(On)line healing in a time of quarantine: In discussion with Art Dubai’s Marina Fokidis

Portrait of Marina Fokidis. Photography by Irene Vourloumi. Image courtesy of Marina Fokidis.
Bahar Noorizadeh, During Japan Tsunami a Strange Creature Was Caught on Camera, 2015, desktop-lecture-performance. Image courtesy of the artist.
Imaad Majeed, Please share my self care, 2020, video performance. Image courtesy of the artist.
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Zhang Jian-Jun Human Traces

Given the adverse social impact of living in these uncertain times, healing has never been more necessary. Art Dubai’s Performance Programme curator Marina Fokidis talks about exploring this focus for the fair this year—which has since been recalibrated into online content.

TEXT: Reena Devi
IMAGES: Courtesy of various

 

Even before the world was hit by global pandemic COVID-19, most people were desperately in need of healing, at least on a societal level. The rampant online hashtags of #selfcare along with meditation classes and apps proved there was a real appetite to feel healed on a fundamental level. Today, as we deal with restrictions to our movements, isolation and a major public health risk, the notion of healing as individuals and a society has never been more urgent.

Speaking with CoBo Social on email, Athens-based curator Marina Fokidis explained that a year and a half ago, when she conceived the performance program for Art Dubai 2020, she came up with the idea of exploring healing as an act of togetherness and art. Little did she know how much more relevant this theme would become.

 

Portrait of Marina Fokidis. Photography by Irene Vourloumi. Image courtesy of Marina Fokidis.

 

Following the postponement of the art fair and the recalibration of its programmes into online content, Fokidis who was appointed head of the Artistic Office in Athens for documenta 14 (2017), chose to present the performance art programme for Art Dubai as an online video showcase titled (On)line Healing. Launched on 23 March, this platform comprises a website page with performance videos by participating artists Bahar Noorizadeh (Iran), Angelo Plessas (Greece), Tabita Rezaire (French Guyana), Tiago Sant’Ana (Brazil) and Imaad Majeed (Sri Lanka).

This website aims to function as an virtual restorative space of performative artist contributions, addressing the topic of healing as an (online) art form—something that is becoming incredibly vital as many of us who are currently forced into physical separation and isolation in the time of this pandemic. The performance art programme hopes to create a medicinal space where unexpected relationships can give way for a collective therapy to exist.

One of the more intriguing videos on the website is by millennial Iranian filmmaker, writer, and visual artist Bahar Noorizadeh. Her work, which has appeared in the Tate Modern Artists’ Cinema Program and Transmediale Festival, looks at the “intersections of finance, Contemporary Art and emerging technology,” precipitating “a cross-disciplinary approach to economic futurism and post-financialization imaginaries.”

For (On)line Healing, Noorizadeh presents During Japan Tsunami a Strange Creature was Caught on Camera (2015), a desktop-lecture-performance featuring surrealistic, seemingly visually damaged imagery.

Inspired by Iranian and US geopolitics concerning the southern and northern regions of Iran including the Tabas desert, “the computer screen is treated as a form of desert, where acts of excavation and inhumation of narratives could render possible.”

 

Bahar Noorizadeh, During Japan Tsunami a Strange Creature Was Caught on Camera, 2015, desktop-lecture-performance. Image courtesy of the artist.

 

Young Sri Lankan poet and performance artist Imaad Majeed, on the other hand, presents an incisive take on contemporary society’s predilection for seeking self-care on the least healing platforms such as social media, in this case, Tik Tok. Please share my self care (2020) explores meme and ritual, “set against the escalating planetary trauma of COVID-19, as each iteration of the ritual responds to graver circumstances.”

 

Imaad Majeed, Please share my self care, 2020, video performance. Image courtesy of the artist.

 

Fokidis’ original choice was to present the performance art component of Art Dubai in two parts: on-site at the fair and online.

“Back then, this idea came from a wish to symbolically democratize further the context of art fairs at large and give access to people that could not physically attend. The online section was also a curatorial experiment to enlarge the ‘corporeal’ in ways that go beyond budget restrictions and also take into consideration the lessening of air travel,” Fokidis said.

Given the current state of the world, she pointed out that the online should be now taken seriously “as if it is our space of coexistence and we should develop and present serious practices, very carefully thought out and curated.”

However, for the moment, Fokidis noted the opportunities and the funding are missing for such projects as cultural agents face a high level of uncertainty.

“Culture is one of the sectors that is most severely hit by the pandemic—the biggest problem is the practical. How artists and all cultural agents are going to eat? How they would physically survive? Also, how the culture will be disseminated to people that now need it more than ever.”

Fokidis remained convinced that arts and culture is the answer to finding our way in such turbulent times.

“Artists and cultural agents at large cultivate their sensitivity daily and very often their work reveals premonition for the future, not through a logical process but through an emotional one. There has been quite some time that artists form performative rituals for…healing…and this was, and is not, a coincidence. We should listen to them,” she said.

In a world quickly running out of options in learning to deal with uncertainty and risk, perhaps it would pay to heed her words and pay attention to what art and artists are telling us. Especially about notions as fundamental to our human existence as healing.

 

 

 

 
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