Rewind 15 months to February 2020, where ‘Covid-19 Pandemic’ headlines were read, heard, and seen worldwide. Confusion brought a sense of familiarity, as society continually questioned why was our freedom being minimised?
15 months ago, the why was unanswerable. Now it is simple. Coronavirus. 11 letters, but with the capability to cause millions of deaths. It spread globally, holding no sympathy for the locations it claimed. With no other choice, communities were placed into lockdown in a bid to stop the spread—our most basic freedoms in turmoil.
Although separated by distance, the world never felt more connected. We all faced the same threats. The same adversity. All grieving. We learnt togetherness, even when pushed apart. How to stand united from afar. Which made me question, will we be capable of reverting to pre-covid methods? Or have we become so comfortable with life behind doors, behind screens, that humanity will face failure in physical connection.
The appreciation of what we once had was a growing emotion, as the pandemic limited what was deemed endless. Even the encounters with our outside environment were numbered. When all seemed hopeless, the trying winter of 2021 brought optimism when over 34 million people had a first dose of the vaccine and more than 14 million had the second dose (BBC News, 2021).
Normality was now far greater than an idealised notion. What we missed the most now touchable. This exhibition will explore the privileges grieved by most and the emotions evoked.
Exhibit 1: Holidays
Holidays are the prime beginnings of the greatest stories. As the months went by, I realised this with vacations seemingly impossible and an empty cache of tales to tell.
Vacations, by popular opinion, are thought to be a form of escapism, where people attempt to outrun the realms of reality. But in the absence of travel, I realised this was untrue. Holidays serve as the greatest passageway to connect with the deepest realities. To become aware of the earth’s beauty, we forget to appreciate each morning, afternoon, and night.
With home now, nothing but a forced comfort, the simple complexity of nature emphasised the liberties I once took for granted. The simple smell of sun cream. The traffic of suitcases. Monotone “please fasten your seatbelts,” followed by “please prepare for landing. The endless silence and repeating house walls served as a stark reminder of the missing cultural diversity, unable to fulfil my growing desire for a life outside of “stay home, save lives.”
Sitting inside, freedom removed and plane tickets on hold, I couldn’t help but wonder when the next tale will be ready to tell?
Exhibit 2: Partying
“Mum, two shots of tequila” I say as she pours another glass of water. She added a slice of lime for good measure and pointed to the salt should I want it. Not quite comparable to previous tequila encounters, but options are increasingly limited.
Nine months of lockdown and the anticipation for crowded dance floors, slow bar service, and a long Uber home grows uncontrollably. It is laughable that the bitter headaches and gnawing guilt started to feel like nothing but a privilege.
Flashing lights were now replaced by flickering TV screens. Club bouncers morphed into police officers, stalking the roads. Dresses switched for dressing gowns. Heels for socks. Club entry costs replaced by fines, should you not conform to “2 meters distance please.”
Parties are now experienced through 60-second TikTok videos, as society strives to find any sense of thrill, reminiscing on days where a single or double shot was our biggest concern. As headaches stemmed from growing screen times, rather than one drink too many, the craving for an event outside of 65 Belmount Avenue was intensifying.
Exhibit 3: Gyms
Gyms are a place where everyone becomes an architect. To craft and design your own body. To push your physical ability and mental capacity. Successful day? Gym. Busy day? Gym hard. Bad day? Gym harder. A place where weights become the best therapist and sweat becomes a trophy of achievement.
Weight was no longer the dumbbells sitting in a line but what was sitting upon my shoulders as freedom diminished and restriction flourished. Constantly pulling me down, drowning any ounce of motivation. But with so much weight on my shoulders, why did they remain so small?
The feeling of failure was growing, and the main remedy? Gyms. As gyms became symbolic of strength, and strength endures. If I were to endure the pandemic, I strove to come out stronger. How? Exercise, as it eliminates weakness. It drives pain, and pain is critical to transformation.
Perhaps it was my longing for gyms that allowed me to realise the importance of adaptability for humans. After all, how did the chimpanzee become the human? The pavements outside becoming my treadmill. Water bottles as dumbbells. The once rejected pink mat on my hardwood floors became a sign of hope, that if I can grow and develop, there are brighter times waiting ahead.
Exhibit 4: Museums
Pieces on the wall, statues standing tall, weapons feeling faint. The cries of pain, the shout of triumph, the silence of love. Each piece stoic, but the emotion fluid. Artefacts screaming their stories, shouting to be heard among the still silence of the museum walls. Some stories listened to; others ignored. Parts of the past remembered; others forgotten.
With times uncertain, normality appearing realms away, desperation to cling on to our roots heightens. I am looking for a sanctuary to communicate with the unreachable. To perhaps find comfort in their stories. Searching for reassurance on our future. A reminder of humanities strength. If those before me can survive and succeed, the generation of today will overcome the battles we face.
Museums are a point of mutual understanding. Where cultures, ethnicities and social classes come together. A place of human equality, as they are a sanctuary to pay homage to the challenges of the past. Where human interactions are none, and country disparity is painfully clear, I yearn for a place of understanding. For the beauty of a museum.
Exhibit 5: Friends
3 missed calls. 7 unread messages. 5 unopened snapchats. 2 WhatsApps. How many days since seeing my friends?
Like, comment, save. Three words to digital communication. Incomparable to the beautiful complexities seen in human emotion. A wave, a wink, a hug. To greet, to joke, and to comfort. Three of my favourite components of physical communication. Having the ability to give out neither of the listed three, the absence of friends grew deafening.
We are sprinting towards a digital era. But what if we all took a minute to stop and breath? To appreciate the power of a touch, kind words and an honest compliment. The familiar embrace of my closest friends. A Friday movie night. Late-night drives. None of which can be experienced via an electronic screen.
The days were moving fast, but I remained stagnant—an empty diary proving more haunting than the echoing BBC headlines. I longed for drinks at 8, and a picnic in the park, rather than FaceTime calls, and 40 minutes on Zoom. A doorbell rather than my ringtone. Technology had become our only redemption of friendship. Choice is nothing but a distant memory.
Lockdown supported the flourishing of virtual connection but neglected the importance of physical interaction. With unopened notifications growing, loneliness filled the mundane days.
Activity: Find the words below relating to COVID-19 and the Post-Pandemic World.
The Visual and Data Journalism Team, 2021. Covid vaccine: How many people in the UK have been vaccinated so far? Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-55274833 [Accessed April 30, 2021].