A video by Andrea G Artz with commentary by Liz Day . . .
I met Andrea in February 2021 – on Zoom of course, not in real life. I had almost got to see some of her Virtual Reality (VR) work in the summer of 2019 (The Forest of Query) but illness intervened. I knew about Andrea from a good friend, performative writer Veronica B. Veronica B both wrote the script and was the narrator for The Forest of Query. I was fascinated by the worlds that Andrea and Veronica B create and the VR technology which enables the viewer to enter into and explore the 3D landscape. Andrea populates the forest with characters: part human, part beast, part mythological magical creatures constructed from cut and folded photographs.
I was excited to see Andrea’s film ‘Pandemia to Pandemia’, an enquiry into travelling during Covid-19. As I watched I thought how interesting it would be to include it in the Pandemic as Systemic Flux website. Folded figures cut from photographs speak about the experience of travelling during the pandemic. The noise of tube trains drawing in and out of stations provides a background which is inescapably resonant for anyone who travels in London. I was at the Private View of the Grain Project’s ‘Covid-19 Responses’ virtual exhibition and Andrea introduced her film. She spoke about her fascination with people in transit and the anxiety of beginning to travel again after the first lockdown in the UK ended. She interviewed people but couldn’t get close to them. The bubbles seem to act as a relational metaphor for the distance/closeness that has been a feature of our lives over the last year. The railway track in the film connects us while social distancing enables us to speak but not touch.
Andrea describes the project below:
‘Pandemia to Pandemia’ is a surreal journey that reflects on the trauma of modern transitory life and how travel has changed during Covid-19. Actual travellers were photographed and interviewed at different moments during the Covid epidemic and in short audio statements reflect about their feelings during travel.
All travellers are safely enclosed in giant colourful bubbles. They are taken by the velocity of speed; they come and go and ride in an endless loop just like a toy train does. Bubbles collide, and strangers meet each other for a moment before they move on. The word “bubble” has gained a new connotation during Covid times, but more so I was inspired by a seaside fun fair where people were wheeling in giant bubbles like hamsters. I was suddenly overcome by the fearful vision that the fun seekers got blown out into the dangerous open sea.
Travelling signifies the freedom to experience other cultures, gain enlightenment and overcome fears. At this moment in history people are afraid of being close to others or/and of getting infected, but also afraid to lose the freedom to roam freely in this world. Throughout the years, I have photographed people caught on mass transit during significant historical time: Russians riding the escalator after Perestroika (Metropoliten, 1993), New Yorkers travelling the Staten Island ferry shortly after 9/11 (Passengers, 2001) and commuters glued to their electronic devices in our digital world (In Transit, 2015).
Finally, when the journey is over and all travellers have gathered, they suddenly in a precisely synchronised move disperse, tumble and vanish into all directions and the far distance. An unknown ending and “really shocking for not saying anything precise about their vanishing”.
The project is animated with the gaming software Unity and can be experienced as a virtual reality experience using Oculus Rift. The digital models of the travellers are created in Blender and are originally based on cut-out photographic prints playfully folded into three-dimensional sculptures that exaggerate the physique and posture of the characters.
I am currently seeking funding to develop Pandemia to Pandemia into an immersive virtual reality experience/game with interactive features.
This project was made possible thanks to a GRAIN-Projects https://grainphotographyhub.co.uk/portfolio-type/covid-19-responses/ bursary, part of the national programme ‘Covid-19 Responses’, supported by @aceagram.