Artists on Coping: Barak Chamo

During the coronavirus pandemic, Art Spiel is reaching out to artists to learn how they are coping.

Sunset, 2019, light painting

Barak Chamo’s work explores the limits of perception, what is seen and unseen by the human system, and how its vulnerabilities are laid bare by interaction with technology in an accelerating feedback loop. His research-based practice employs light, video and kinetic sculptures to create intimate subjective spaces that recognize these limits inspire a shift in perspective.

He was a resident at MASS MoCA’s Studio program and HoloCenter and was awarded the IDFA Immersive Non-Fiction Award and Special Jury Award for Creative Technology. His work was recently featured at Currents New Media, Fresh Paint Art Fair, Lightbox, Museum of the Moving Image and other international exhibitions.

AS: How are you coping?

BC: It’s been a challenging period of adjustment both personally and professionally. I opened in early March a solo exhibition at a ChaShama venue in W 23rd Street, New York City, just as the virus was beginning to spread globally and first cases were reported in the city. And as New York became an epicenter of the pandemic, I had to quickly adapt to the shifting circumstances. I didn’t want to put my colleagues or audience at risk, so early on I decided to transition the exhibition to a window format and held a walkthrough of the works online.

As an artist and immigrant I’m worried about the future impact of this prolonged disruption but right now, both me and my partner are just trying to keep our spirits up. I check in with my family and friends daily and it helps in supporting each other while practicing responsible social distancing.

Subjective Structures, 2020, dichroic sculpture

AS: Has your routine changed?

BC: My work hasn’t changed much since I was able to rescue most of my equipment from my studio and take over a corner of the living room, but adjusting to being home all day and focusing on work has been challenging. Now that days have turned into weeks that may turn into months, I’m trying to find balance in my day to keep a momentum without overworking myself. I would say that having a proper kitchen right here definitely improved my diet, and prompted me to reconsider my other daily habits and lifestyle.

Split Screen, 2020, Video sculpture

AS: Can you describe some of your feelings about all this?

BC: I’m worried for my family and my friends around the world and frustrated with how governments are failing to respond to the urgency of the moment and the damage that is caused as a result. This pandemic is changing the world in ways that will only unfold once this immediate crisis is over, and I hope that this time of reckoning will prompt a true reconsideration of our relationship with the natural world and our social values – I believe art will play a critical role in facilitating this conversation.

Shanghai, 2020, Light painting

AS: What matters most right now?

BC: Doing my part, staying home and healthy, checking in with my loved ones and trying to keep positive and spend my time learning and making as always. We’re all in this together, both as people and as artists, and supporting each other makes a big difference. I’m so glad to have seen and taken part in so many initiatives that were quick to respond to the needs and difficulties of being an artist at a time like this.

Seen at a Distance, 2020, kinetic light painting

AS: Any thoughts about the road ahead?

BC: I’m looking forward to getting back in the studio when it’s safe and rebuilding my routine, but I’m also thinking daily about what matters to me most and what part of this all-encompassing pandemic. I’m lucky to only suffer minor inconvenience and find the time to reflect on the road ahead.

Sending all fellow artists my best wishes of good health and great art in the future!

Scramble, 2020, light sculpture