BY VAUGHN SADIE & JAY PATHER
COVID-19 changed so much of how we feel and think about the present and future. The pandemic has assailed us with uncertainty and a kind of darkness that can be overwhelming because it is not limited to place or time. It is worldwide, and ongoing. How do artists, amongst the most precarious in our society, make sense for us at this time? What tools do they give us, as they have always done in such calamitous times, to see through this? How can we play? How to dream? How to speak of such disturbance and yet see the power and potential of art, to inspire community and visions of solidarity and hope?
These questions have occupied us as they have most of the world’s artists and curators. This year, SPIER LIGHT ART does not want to forget, go beyond or desperately dream in spite of. We want to acknowledge the grief and the pain of our physical, spiritual and economic worlds. We want to acknowledge, also, that we are not all in this together. In any storm, some have boats and some have rafts and some simply only have themselves to keep above water. Although COVID-19 is a common storm, it affects us all differently – especially so in a deeply unequal society like ours. What is universal, though, is our need for light and lightness. And so, SPIER LIGHT ART features both attempts to walk through struggles as well as glimmers of pure beauty and opportunities to play.
In bringing together this rich selection of works, four curatorial strands have emerged. Strand 1 explores history, memory and futures; strand 2 deals more directly with the pandemic as well as a call for resilience and survival; strand 3 deepens the thoughts on precarity, fragility and transience as it relates to all sentient beings, embracing animism and the human; and strand 4 considers light as igniting our impulse to dream, play and explore imagination. These strands serve as a gentle guide through the experience as you move through the common storm. We hope that the generosity of work attests to an abiding and reassuring ability in our society to create and build even when so much is attempting to take hope and optimism away.
We want to thank Spier for providing the opportunity for the lights to be proverbially ‘switched on’ again. We are thankful for this opportunity to help provide a reprieve (however small or temporary), and for such nourishment to exist at a time when bouts of darkness have become a daily experience in our worlds.