Wednesday, October 14, 2020

VALE ANIA WALWICZ

 

Ania Walwics. Photo: Julie Clarke (1985/2020)

 

This is a photograph I took of Ania at Rhumbarallas in Fitzroy, Melbourne, Australia in September,1985. Both Ania and I were published by Kris Hemensley and we were two of the writers published in In Our Own Words: Six Melbourne Writers on Tape, by Marcus Breen, available at the Queensland library. Ania and I continued our friendship over the following decades although rarely arranged to meet instead we often ran into each other in Carlton, North Melbourne or the city. 

I was saddened to hear of her sudden death on 29 September. It's tragic that she died in isolation in this terrible pandemic. She was funny, intelligent, thoughtful, cheeky, private, brilliant, experimental and utterly unique. I feel honored to have known such an interesting performance poet and spent valuable time with her.

For those interested a Face Book site has been set up, which is called The Ania Walwicz Fan Club where you can post your memories of her.

GOODBYE ANIA

Monday, October 12, 2020

SEEDS, CELLS AND PODS - Drawings i completed during art residency at BioFab3D, St. Vincent's Hospital, Melbourne 2019






Drawings are (c) to Julie Joy Clarke 2019. More will be posted at a later date.

An exegesis of the overall project is available to interested parties presented as a pdf. Email me if you would like a copy. juliejclarke22@gmail.com

Alternatively the 23 page booklet with illustrations of the project is held at the National Library of Australia and the State Library of Victoria.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Update under pandemic lock down

 I  haven't posted of late because I've been writing a novel. I abandoned it a few years ago and resurrected it in June during the pandemic lock down Thankfully the first good draft is complete and I have a few readers. Soon I hope to post some of the drawing that I did last year between August and November when I undertook an artist residency at BioFab3D at St. Vincent's Hospital last year. I'll check back in here next week, until then...

Sunday, July 5, 2020

HARD LOCK DOWN

There's a disturbing scene in the early part of the film World War Z (Marc Forster, 2013) in which a presidential decision results in the total obliteration of an American town infected by a killer virus. With no vaccine and no appropriate treatment dropping a bomb on the town was the only way to eradicate the virus and protect other communities from possible contagion. Real life scenarios would never condone such drastic action,  however, filmic accounts of ways to identify, contain and eradicate pandemic viruses does emphasize the demand for immediate action, even if that action requires individuals sacrifice certain freedoms for the good of all other community members.

The recent surge in the numbers of those (after a near elimination of the virus in Victoria) found to be Covid-19 positive in Melbourne and the distribution of over thirty clusters over many suburbs has resulted in a return to Stage three restrictions being reinstated in ten different postcodes and more recently the 'hard lock down' of nine Public Housing towers in another two postcodes.

Feelings of worthlessness and alienation already experienced by many living in Public Housing together with stigmatization and stereotyping of residents as 'no hopers, drug addicts, alcoholics' is exacerbated not only by the fact that these people are being blamed for spreading the disease but also by the fact that isolating them will only reinforce in their minds that they are unclean, unworthy and invisible. Indeed being locked in they will be more exposed to the virus that has already infected thirty people who have been in contact with hundreds of other residents. I don't know how many times it has to be emphasized if you have high density housing with people crowded into lifts and public areas, then the virus will spread. There is a lesson here for those who live in high-rise apartments in Melbourne to be vigilant and to all other Victorians who have lapsed into a complacency and a mind set in which they believe that the virus is not dangerous and not circulating.

On that point, containment and testing is totally necessary but I feel for those in Public Housing many of whom have mental health issues, are disabled, have comorbidity and English language issue will be traumatized by lock down. My concern is that these people already dealing with often debilitating conditions and limited status and finances to enjoy the activities of those better off, have to contend with feeling like they are in jail, since five hundred police have been deployed to ensure that they do not leave the towers for an initial five days. A 'them and us' mentality is also reinforced not only by cordoning off the nine towers, but spills into the lock down of the ten other postcodes also associated with people of low socioeconomic status and varying cultural groups.

Monday, June 22, 2020

COMPLY AND ADAPT: SARS-C0V-2

COMPLY AND ADAPT:
A PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE ON THE SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Julie Clarke (c) 2020


Instead of beating around the bush let's call this what it is. SARS-CoV-2 is the virus and Covid-19 is the World Health Organization's name for the pandemic that has been sweeping the world. SARS-CoV-2 is NOT an influenza virus even though it produces similar, but more debilitating symptoms in many sufferers. Whereas Influenza A - the most common type of influenza virus circulating contains 13,588 base pairs in its genetic sequence, SARS-CoV-2, a novel coronavirus has 30,000 base pairs enabling it, among other things to quickly adapt. It has already mutated 14 times since it was contracted in December, 2019  'in or around the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan in China' (Honigsbaum, 2019:262). Although the virus was spreading freely in Wuhan, borders were not closed quickly enough and by 7 January 2020 approximately 5 million people had already left Wuhan 'many for overseas destinations' including Australia (Honigsbaum, 2019:264). The Australian government ramped up airport screenings of passengers arriving from China however Australia confirmed its first case in a Chinese national who flew into Melbourne on 19 January. In mid March 2020 Australia declared a state of emergency and restrictions were instigated.

Readers will probably have been watching the timeline of the spread so I won't elaborate here but what I do want to do is contextualize my thoughts around this event and how they influenced a number of artworks I made during this period.  During the Covid-19 pandemic there has been a  proliferation of often conflicting and confusing information generated by the media (newspapers, radio, television, internet) and social media sites such as Facebook. This has resulted in an infodemic, responsible in part for generating fear, anxiety, panic and depressive states in individuals dealing with negative thoughts surrounding the virus that infected and killed hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. Government restrictions, including border closures, business shutdowns, airports, social interaction spaces, local parks, sporting facilities, educational institutions, libraries, cinemas, galleries and large arenas, together with limits on personal freedoms to avoid contagion, impacted upon the community in psychological and economic ways. It was understood that fear of contagion and substantial fines for those who disregarded lock down restrictions would ensure that individuals would comply and adapt in this restrictive regime. And they did.The streets were empty and people self isolated except when venturing out to purchase essential items, exercise or attend an appointment with a medical professional. Ubiquitous use of the Internet created a unitary whole in continual flux and patterns of behavior emerged in what may be regarded as a disturbed hive mind. After several weeks of lock down fear quickly turned to anger towards the government perceived as overreacting to the pandemic. Since 'social distancing' resulted in a drop in those testing positive and those who succumbed being mostly elderly, many young  people felt their life and freedoms had been curtailed merely  to protect those in nursing homes at the end of their life. Contrary to this Prime Minister, Scott Morrison declared on 9 April that 'all Australian lives mattered' (John Kehoe, 2020) a statement later viewed by some as resonating with the 'All Lives Matter' slogan used by those critiquing the 'Black Lives Matter' protests held world wide in the post-Covid-19 lock down in Australia. It was only after individuals from younger age groups were adversely affected by the virus and the economic fallout from the lock down that younger people began to take the virus seriously. All the while we in Australia were bombarded in the media by images of sickness and death in countries around the world, particularly in Italy where the death rate was high  It was a reminder that if we did not follow restrictions we too could be in that situation.
A month after lock down Roger Kimball, stated:

our panic has destroyed trillions of dollars of wealth, improvised millions, and handed much of society over to the machinations of socialistically inclined bureaucrats. It has also precipitated a huge and irresponsible disgorging of federal funds, the baneful effects of which will be felt for decades, if not generations (2002:15)

I, like many found the flood of information - ways of avoiding contagion, numbers diagnosed with the disease and deaths worldwide and in particular the confusions generated by the medical fraternity, disturbing. There was an inconsistency of messaging from the government and medical experts in regards to the use of masks, the possibility or difficulties in developing a vaccine and the use of existing drugs to treat debilitating symptoms. It was generally understood that since this was a novel coronavirus that scientists were learning about it on the hop and new information released to the media every day often discounted information from the day before adding to the confusion. Since SARS-CoV-2 was considered to have emanated from experimentation with a bat coronavirus  from a laboratory in Wuhan, China, a politics of blame was followed by a deluge of anger, accusations and occasional, isolated violence directed towards members of the Chinese community in Melbourne. The Herald Sun newspaper had on more than one occasion used the term 'Chinese Virus' following Donald Trump's use of the term in early March, ignoring the fact that the virus is a product of nature and way too superior to any virus that humans could construct.  The need to blame someone, anyone, appeared symptomatic of a need for retribution as 'we' had been punished through an eroding of freedoms as well as an exhaustive threat to everyone's well being in a bereft economic future.  Fears as to whether hospitals had sufficient Intensive Care Unit [ICU] personal protective equipment [PPE], including respirators, inundated the media.

Since this major event was often related to the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic which was still active at the end of WW1, war rhetoric was deployed to describe doctors, paramedics, nurses, health care workers, cleaners, manufacturers of face masks, delivery drivers, those that stocked supermarket shelves, etc. These 'conflict proximity front line' workers were elevated to heroic status and whilst this was justified given they were placing themselves in potential danger unfortunately labeling them 'essential' workers had an undermining affect and dealt a double blow to  individuals in other professions now unemployed due to shutdowns by identifying them as 'non essential'.  This new class of 'essential worker'  has at the time of writing been usurped by another nebulous class or divide between those tested and cleared from carrying the virus and those yet to be tested. 

Even though the virus was mostly introduced into Australia by retirees returning from their yearly cruise ship holiday, many in the community relished the idea that the virus had a leveling affect because it did not discriminate between rich or poor - we could all contract the disease and we were all in lock down. The Federal Government had  'struck a deal with the country's 657 private hospitals, giving the Commonwealth access to another 34,000 hospital beds to help the coronavirus crisis'. This would guarantee the survival of potential rich or poor patients, as well as the private hospital system, which relies heavily on elective surgery for their income. (ABC News 31 March)

However equitable, there was a vast difference between those isolated in large houses with big screen TV's, ample backyards and cars, and pensioners or single parents living alone in small, rented dwellings,  who had limited funds and were compelled to use public transport to purchase foods and other essential items.   Since we were in fact at war with a dangerous virus that had us 'bunkered down' there was a poignancy for many  Australians, especially old diggers and their families who could not participate in the cancelled ANZAC day celebrations in April. Many had to be content with standing outside their residences holding a candle to mark the occasion.

Emphasis shifted from a concern with the virus to protecting health care workers and the hospital system. Many were aware that during the influenza season (in Australia from May to September) hospitals were placed under an immense strain and co-infection of influenza A (predominantly swine flu) and SARS-CoV-2 was a likely outcome. However, it was generally understood that good personal hygiene - persistent hand washing, sneezing into the crook of one's elbow, wiping down potentially infected surfaces, not touching one's face, adherence to physical distancing would mean that seasonal influenza virus would be curtailed. Even so, many had the seasonal influenza vaccine (which includes the swine flu H1N1 2009 pandemic virus linked to the 1918 Spanish flu as well as the H5N1 bird flu virus). Whilst writing this I have discovered that an Influenza B virus is most likely the dominant virus this season and will affect children more than adults.

In 2009 the swine influenza (H1N1) pandemic infected 37,537 Australians and 191 died. The Australian government implemented border control, isolated overseas travelers with the disease, set up contact tracing, closed some schools and launched a good personal hygiene program, however no businesses were shut. After the first wave from mid-May to late September a vaccine was made available on 30 September 2009. 

I consider the use of COVID-19, the pandemic name to describe SARS-CoV-2 (Sudden Acquired Respiratory Virus) without divulging the name of the virus, plus the campaign to rule out the possibility of the coronavirus being compared to an influenza virus, divisive.  The WHO changed the name of the pandemic to Covid-19 because a company in Arizona is called Covid. However, SARS-CoV-2 was kept under wraps because WHO wished to assuage associations between this novel coronaviris and the deadly  SARS-CoV that caused a pandemic in 2002. Richard Cooke was also of the view that WHO changed the name to avoid saying SARS out aloud so as to mitigate unnecessary fear for some populations. (2020:20).

SARS-CoV (precursor to this coronavirus) is one of 36 corona viruses. It causes respiratory and intestinal infections in humans and animals. It's typical symptoms are viral pneumonia with respiratory deterioration and watery diarrhea. It can survive for two to three days on dry surfaces at room temperature. During the epidemic in 2003 there were 8,096 cases with 774 deaths in 30 countries. It emerged in late 2002 in Guangdong province. One early case involved a chef in a restaurant in Shenzhen who had regular contact with wild game food animals. Over 4,000 articles were published online about the virus which warned of its return. The most extensive article entitled Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus as an Agent of Emerging and Reemerging Infection was published  in the American Society for Microbiology in 2007. It warned of 'the possibility of the re-emergence of SARS and other novel viruses from animals or laboratories and that the need for preparedness should not be ignored'. (Cooke, 2020:20). Although SARS-CoV-2 contains eighty per cent of the genetic material of SARS it differs in that there is a three day incubation period for SARS and a seven to fourteen day incubation for SARS-CoV-2 meaning that 'silent' or 'asymptomatic' individuals could spread the disease for a much longer period. It also appears to have more of a debilitating affect on sufferers.

Some commentators believed SARS-CoV-2 only as dangerous as influenza. Comparisons between numbers of infected cases and deaths from seasonal influenza with those infected with SARS-CoV-2 circulated in electronic communications, particularity Facebook. This had an initial dampening down affect and some used this information to support objections to the Australia-wide lock down. However evidential propositions such as the fact that the common cold was a coronavirus did little to allay fears by those already panicked by media coverage of the pandemic, which included testimonials and personal accounts of those who survived the ordeal or death of a 'loved one'. Prolific telecasting of unconscious, intubated individuals in ICU were the daily diet of misery and death served up to viewing audiences.

It's instructive to bring in some aspects of the film Contagion (Steven Soderbergh, 2011) here since it is the most scientifically accurate virus film and more grounded in reality since many virus genre films apart from Andromeda Strain, 1971 which proposes alien origin of the virus are purported to have been devised by scientists. Contagion's tagline 'nothing spreads like fear' was made, no doubt, in response to the 2009 influenza pandemic and almost exactly mirrors human behavior in this current pandemic. From the beginning of the film the director provides clues as to how the MEV-1 virus (a zoonotic bat/swine virus transmitted to human's via a wet market in China)  is spread, by utilizing close-ups of door knobs, credit cards, handshakes, sex and other personal contact. Their government, like ours decided it was better to overreact, to avoid being later accused of under reacting and lock downs in the film resulted in looting as well as violence directed at people who managed to secure food and other items. Hoarding of food, toilet paper and hand sanitizer was the norm in Australia (and elsewhere), however, unlike those in the film, minor altercations but little violence was directed towards selfish hoarders.

A scene in which the dead in body bags were carried to a mass grave, mirrored disturbing images we had already seen of coffins being placed in a mass grave dug in the middle of New York. The sorrow felt by the main protagonist Mitch Emhoff (Matt Damon) who cannot find a funeral director to bury his wife and children because of fear of contagion was way too close to the restrictions our own government had imposed of no more than five people at a funeral.

Since the majority of people were on the internet connecting with like minds, and had more time to watch films and flex their imagination, conspiracy theories abounded.  Theories about the virus are often linked to science fiction films and sub genres that remain in our psyche and influence the way audiences view real life scenarios. They also often engender distrust for scientists understandable, because according to Mark Honigsbaum 'medical researchers become 'prisoners of particular paradigms of theories of disease causation, blinding them to the threats posed by pathogens both known and unknown (2020:xiii). There have been a plethora of films over the past few decades  that deal with viruses or dangerous pathogens that threaten to extinguish humanity. The viruses have an alien origin (Andromeda Strain, 1971) created in a laboratory as a biological weapon (The Omega Man 1971), accidentally by a geneticist (Virus, 1980) or a malevolent virologist (12 Monkeys, 1995), genetically engineered in (Mission Impossible II, 2000), escaped from a laboratory (28 Days Later, 2002) are military engineered or the result of experimental vaccines. Strangely enough in Virus, 1999 invading cyborgs consider humans as a virus. Like technology and aliens the viruses in science fiction are always dangerous and out of control, but humans always manage to survive by combating them through vaccine development.

Search for a possible vaccine to combat SARS-CoV-2 began worldwide shortly after the pandemic began as did discussion around how vaccines would be allocated. Interesting for in the film Contagion the Centre for Disease Control allocated vaccinations by lottery based on a person's date of birth, similar to the Selective Service System of the United States to determine the order of who would be called for military service in the Vietnam war. In Australia there is considerable support for the most vulnerable (Indigenous Australians, the elderly, disabled, those with underlying health issues and pregnant women) being the first recipients of an available vaccine. In other countries concern has been expressed that people of poorer nations should receive the vaccine. 

Early on in Australia computer modelling projections suggested positive cases and deaths would occur if there was non-compliance to the strict restrictions. Indeed it was estimated that in a worse case scenario 150,000 Australians could die of the virus. (reported in The Sydney Morning Herald on 16 March). This information added to the fear and paranoia experienced by many who had lost their jobs, were facing evictions, hunger, shame and possible long term unemployment and poverty.  Each of us began to treat others, including family members as potential vectors of this unseen, dangerous disease amid an ever growing confusion of communication and misinformation. 

Large-scale testing for the virus was instigated to identify carriers who were required to self-isolate for fourteen days. However, since the test could result in false positives as well as false negatives this also created more confusion in our community and some people flouted the rules putting others in danger. Since it was elderly people who were most affected by the virus a concern was generated around whether those over the age of sixty-five should be protected and isolated. Focus was also placed on other marginal groups such as those with disabilities, Indigenous people, homeless people and women who may experience more than usual domestic violence due to forced confinement with an abusive partner. This further created a divide between young and old, disabled and able bodied, the have's and the have not's.  It also resulted in many people in the older age group feeling vulnerable and abandoned by friends and family when in fact they did not feel that they needed special care. The psychological affects on older and elderly individuals was devastating and after two months of protective isolation and psychological disturbance they, along with all age groups were finally permitted to have visitors.

Being in the 'vulnerable' cohort was a difficult label  for many to wear during lock down.  I personally took two long walks per day, which included purchasing food items and having my usual take-away coffee. I felt quite fit even with my painful osteoarthritis. I raked up and bagged copious Autumn leaves dropped everyday from the large Plane tree that adjoins my unit. I cleaned and disinfected door handles and other frequently used surfaces. I drew and in the first week crocheted a very long scarf. I made wholemeal bread because the only bread available in my local convenience store was white. The novelty wore off after making three loaves. I had a couple of over the fence chats with a friend who lives locally. I took photographs when I was out and posted some on Facebook. I watched dog antics in Citizen Park in Richmond and spoke briefly to strangers in the street. Life was not a lot different because I rarely go out at night, I don't go to bars, restaurants, nightclubs or the football. I missed my son and some close friends I couldn't see. I missed going to the cinema, art galleries and coffee shops. I had to walk a little more than usual because I wanted to avoid the confined space within public transport. Breath from my mask fogged up the sunglasses I wear everyday due to a light sensitivity. I was cautious but I didn't feel anxious and spent my time attempting to find information about the virus, whilst all the while resisting other's attempts to draw me into conspiracy theories. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't at times anxious and had one meltdown where I found it difficult dispelling what are generally considered bad thoughts.

In order to make some sense of what we were experiencing I re-read Albert Camus' The Plague even though it refers to a bacterial rather than a viral epidemic or pandemic. The following lines resonated.
No longer were there individual destinies; only a collective destiny, made of plague and the emotions shared by all. Strongest of these emotions was the sense of exile and of deprivation, with all the cross-currents of revolt and fear set up by these. (Camus, 1976:138)


Within this schema I decided to make a collection of artworks that reflected the language used in the pandemic and the combined, shared destiny of individuals. Holistic patterns were overlaying individual behavior and with this in mind I focused on particular words that exemplified the feelings many were experiencing, such as, anxiety, panic, endurance, grief, hysteria, isolation and loss and overlay them, one over the other. The words, like the virus became mimetic in their continual replication. I refused to use the word 'unprecedented' since it was prolific during this period. Given each of us was living within the restrictive regime of lock down in which our freedoms were limited, I used various sized alphabet templates to reflect confined, controlled space and defined borders. I created text works that reflected emotion through the overlay of the letters of each word to suggest the frenetic, mesmerizing, cacophony of persistent media noise (language) that flooded the airwaves. I attempted to create through these overlays, clusters or large congregations of indecipherable text. Since I  consciously subverted the letters' visual form taken together the artworks form a glossolalia - an articulation of unfamiliar language. The ensuring illusion of movement and disturbance that occurs through an interplay between color and line on the visual plane is suggestive of turbulent swarms of dangerous viruses that disperse unseen in the community. Having said that my methodology of overlaying the letters forms a function other than abstraction. They highlight the repetition in our daily lives and new patterns of existence occasioned by being home bound in the isolation period. The proliferation and replication of the individual letters demonstrate the ease of transmission and virulence of SARS-CoV-2 and the disconnectedness of peoples in the world through electronic communication, recalling that other prevalent often used catch phrase 'we're all in this together'. Some of the images are suggestive of looking at viral entities under a microscope and the hard task of navigating through disparate information for discrete identification. For me, producing the works in this manner enabled me to remain in the flow of being mindful, antithetical to what was otherwise a chaotic field.





Each work represents a holistic colony of discrete individuals (humans, insects, microscopic entities, electrically networked information) grouped together - living organisms that became disturbed and moved to action through language noise that resonates through human emotion. Ubiquitous use of the Internet during the lock down period created a unitary whole in a continual swarm of dissipating, often misleading information and patterns of behavior emerged in this disturbed hive mind.

__________________________________________
Camus, Albert, The Plague, Penguin Books in association with Hamish Hamilton, Hammondsworth, Middlesex, England. 1976.
Cheng, C. C. Vincent, Susanna K. P. Lau, Patrick C. Y. Woo and Kwok Yung Yuen, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus as an Agent of Emerging and Reemerging Infection, American Society for Microbiology , 2007.
Cooke, Richard, The Ministry of Pandemics: How the virus revealed our leaders to us, The Monthly, Melbourne, Australia, Issue 166, May 2020 (pgs. 19-25)
Honigsbaum, Mark, The Pandemic Century: A History of Global Contagion from the Spanish Flu to Covid-19, Penguin, WH Allen, Random House, UK. 2019
Kimball, Roger, New York Letter: A Failure of Nerve, Quadrant, Australia, No. 566, Vol LXIV, Number 5, May, 2020 (pgs. 14-16)

I may add more images over the next few days.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

TWO OF MY DRAWINGS ON SHOW AT THOK, RICHMOND

Well the new year has begun and I'm happy to report that two of my small drawings are now hanging & are for sale in the exquisite space that is THOK (The House of Khans), 230 Bridge Road, Richmond.


If you are in the area why not drop in and take a look at the myriad of artistic creations and ornamental items that would enhance your decor.


Have a chat or contact Polly and Dom Khan on
0423614512, the houseofkhans.com or email the house of khans@gmail.com.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Beginning again, after long break...

Hi Folks,
It's been absolutely ages since I posted on this blog and that's because I took up an art residency in the Neuroscience Department of St. Vincent's Hospital, Melbourne in August. I have to date created a number of artworks, namely drawings, digital microscopic photographs of insects and small material sculptures including Jacaranda seed pods, which I covered in imitation gold leaf and placed in two Perspex containers and twenty-three Avocado seeds, which I've peeled and placed into a wooden box. Does't sound like much, but I'e also had lengthy conversations with the Head of Research, which broach on Philosophy rather than Art and Science; but hey, he's a scientist and I'm interested in science fiction and there is a beautiful blend there. Below is one of the insect images that have been either cropped or color changed. Hope that you enjoy it. Oh, one of my drawings from last year has been selected for Connected 2019 exhibition, which will be held in the Atrium, Federation Square in December. 

Julie Clarke (c) 2019

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Art in Science, Science in Art Exhibition

Well, it's nearly ten years since I began this blog (on 9 August 2009) and am happy to report that my drawing below, which is graphite and ink on a water color wash, was shortlisted for the Aikenhead Centre for Medical Discovery, Art in Science, Science in Art exhibition now showing at St. Vincent's Gallery, Daly Wing, St. Vincent's Hospital Melbourne. The exhibition runs until 30 August and contains some interesting responses to the theme. My work has already been sold but is still hanging if you are interested and are in the vicinity.