HOMING20-22: COVID-19 EDITION/WK1-?

March 2022 Project Update

Well, here we are again. The second anniversary is upon us, and I am still doing this project. I had such high hopes last summer that we would be putting Covid-19 on the back burner (even if we all wanted to leave it in the trashcan for the burned, inedible mess that it was). The Delta variant turned out to be a doozy, but many state governments refused to follow any protective measures anymore. Many people protested mask mandates in schools and businesses. A significant number of people refused to get vaccines, and some followed/demanded questionable treatment recommendations. Many more people died, now younger than before. Many more people have long Covid health issues. The essential workers (in healthcare, daycare, transportation, physical and online retail, grocery, utilities, and more) are exhausted; some understandably are quitting (for various legitimate reasons), and the rest continue despite their desperate need for relief. Children and young adults are not doing well in school. Most of us who could continue to work at home recognized how lucky we were, but maybe also struggled with periods of crippling isolation too. 

Then the end of 2021 brought us the Omicron variant. Exploding rates of infections, including breakthrough infections, brought new surprises and concerns. 

I simply could not bring myself to do this project on a weekly basis.

I could not do it anymore. There seemed to be no end in sight. 

Somehow, I kept collecting news articles and checking data trends periodically from June to December 2021. I kept taking photographs during my time at home. Yet I couldn’t bring myself to gather it all and organize into a story to add to the previous sets. With the beginning of 2022, the Omicron variant burned through populations with speed (but less deadly consequences so we take the positives where we can get them), and there is now an equally rapid decline in cases. More and more states dropped mask and vaccine mandates, and then the federal government was on board. We have been told to go and live our lives.

I spent January 2022 sifting through data, news stories, and images, to craft the chapters of the back half of 2021. Some of the data is not as detailed in places as I failed to collect it on certain days (some websites report daily, or then weekly, and archived data was difficult to find). 

2022 will keep the four-week data blocks with two-week image collages until May 2022. May continues to be a month of changes for this project, as we leave Tennessee to move to Philadelphia to start a new chapter in the larger story of our lives. I am leaving behind this house that brought me shelter and so much more, not only for the last two years but a total of five. I have another project to share about this house before all is said and done, and other projects about the larger community, but I see now how much this project is a love letter to this house during this difficult period. The worrisome, often despairing, data and news reports are wrapped in the embrace of images of a home filled with light, comfort, and love. I don’t know what will happen with the virus in the coming months, in a new home, in a new city and state, so for now, I make no declarative statements. 

This project ends when it ends.

July 2021 Project Update

This project continues as the Delta variant contributes to rising cases around the globe. From mid-March to May 31, 2020, I selected one image to be the daily representative of being at home during a pandemic on Instagram. By the end of May 2020, it was becoming clearer that our time of mask-wearing, social-distancing, and news-watching would continue for some time. In June 2020, I switched to a weekly collage of images to represent my life at home. From March 2020-May 2021, I documented the daily positive cases and deaths for my state and the United States (at least weekly for my county and global), gathered significant news items, and logged when I left the house or had contact with another person. I eventually added weekly active hospitalizations and vaccination rates.

As the anniversary of the stay-at-home orders approached in March 2021, it became difficult to keep up the daily documentation. I struggled to do any kind of work in the studio, and my new healthier habits began to lapse. I chose May 31, 2021, as the cut off for daily data and weekly collages, only realizing later that May 31 seemed to be the day for changes for this project. Positive cases were down, deaths were down significantly, and events and gatherings were starting to happen again. Yet I developed new social anxieties once I was fully vaccinated; the relaxing or removal of restrictions and mask mandates in my area is driven by economic priorities and fierce individualism, and does not reflect the once again rising cases from variants, and that Tennessee has one of the worst vaccination rates in the country. Dolly Parton tried, y’all.

For the summer, I planned to track weekly numbers and averages, initially thinking by the end of the summer I could transition to monthly until cases were no longer reported. Now it is July, and I am not as optimistic. So it continues.

As of this writing, 64 weeks documented, March 2020-May 31, 2021.

November 2020 Project Statement 

I can only offer some preliminary thoughts on this project, as we are all still in the uncertain middle of the pandemic and I don’t know when or how this project will end.

When the pandemic became a reality in the US in March with the move to online learning and stay at home orders, I began to collect news stories and log the daily reported cases and deaths.

I was teaching in the spring, and I encouraged students to document and navigate this moment in time in their assignments—the challenges but also the surprises they encountered, honing their observation skills and finding emotions in the mundane. I gave myself the assignment too; to see the disruption, life suspended, as an opportunity to pay attention to the details, as well as the larger patterns and connections. To be a concerned citizen chronicling alarming current events, and an individual marking a relationship to a place called “home.” 

There were two daily records- the images and the text. Together they became a way to navigate the new reality; the data and news headlines, and my physical solitude at the beginning (my spouse was away on deployment first six months of pandemic, nine months total).  I saw the records as representations of different senses of time and ways of being present, simultaneously intimate and global; a way of holding contradictory information and feelings with one another by sandwiching the daily record of data and headlines between the weekly record of intimate images from home. Record the daily news, record the daily suffering and loss, record the fleeting daily moments, record the stillness.

I recognize that my documentation of the pandemic may not seem as significant as the records to be collected from those out on the front lines—hospital workers, grocery store workers, delivery drivers; or the documentation from the protests and unrest starting in late May; but it is one of the stories from this time. It is important to record and acknowledge the billions of people throughout the world, in all of our differences, negotiating our multifarious routines and places within a connecting pandemic. Some of the stories are quieter: stories of adventures in going nowhere, stories of dissecting the daily routine, stories of reckoning with solitude.

It’s been quite a week with the election, but right there in the headlines is the surging cases and deaths in the US and across the globe, and so the recording continues. As of this writing, 31 weeks are documented and I will continue to update until the numbers go down, the masks are put away, and I can sit in a restaurant without a hint of anxiety.

[Technical note: exploring new website formats and layouts for better legibility]

Digital collage, dimensions variable (series in progress)

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