The Art of Isolation

Sunaparanta – Goa Centre for the Arts, Altinho recently launched an online series ‘Surviving SQ (Self Quarantine)’ inviting artists to share creative strategies of survival.

Christine Machado | NT

For many, this long-drawn lockdown has mea0nt hours of boredom, restlessness, anxiety, and uncertainty. However, for artists, isolation is not a new concept. Indeed, many are known to go off on their own, away from the crowd and the noise, to get in touch with themselves, and to create better. And indeed, perhaps, the rest of us could learn a tip or two from them?

It is with this thought process in mind that in late March, a little prior to the imposition of the Janata Curfew, that Sunaparanta – Goa Centre for the Arts, Altinho, decided to launch a new online series of sorts titled ‘Surviving SQ (Self Quarantine)’. “The team along with our patron Isheta Salgaocar were brainstorming on ideas on how to stay connected with our audiences given that by March 20, many had already begun to self-isolate,” says curator and programme director, Leandre D’Souza.

And given that artists are at their creative best when they are in isolation, they decided to try and reach out to them (both in India and abroad). “The idea was to identify their coping mechanisms and how we as non-artists can cope with this lockdown,” says D’Souza. At the same time, “this could also encourage a more participatory, thought-provoking and introspective dialogue”.

On March 23, they put out an open call inviting artists to share creative strategies of survival be it through contributions like sketches, article links, playlists, books to read, project ideas, videos, poems, etc.

Since then, they have been receiving a variety of submissions like paintings that imagine landscapes without human presence; videos that critique public gestures of solidarity; messages of hope through poetry recitations of Richard Hendrick’s seminal poem ‘Lockdown’, etc

Some artists have also chosen to begin their own projects through this platform, as a response to the current social situation around us.

These include Pallavi Paul’s interesting ongoing work titled ‘Share Your Quiet’. In this work, people are invited to share a 10-second sound bite of their silence. The recordings are then collated and streamed on Sunaparanta’s online platform, every Monday, as a symphony of silence. And submissions have poured in from people as far off as Norway, Serbia and Japan too.

Another engrossing work is ‘Lonely Residents’ by Kedar Dhondu in which he has begun a study of people adjusting and adapting to life indoors. Those who wish to participate are invited to send the artist a frontal portrait of themselves in the spaces they are inhabiting along with a note on how they are passing their time. Once received, these are transformed into pencil drawings on paper.

On Thursday, April 9, a new project titled ‘The virus in the air, is abstract’, notes from ‘Spring in Curfew, Sounds in Spring’ by Tanya Goel will go live. “This series of videos will look at abstract people in nature and go back to the idea of romanticism,” shares D’Souza, adding that the project aims at portraying the subliminal in nature and its overwhelming presence.