Today starts the 3rd week of staggered isolation & social distancing measures imposed for addressing COVID-19, which also affected Universities and research teams. As other PIs around the world, I had to think how the ART/DATA/HEALTH project could adjust to the new reality of the COVID-19 crisis. The ART/DATA/HEALTH project aims to work with communities and citizens to build their digital and data science skills in order to understand large amounts of data – and the way we do this is through creativity and the arts. But plans to run workshops with the project’s key partners and stakeholders were cancelled, while the Brighton Fringe Festival has been postponed until October 2020.
Inevitably we have moved to an extended period of working remotely, in order to realise the vision of the project, which is to benefit communities digest health and wellbeing data through arts and creativity. I have commissioned three artists for the ART/DATA/HEALTH project and they have all now shifted their practice and focus in order to adjust and respond to the issues emerging from the COVID-19 everyday practices and materialities:
- The bio-artist, Anna Dumitriu, was initially commissioned to explore domestic violence issues in consultation with the local charity RISE. She has now shifted her focus to also take into account data on the effect of quarantine and self-isolation due to COVID-19 on women (RISE is a Sussex-based charity that supports people affected by domestic abuse and violence. RISE stands for Refuge, Information, Support and Education). Beyond the impact of COVID-19 related measures on women in general and the reported rise in cases of domestic abuse, my collaboration with RISE has aimed to give voice to the experiences of staff. The impact of isolation due to COVID-19 on the wellbeing of charity workers who support survivors of domestic abuse is hence a key research interest for my work in the ART/DATA/HEALTH project. To explore these experiences, feelings and emotions around social distancing and staying at home during this challenging time, Anna and I will be sending art kits to RISE staff, which they can use remotely.
- The local community artist Ian Leaver was initially commission to co-facilitate the workshop Staying Healthy in Whitehawk earlier this month, and to co-produce, with local residents, an mural at Wellsbourne Healthcare CIC in Whitehawk. My collaboration with the Wellsbourne is aimed at understanding barriers to access the health services for citizens who live in an area of multiple deprivation. The workshops at the Whitehawk Library planned for earlier this month got cancelled, so Ian and I have been thinking of ways to continue the work, to connect with the community, and offer an opportunity to East Brighton residents to take part in an art project, while they record a daily diary. We are inviting people who live in East Brighton and belong in a sensitive group, or are in isolation to engage in a creative project.
The idea is simple: For 14 days or more, participants will track their symptoms, or other activity in relation to your health (for example medication, sleep, anxiety etc). You can use drawing, photo, audio, or write a brief blog to record your daily diary. Ian will then use these diary data to create an artwork that will be permanently exhibited at Wellsbourne Healthcare CIC in Whitehawk. To explain how people can take part in the project we are offering the free online workshop, ART IN ISOLATION which will take place on Wednesday 8th April, 2-3pm. Ian Leaver-Blaxstone and I (Aristea Fotopoulou) will take you through the 14-day art challenge, and will discuss your ideas.
- Oddly enough, I originally commissioned VR artist Kate Genevieve to explore the emotional and embodied aspects of connection and isolation, before the COVID-19 crisis. Now her work is even more relevant. Although Kate was lucky enough to connect with workshop participants (staff from various local charity organisations) in real life, and in a physical space (at the Phoenix Art Space in February), she will also be sending out instructions for an arts and crafts activity to participants, as we are working with the loneliness and befriending charity Together Co.