Currently open at Bryn Oh’s Immersiva is Social Distancing, a join installation by Bryn and Cica Ghost. The title should immediately give away the theme of the installation.
I confess that in its current application around the world, I find the term “social distancing” an odd choice. In an era when social media has all but taken over our lives and allow many to say in contact half-way across the globe whilst often remaining distanced from those immediately around them, the idea of “social distancing” is perhaps something of a non-sequitur; as the SARS-CoV-2 virus relies on close physical proximity one to another, it’s seemed to me a more apt term for the phenomena we’ve seen sine February (in the west – earlier in places like the far east) should perhaps be “physical distancing”.
Anyway, semantics aside, this cosy – in terms of size – installation offers a broad take on social / physical distancing and its impact it has had on us. Within a watery, overgrown garden environment surrounded on three sides by great concrete walls (the state of the garden and the high walls themselves possible metaphors).
A rough path winds through the overgrown landscape, offering a path to various vignettes signifying the state and anxieties of people and society. A man sits at the window of his house, the room behind him stacked with toilet rolls and he has a pair of binoculars in hand as he looks towards his mailbox. The flag is up and letters lie within, but he appears too worried to make the trip out to collect them. Further along the zig-zagging path, a couple sit on a boat – but at opposite ends, unable to express themselves more intimately to one another by holding hands or simply sitting side-by side.
Further still long the path is a little village scene where the occupants of the houses all express various reactions to having to remain isolated. Some, more able to adapt, perhaps, use carrier pigeons (an analogy for more modern means of connecting to others?) to pass letters back and forth. Others sit at their windows and worry. One simply hides behind his curtain, peeking in terror at the world from around the edge of it. Should you wish to be a part of this vignette, there are a couple of houses with single poses included.
There’s a certain poignancy to all of these little houses and their occupants that may perhaps touch us in different ways. For many of us, making the transition to the kind of lifestyle social / physical distancing has brought about hasn’t been dramatically hard in the scheme of things. We have our Facebook, our You Tube our WhatsApp – and yes, our Second Life – to maintain contact and engage with family and friends. But what about those who find being on their own hard – such as the elderly or those psychological issues? Seeing the face crammed into a corner of a house window and peering around the edge of the curtain, I was immediately reminded of an interview with a doctor who has been trying to help those whose psychosis requires physical proximity to others in order to help them avoid giving into their inner demons and voices.
Another subtle element in the installation alludes to the risk countries and people face in pushing to get back to “business as usual” too soon. There is a real risk – as has been seen with past epidemics and pandemics – that trying to relax rules around social / physical distancing, etc., too soon could lead to a second or even third wave of the SARS-CoV-2 / Covid-19 situation striking the world. Within Social Distancing, this risk is seen by the presence of “Corona Monsters” among the bushing and floating in the water. they appear to lying in wait, ready to strike should those in the little houses all decide to come out and start mingling.
A timely and engaging installation, reached via the teleport board at the Immersiva landing point, and complete with gacha machines for those wishing to obtain some of the models used in the exhibit or to support Cica and Bryn.
- Social Distancing – via the teleport board (Immersiva, rated Moderate)