When we first talked about doing this issue together, care was thrown out as a theme early on. It stuck. It connected in multiple ways with our individual areas of research, practice, politics, and with our living. People had a lot to say. We were sending edits back and forth with writers when news of a coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan saw anti-Chinese racism flood mainstream and social media, emboldening everyday racists on the street. We were finalising the last few image credits when global infection rates began climbing and lockdowns in cities across the world came into effect. As we write this, we see them in our future too. All the pieces in this issue were written prior to the pandemic. A time capsule of care pre-COVID-19. Below is a conversation we’ve been having, an attempt to place this issue in a moment.
We could not have seen this coming. Every piece in this issue was written before COVID-19 was a word we all knew. This virus has brought into painful relief many of the things we hoped writers and artists would talk about in these pages. I’m thinking of Anja Kanngieser’s review of the exhibition VISABILITY. It makes me think about disability justice and the importance of centring the expertise and experience of chronically ill and disabled folks of colour in our art communities and political struggles, and in our collective response to crisis. Or I think of Chi Tran’s piece and what language can mean to us, what it’s practice might be to us. It slows me, I repeat their words to myself: ‘It does not collapse with time.’
What can we learn from observing the artistic practices and communities that emerged in other countries in Asia during moments of crisis or upheaval? I think of Yang Yeung’s profile on artists during and after the Hong Kong protests, and Nuraini Juliastani writing on Indonesian art collectives in the post-Suharto years. How do we make art or even think about it anymore?
Amid everything (anxiety, restlessness, caring) I find moments of excitement. I imagine myself delivering copies of this magazine. Leaving them in letter boxes and on doormats. Who knows if this will be a possibility in a month’s time? But I’m excited by the idea of hands touching, holding, leafing, reading. I imagine readers reconsidering that touch in Fayen d’Evie’s piece ‘Holding Eva Hesse [Treatment]’. By ‘be-holding’ Hesse’s Sans II (1968), Fayen invites us to move with intention between aural, visual and tactile understandings. It mirrors something I’m experiencing more regularly now, a strange blur between the somatic and the cognitive, the virtual and the real. I follow this thread to the spider’s web in Tom Melick’s bathroom and to the video game Planet Zoo, as he wonders what we can learn from, or with, the game’s AI animals and what they are learning from, or about, us. I switch my Zoom virtual background to ‘tropical island’ but I’m still always lying in my bed.
There is too much to say. It is impossible to know what it’ll mean by the time this goes to print. The risk of appearing naïve, of missing the mark completely, is tangible. We do know that reading this issue is an invitation to learn, teach, think, feel in ways we need right now. The artists and writers gave us that generously even if, at the time, they didn’t know it.
For everything that this issue cannot be, we hope, at the very least, that it allows you, our readers and the art community, to open up some spaces and think about the myriad gentle, and radical, ways that care and art appear in our world.
Elena Gomez is a poet and book editor living in Melbourne. She is the author of Body of Work (Cordite Books), which was highly commended in the 2019 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, and a number of chapbooks.
Rosie Isaac is an artist and a writer. She makes performances, texts and sculptures, and is particularly interested in authority, morality, language and myth.