PCP#8 // 05.06.20

The Plague
Allison Chhorn

La Peste, fault lines, get in formation, from absurdity to action, radical: to grasp at the root, the glimmering horizon, finding optimism in collectivities.

A friend asked me recently what it would take to have an art world structured around care. I replied that it might take an entire society structured around care – a complete shift in everything around the art world.

We began Prototype Care Package because the advance of COVID-19, and the lockdown it precipitated, prompted novel questions: how to be an artist in a plague? And how to connect to audiences who can’t access galleries, museums, festivals and cinemas? Could art help us foresee a world where we are actually coping with the challenges of the present?

Helping to make and exhibit art online in the past few months – and thinking of all those dark, empty museums showing lonely works – has shown me that art is unfinished without an audience. The audience, not the artist, completes the work by bringing the work into their own lives, their own contexts, and making meaning for themselves. Hence Prototype’s mandate of cultural accessibility.

The Prototype Care Package program is going on hiatus at a time when multiple crises have stacked up – the health and job crisis disproportionately felt by people of colour in the USA, the unaddressed legacy of slavery, the brutality and negligence wagered by ostensibly protective institutions – to the point that it’s unbearable for many to carry on quietly. We can’t merely go back to pre-plague normality, because for many, that state of normal was always unjust. Civil rights movements in the past didn’t just ask for equality, they demanded liberation, and the current insurgency is hastening to find new ways to work and live together.

Filmmaker Allison Chhorn’s eerie, lyrical riff on Albert Camus’ allegorical, dystopian The Plague takes the novel’s absurdism someplace else – finding openness and opportunity in social rupture. What might Camus’ epidemic symbolise today? I think of the plague as a destructive, virulent form of disaster capitalism, but really, the problem with capitalism is not the adjective before it but the noun itself. How can art be a part of community empowerment and mobilisations? So much progress has been born out of crisis and would not have been possible were it not for majorly disastrous events.

I hope the path has emerged, I hope it’s here.

About Allison Chhorn

As a multi-disciplinary artist, Allison incorporates installation, photography, painting and film into her practice. She explores the repetition of memory through screens of visual media.

Artist's website