Trends To Follow When Time Stands Still As We Race Against the Clock. 400 years, 3 months, 8 minutes and 46 seconds

25 august, 2020
In Times Square, emptied by the pandemic, the artist Ayana Evans wears her signature catsuit. Credit Flo Ngala for The New York Times

Since May 25, 2020 people have gathered in more than 4000 cities across the world to support the Black Lives Matter movement.¹ Demonstrations began as a means to protest systemic racism in the United States – especially unjust police violence (let’s be honest, murders) of black identifying people of color.² 

The Black Lives Matter movement has sparked a much-needed global anti-racist revolution. This spring has witnessed an earthquake in people’s livelihoods and many lives lost to the virus in our global community. We are continuously impacted by Covid-19 and there is great uncertainty for what the future will hold. Post-revolutionary Ukraine is plagued with its own set of issues of ethnic division, annexation, and on-going war – a situation I respect but am not apt to contextualize. In the American art world, we have become more vulnerable bringing us closer to our communities, and most importantly it is a time of revolution with great opportunity for betterment. This is a time for artists, curators, and the art world to revise, rethink, and produce; eloquently stated by American novelist Toni Morrison:

“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal. I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge — even wisdom. Like art”³.

1. Promoting, Including, and Supporting

On June 22nd the New York Times published, “What It Takes to Raise a Black Woman Up” a piece about performance artist Ayana Evans whose work is about black womanhood written by the art critic Seph Rodney – both making their debut in the illustrious newspaper. Of course, the NYT regularly publishes black writers and black artists but this article is part of an attempt to cover the work of BIPOC’s more frequently – thereby not only including but also provide essential support that can shift an artists’ career. 

Influencers on social media have been featuring the work of BIPOC artists since protests began among them are @girlseesart, my own account @cultbytes, which is run by @artstagram__. Dedicated platforms such as Gallery Gurls run by Jasmine Hernandez have been doing this for years, but more inclusion will bring artists out of the margins and into the mainstream. 

2. Reckoning and Rethinking

The anti-racist revolution has pushed staff, students, and members of the public to question and hold institutions accountable for internal racist organizational practices and programming⁴ leading management to carry out public rethinking and reckoning through newsletters, social media posts, and press releases. People, BLM allies and beyond, have also been forced to look inward facing their own prejudices and reconsidering the consequences of their words and actions. This important push back and the conversations they lead to are important paths to change. 

3. Sharing and Community Building

As the pandemic, global warming, and the mistreatment of women and the LGBTQ community pose threat to our planet, authoritarian governments continue to grow, and new issues of isolation arise new curator-led and artist-run online platforms that offer artists space to reflect and share have become valuable resources. “How Can We Think of Art at a Time Like This?” an online exhibition, daily newsletters, and programming curated by Barbara Pollack and Anne Verhallen that presents over 70 artists and artist Etty Yaniv, an independent publisher, who has interviewed over 125 artists on how they are coping during Corona times published on Art Spiel are both dense archives that help us understand and process the current situation.

The fight against racism and Covid-19 are issues that belong to us all. We must stay the course.

Anna-Mikaela Ekstrand photographed by Matthew Stewart

Anna Mikaela Ekstrand is a Swedish/Guyanese independent curator based in New York City. Currently she is serving as an advising and co-curator for the inaugural 'The Immigrant Artist Biennial. She is also the founding editor-in-chief of Cultbytes, an online art publication focusing on interdisciplinary and non-hierarchical art criticism.

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