Created via an open call during the initial days of the epidemic, The Great Leveller seeks to document the experience of artistic responses to Covid-19. The title refers to a phrase used by the government to suggest that we are all in its together, a view which has been discounted, publicly by Emily Maitlis and others, but also by the cold facts that the majority of deaths have been seen in the old, vulnerable, those in low waged work, BAME community and so called ‘front line’ of those working in the NHS.
Using the virtual platform Artsteps, we can move around the exhibition by ourselves, or take the curator tour. Many of the works have written or spoken information from the artists. The exhibition moves through a progression of exploring feelings and responses to the crises, to a hopeful view.
The first room, titled ‘Fear’ shows images that reflect the feelings generated by the lack of clear information, and the weaponising of the things that we took for granted, behaviour such as touching someone you love, going to the shops, speaking to your neighbours. And that we ourselves could be dangerous. Sal Jones eloquently portrays the feeling of being a still in a dystopian film, feeling like we don’t know what terrible thing will happen next.
Yoo Kyung Shin’s facemask presents the disconnect and fear that preoccupies – and continues to in the face of a lack of clarity from the government – about how we should be behaving and what steps we should take in these frightening times.
Room 2, Loss, explores life under isolation, how the ‘new normal’ has affected communities and individuals. Sweet ‘Art have used a different colour on the walls and made the room smaller to add to the feeling of how our worlds have shrank during the lockdown. Another work here by Sal Jones which presents a pyschological snapshot of how isolation can affect those who live alone while portrait photographer Neeq Serene’s pictures of hands resonate, encompassing themes of separation, compassion, loved ones and distance.
In Room 3, we move to a more positive outlook on what a new future might look like, and some activities (dancing, video calling) that might continue as the lockdown eases. There’s smiling faces and the idea of community persists, alongside collaboration in the humorous depiction of collaboration in the piece, Exquisite Corpse, with the artists Diogo Duarte and Jessica Mitchell playing the Surrealist’s favourite game, through the post, and Sabina Fuller’s sound piece, which invites the viewer to become part of the work. You can take part in this ongoing piece of sound recording by visiting this link.
The Great Leveller? continues online until 7 June 2020.
Find out more about Sweet ‘Art here.