At home. Under shelter. Locked down. In quarantine. Alone. In solidarity.
My residence is small, but warm. 25m2 in total. An en suite room that I have appointed as a space of rest, leisure, dining, work, exercise, study, and social gathering. It has served for all these activities before, but not exclusively. Now it is an epitome of all of them. It is my temporary host, a space of restriction and safety. It has witnessed all my habits, emotional expressions, embodiments of self. My constant fatigue from distress. Because I am enclosed in it.
In the beginning I was utterly frustrated by the transition to remote. After the university has closed down, I had no option but to stay on campus, where I live, and try to keep a distance from everyone and everything. Some projects have morphed, some plans had to be cancelled, work opportunities postponed. I started feeling more and more vulnerable, so to exercise some control, I pretended like nothing has changed and kept up my daily routines. Until I realised that I couldn’t. So many emails, messages, group conversations, cyber meetings, tele dates, digital classes, all experienced from the very same spot. The work desk of my one- bedroom apartment. I’ve realised that this is what can be a catalyst to losing sanity: the fact that life is still continuing on full-blast, all the stimuli and engagements still demanding attention, but from one physical space, alone, on the spot, through my electronic gadgets. Like being in an intimate, yet inanimate relationship with these devices. When the screen freezes during a video call with a loved one, or the connection breaks up when exchanging inspiring ideas with a colleague, I realise there is an infinite world between, isolating whatever is human.
Without barely any movement, one can spend hours upon hours immersed in digital work, feeling exhausted after a day full of it. The body doesn’t understand the cause, because there wasn’t actual motion or interaction, solely with a (or multiple) screen(s). The mind seems to play a trick on the matter, which cries from its uncertainty of being a threat to others. I have worked remotely before, from home too, even for longer periods of time. But this is of another nature. It’s different this time. It is for precaution and safety, it is to isolate and through that solitude, potentially help others. The ambiguity of being a possible threat or victim. Perhaps both.
I have stopped following the news for a while. Occasionally, I take a glimpse at certain data, but mostly I don’t want to know. I don’t need to hear the numbers, because every time I walk outside they make me calculate the probability of meeting someone that might be a carrier, according to the statistics. I imagine it as real-time gambling, in which you feel like the lucky charm, telling yourself that there is no way you would encounter someone who might have gotten it from someone else. Privilege is what buys us the tokens to feel untouchable, but are we really though? This broken trust in the safety of our fellow specimen’s microbiomes, overwrites vital connections. I haven’t embraced someone in over a month. And I have yet to know when I’ll be able to do so safely.
As grateful as I am for the present technologies that allow a seamless shift to an operational online society, the more distance I also feel I need from ‘screen time’. I retreat to the forest. Rekindling a relationship with the local community of flora and fauna has been my most cherished remedy. I feel welcomed by the trees and joyfully greet the familiar ducks by the pond. I started noticing the birds who returned from their migration. These residents have become my acquaintances thanks to whom it is easier to cope. After clearing my head from receiving, consuming, articulating, conceptualising, managing, coordinating the tasks of urgency, I return to my rented time capsule. A neutral space, that I now consider home. An archival box of attempts for survival and self-reformulation during a critical period that is now burned into our planetary history.
María Paloma Velázquez (born M. P. Velázquez Fonseca) is an independent art worker, engaging in a curatorial and writing- based research practice, with concerns for advocacy and feminism. She is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Visual Cultures, Curating and Contemporary Art at Aalto University in Finland, and prior to that had studied at the BA Photography programme of the University of Portsmouth in the UK. In the past five years, she has worked on a number of small-scale exhibition projects in England, Hungary, and Finland. Most recently she has been interested in connecting academia and activism through communal practices, exploring the interweaving of labour and research. In her own research, María has long been focusing on the philosophy of photography in relation to the existence of living (or decaying) ecologies and the female/ queer presence within them.