How has the COVID-19 crisis affected your life?
The performance I had planned has been postponed by a year. I hardly see people anymore, but I have more online collaborations. I do video editing remotely and I’ve been trying out machine translation and other technologies I’ve never used before. Now that I’m at home a lot of the time, my pet quail is getting a bit too cozy with me. It’s weird.
Mai Endo (b. 1984) combines media such as theater, video, and photography. Her recent projects include the group exhibitions “Pangaea on the Screen” at TAV Gallery in Tokyo (2020) and “When It Waxes and Wanes” at VBKÖ in Vienna (2020). She is also an actress and creator of the queer art zine “Multiple Spirits.”
I’m a Berlin-based artist and professional photographer. With corona infections on the rise, governments have been restricting outings and meetings since mid-March. On the work side of things, this causes economic problems, and on the life side of things, I sense big changes in how people see the world. Like many people, I’ve had events and exhibitions called off and photo shoots canceled. Clients are also experiencing economic anxiety with all of the limits on activities and meetings. My work has dropped off sharply.
I’ve also seen a major decline in physical communication. Currently in Europe, people are being asked to refrain from hugs and handshakes. To me as an outsider who is only getting to know the culture, this feels sad, but for people who grew up here, I can imagine the change causing serious psychological issues. The pandemic is damaging not only health and the economy, but also the cultures people have built up until now, eating away at them at the most basic levels. From here on out, I think we’ll see a big overturning of things we once believed in, which is cause for concern.
Mizuki Kin was born in Tokyo in 1987. She has been based in Berlin since 2013. Her work features buildings with historical backgrounds and explores themes of place and memory while reconsidering photographic media. She is also a freelance photographer, producing work for exhibitions, art books, and art media. She was in charge of catalogue for the 2019 Venice Biennale Singapore Pavilion. She worked as a researcher for the Pola Art Foundation in 2015 and the Yoshino Gypsum Art Foundation in 2018.
The spread of the novel coronavirus was at its peak right when I was moving my work from America to Japan, so the ways I’ve been affected are complex. I’ll write it down as I remember it in chronological order.
I was living and working in New York for six months on an Asian Cultural Council grant through March 2020. Then there were still more infected people in Asia than anywhere else. Around mid-January I noticed myself unconsciously doing things like keeping a distance from Asian people wearing masks on the subway. At the same time, as an Asian person, I started to sense a cautious attitude and uneasiness toward me. Around February I heard multiple news reports of violence against Asians on the subway. But at that time the number of infected people in New York was still zero.
The first infection in New York was on March 1st. By March 7th, New York’s Governor Cuomo had issued a State of Emergency and there was a growing sense that people needed to stay in. Still, major art fairs like The Armory Show went ahead. I’d never seen a plane as empty as the one I took back to Japan on March 9th – There were probably 30 empty seats around me. In the days leading up to my departure, there were more infections in Tokyo than in New York and going back to Japan seemed scary. By the time I reached Japan, though, there were more cases in New York. From my friends in New York I got the sense that things were becoming chaotic – There were orders to stay in, activities were restricted, some people in shared housing had to leave. There were even people I knew who died of COVID-19. Still, immediately after I arrived back in Tokyo, the city seemed unimaginably normal. I was shocked.
The domestic and international exhibitions and opportunities I had lined up immediately after my return were postponed or canceled, as has been the case for so many. Japan is not in lockdown or anything like that, but still, while hardly even noticing it, it’s been about a month since I’ve left Shinjuku where I live.
Dan Isomura was born in Tokyo in 1992. He is a 2016 graduate of the Tokyo University of the Arts Oil Painting Department. He was an award-winning participant in the 2017 Genron Chaos*Lounge New Art School. His recent exhibitions include “My Crime Prevention Goods” (Ginza Tsutaya Store, 2019), “Love Now” (Eukaryote, 2018), and “Good Neighbors” (On Sundays/Watari-um, 2017).
Moving around has been a key part of my life for about ten years now. Since the start of this year I’ve been to Hong Kong, Brussels, Bochum, and Frankfurt, where I was making progress on projects. Since I came back to Japan in February, though, I haven’t been able to go anywhere at all because of the novel coronavirus. Almost all of the exhibitions and performances I had scheduled for this year have been cancelled or postponed. Now I spend every day at home.
Like with the 2011 earthquake, my projects have been interrupted, money is certainly tight, and there are problems I can’t find solutions to. Still, there are a few things that have been good for me personally. I’ve had the chance to look back on activities that have finally wound down and think about the future. I’ve been able to study kanji with my family and look into travel in Japan and the history of the performing arts.
Akira Takayama was born in Saitama City in 1969. A producer and artist, he directs the theater group Port B. Going beyond the conventions of theater, his projects include tours, performances, and social experiments that stage interventions in cities and societies all over the world. His activities in recent years include collaborations in art, literature, tourism, architecture, and education. He is also involved with theater-based urban projects and media development.
Translated from the Japanese by Jennifer Pastore
Part 1 with Makoto Aida, Aya Momose, Houxo Que, and Yoichi Umetsu