My favourite mask right now is one that announces Not Going to Buenos Aires. (Let’s pause here and consider that a year ago, you’d be scratching your head, wondering what I really meant by my favourite mask. These days, wearing a mask in public is almost second nature – an essential item on the mental phone-keys-sunglasses list as we leave our homes.)
On occasion, it elicits comments like I wish I was going to Buenos Aires and I like your mask. It’s fun to explain that it’s the title of a group art show in which I am participating. If people seem interested, I pass them this postcard with all the show details.
Trish Shwart formulated the idea of this art show. The project was a great way to connect with other artists around a theme (longing, uncertainty, impossible dreams) that I find compelling, she says.
Mid-year 2020, and several months into the pandemic, Trish invited several artists in Victoria, BC to consider our participation. Her introductory proposal outlined possible themes:
Going to Buenos Aires In March (2020) my husband began talking about going to Buenos Aires. Even though he knew it was impossible to travel during a pandemic he was adamant we would go soon. Why not embrace this crazy idea, I thought. Imagine going somewhere green and beautiful. Buenos Aires began to be a fantasy stand-in for somewhere wonderful. It stood in total contrast to the reality of our covid society. I started to yearn for what it represented.
To help imagine more clearly what it would be like to be in Buenos Aires, I started doing some research and my imaginings were disrupted by some hard truths. Because of the pandemic, citizens of Buenos Aires are going hungry and becoming homeless. There are strikes and civil unrest. The economic disparities have grown and for many there is a great degree of economic and physical instability.
So what does it mean to be going to Buenos Aires? What we imagine. What we long for. What we think will bring positive change into our lives is not always simple. Can a yearning for green and beautiful exist alongside the difficulties of others? Is that in fact how we humans cope with challenges? By ignoring some aspects of it?
These images explore the dual nature of yearning. Of longing for the unattainable. And of considering how what we yearn for, long for, is not necessarily a reality.
I jumped at the opportunity to explore these themes. The pandemic gave me time – lots and lots and LOTS of time -to wish, dream and hope in the context of devastating world events. Examining the concepts of yearning and longing appealed to me. Trish provided us with vocabulary, a framework and deadlines (!) to process and express some of our losses as well as our dawning insights.
Over the course of a handful of mercifully efficient Zoom meetings, we distilled the theme and revised the title of the show.
Not Going to Buenos Aires
Six artists inquire into the complexity of yearning to be anywhere other than the ‘Here’ of a pandemic shutdown. From settling in to the gratifications of solitude to the restless urges for escape, and all points between, this show reflects their stories.
These stories show the diversity of their thoughts and feelings and will surely prompt viewers to consider their own responses to these restrictive times. If you’re not going to Buenos Aires, where are you going?
It’s fascinating to see the unique responses from each artist. Six different artists produce six different interpretations, although overlapping concerns emerge. Joanne Hewko says that Before the pandemic, I loved to plan trips and travel….the feeling of anticipation and discovery. I realized that travelling, especially by air, is a privileged activity that has consequences environmentally and culturally….it is something that I can no longer take for granted.
Trish notes that the pandemic created an ideal opportunity to reflect on how the environmental degradation that is the norm is beginning to shift how our world will be.
The pandemic has affirmed my conviction of the interdependence between humans and the natural world. It’s a deadly example of the connection of the micro to the macro in all things.
We’ll talk more about the artists’ ideas and experiences in future posts. In the meantime, if you’re interested in more images, and reading our artist statements, you can visit the Not Going to Buenos Aires website.
In one week you can visit us in person, too. ( Covid protocols in place, of course.) Let us know where you aren’t going – just yet.