While the Covid pandemic has tormented our reality in the previous year, compelling practically the whole world to enter lockdown and individuals to remain at home, the inventive reaction to the emergency has been remarkable from a few viewpoints.
Mural by artist Ponywave on Venice Beach in Venice, California.
Specialists living in self-segregation or under severe lockdown measures turned inwards for inspiration and various heretofore unexplored paths, mostly due to the inescapable state of introspection and the shortfall of actual human interaction.
Many have rediscovered art in surprisingly ways, among the oddest being the Getty Museum's initiative to reproduce famous artworks through "tableaux vivant". The project has circulated around the web and a large number of gems can be found under the hashtags #Gettychallenge and #betweenartandquarantine on Instagram.
However, while the vast majority were at home, street artists have discovered their way to bring pressing messages of hope, strength, and as a type of dissent – in some cases with a portion of harsh humor – performing as solitary actors in cities which unwittingly resembled the emptiness of Edward Hopper‘s paintings.
Since the situation is gradually getting back to normal in numerous nations, we will soon discover that the pandemic, as well as many different aspects of our lives, has also affected the appearance of our urban environments.
Probably the most well known pieces of the new Coronavirus-inspired street art have been the help and appreciation to all key specialists who have been facing incredible individual danger on the front lines, especially healthcare workers and medical professionals.
The most noticeable of these pieces is likely Super Nurse!, that the street artist known as FAKE (@iamfake) has painted in Amsterdam. As a "tribute" to all medical professionals and first responders all throughout the planet. It shows a nurse wearing a face mask emblazoned with the Superman logo.
"A tribute to all first responders and healthcare professionals all over the world. To encourage them and show appreciation. They protect exactly what is the most valuable and priceless in our lives. Not only now, but also in the future. I hope this is valued more than just words."
Meanwhile, street artists were wandering out into calm roads, the lord of spray painting, the elusive Banksy, had turned on this ocasion to canvas "Game Changer", an image picturing a child playing with a nurse superhero toy, while Batman and Spiderman toys lie disposed of in a close by wastepaper container.
The work has been unveiled at the Southampton General Hospital in southern England alongside a note by the artist for all hospital workers saying: “Thanks for all you’re doing. I hope this brightens the place up a bit, even if only black and white.”
However, numerous spray-paintings, stencils, and posters have sprouted up to spread messages of encouragement and hope to ordinary people.
In addition to reassurance and support, there have been exhortations to adopt safe behaviours, first and foremost staying at home, but also washing one’s hands and respecting social distancing as the only way to protect oneself and others.
@tvboy, L’amore ai tempi del Covid19, Milan
But what might street art be without its standard capacity to sharply communicate dissent?
If issues like privatization, surveillance, increasing marginalization, housing were already addressed by artists in the public space, now more than ever, street art has become part of the discussion around contemporary politics.
Powerful allegations against government officials have appeared on the walls of cities across the globe, along with more general criticism of today’s societal contradictions.
Jair Bolsonaro, conservative leader of Brazil, who has discouraged social distancing and lockdown, when asked about the country’s rapid increase in Covid-19 cases replied “So what? What do you want me to do?” has been represented wearing a clown nose by Brazilian street artist Aira Ocrespo, in addition to the wording “Bolsonaro’s mask against Coronavirus”.
Street artists have demonstrated to be the ideal mouthpieces for whole communities, including levity and sharp commentary on different aspects of the pandemic, at times playfully, at times cynically.
Tensions and social changes, unavoidably affect art.
Despite the fact that it is currently hard to anticipate what the coronavirus pandemic will mean for artwork in the immediate and further future, the powerful immediacy of street art has once again demonstrated its ability to catch the overall state of mind just as to communicate the manifold contradictions of our time.