States and tirelessly contributes to its economic or cultural diversity and wealth), if we want a more just system that offers equal opportunities to everyone, where the power is not only a privilege but also a responsibility and a way of care, than I think the choices are pretty narrow, I would say even singular. That is my only hope right now. We have a major work ahead of us, the one that is for books for sure.
Etty Yaniv works on her art, art writing and curatorial projects in Brooklyn. She founded Art Spiel as a platform for highlighting the work of contemporary artists, including art reviews, studio visits, interviews with artists, curators, and gallerists. For more details contact by Email: firstname.lastname@example.org