exhibitions, photography, publishing, South Australia

Adelaide Art Photographers + Covid-19 lockdown

April 13, 2020

The federal and state government’s collective response to the Covid-19 pandemic rightly placed an emphasis on public health and the medical emergency. Lockdown basically meant stay at home–social isolation– with allowable trips to buy food, see a doctor or exercise in the local postcode area, practising good hygiene, social distancing in public and very limited public gatherings. Factories have been mothballed; estate agents have stopped selling houses, bars, restaurants and hotels  have closed; sport has dwindled to a trickle; universities have been emptied. We are homebound in front of our computer screens.

Presumably, phase two of the lockdown will be a gradual step by step easing of the restrictions on movement, cafes and public gatherings to get the collapsed economy going whilst living with the virus. The risk of a second wave of infection means that the lockdown restrictions will only be lifted gradually with different states doing it differently. Everything now depends on how each small step toward “normality” is found to affect the reproduction rate and public transmission of the virus until a vaccine arrives.  

That process may well prove too slow for hundreds of thousands of businesses that are burning through their cash, and who could go bust within a few months.  Hospitality, retail, transport and travel are going to be affected for a long time to come. As the public subsidies are withdrawn, the unemployment queues will inevitably start to lengthen. Therein is the tradeoff: when restrictions ease to get the economy moving the number of infections will most likely rise.

This topographical picture did not make the cut for my portfolio in the Adelaide Art Photographers book or the exhibition. It is a possible inclusion in the road trips section of The Bowden Archives and Other Marginalia book which will supplement my 6 page portfolio of archived photos in the Adelaide Art Photographers book.

Osborne Power Station

The easing of the lockdown restrictions in the near future will mean learning to live with the virus. for the rest of the year. The Royal South Australian Society of Arts will eventually open its doors soon (in June?) to 20 or so people, and so I will finally be able to see the Adelaide Art Photographers exhibition.

Photography in a time of the virus means that the poodlewalks continue, as well as making photos in my local area. What was new for me during the lockdown, with its public sense of official isolation and loneliness, was an increased emphasis on connecting with others and participating in online exhibitions. Have our digital lives changed the way we view and make art?

I can see that it will be necessary for both the Adelaide Art Photographers and the Mallee Routes 2019 books to have an online presence, so that those people who want a copy are able to buy one. Distribution has alway been a problem with independent publishing, and as everything is now having to go online due to living with the Covid-19 pandemic this is a good time as any to set up an online shop or store on this website. I have started the process to do this.

This topographical picture also did not make the cut for my portfolio in the Adelaide Art Photographers book, nor was it included in the exhibition:

Osborne, Le Fevre Peninsula

What is also being planned, and is in the works, is an online gallery–Encounters Gallery— attached to this website for exhibiting new work now that the physical gallery system has been closed down indefinitely. The first exhibition in the online gallery is The Covid-19 exhibition: pictures that I made with film cameras during the first stage of the lockdown. The exhibition being online allows people in different locations to see the work in their own time. The gap between the gallery and the store in the photographic industry is usually linked by commercial web hubs –eg., Pic-Time— whose hosting business is designed around wedding, portrait and event photographers. These online, digital commerce hubs are designed to sell product rather than host exhibitions of art photography Example of the latter are Humble Arts Foundation, PH21 and Eye of Photography.

This topographical picture also did not make the cut for my portfolio in the Adelaide Art Photographers book, nor was it included in the exhibition:

Port River estuary, Osborne

Before Covid-19, the digital space in art galleries was almost always treated as an afterthought for expanding an audience beyond the reach of physical spaces. Gallery programming was usually designed, first and foremost, for an in-person audience or on-site experience, and later translated online through a video recording or series of images on the web for documentation purposes.The status quo—some installation shots, a few JPEGs collected together, a Google Street View tour—just isn’t enough now.

The Covid-19 pandemic is increasing the shift towards innovation to become wholly web based. Now that physical spaces are no longer the priority, the cultural sector is rushing to adapt events, exhibitions and experiences for an entirely digital-first audience. The coronavirus pandemic accelerates the processes of digitalization and subsumption by the data economy as it necessitates increasing surveillance and other immunological measures against the virus.The pandemic also shifts the emphasis from the deregulated market to the state, from corporate globalisation to the nation state and to lower economic growth.

Another archival picture that didn’t make the cut for my portfolio in the book or the exhibition:

wool store, Port Adelaide

With high-speed digital connectivity art on the internet  is where we are going, as shifting to increasingly being online is now the new normal. Our homes become ever less exclusively our personal spaces as they also become workspaces, entertainment venues, and gyms. Small steps towards a high-tech surveillance and data collection to pandemic-proof our lives? 

However, giving a title to a group of JPEGs does not an exhibition make. Maybe we need to think of an online exhibition as a growing continuum, rather than a series of often very short exhibitions. We do need to think of an online exhibition as operating differently from a physical exhibition, rather than simply mirroring recognizable formats. The internet allows a multimedia environment. 

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