A dormant exhibition in response to SARS-CoV-2 pandemic

The photographs used in the text are extracted from the dormant exhibition "The Penumbral Age" at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw. Its installation was suspended a few days before the opening scheduled for the 20th of March 2020, due to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. The museum curators are not unaware of the irony of the situation: the consequences of violence against nature, the leading theme of the exhibition, have led to institutional paralysis. Sebastian Cichocki and Jagna Lewandowska wrote: “Art will certainly not protect us against catastrophe, but it can help us arm ourselves with “strange tools” for the work of imagination and empathy. In her memorable manifesto from 1969, Mierle Laderman Ukeles posed the question: After the revolution, who’s going to pick up the garbage on Monday morning? In works of art from recent decades we not only seek a visualization of processes occurring on our planet, but also discern possible proposals for the future. If ecological catastrophe is already happening, together we wonder, will we ever manage to clean up our planetary mess and rebuild our relations with other sentient beings?” https://wiekpolcienia.artmuseum.pl/pl

“Ghostpopulations” are multi-colored images, cutouts created on the basis of 19th and 20th century nature educational boards and medical textbooks from, amongst others, the collections of the Leprosy Museum in Bergen. Although leprosy epidemics in Europe ceased already in the 16th century, fear of infection continued for a long time, primarily because leprosy was considered a punishment for sin.

In 1970, a group of Buddhist monks from the Shingon and Nichiren schools adopted the name Jusatsu Kito Sodan (Group of Monks Bringing the Curse of Death) and went on a pilgrimage to Japan, from Toyama to Kumamoto. Equipped with conch instruments and books with the curses of Abhichar, the monks wandered from factory to factory where they camped and performed their ceremonies. Their intention was to bring death to factory directors through prayers. The activities of Jusatsu Kito Sodan were a response to the environmental pollution and mass poisonings in Japan after a series of epidemics in the mid-1960s.

Betsy Damon is a feminist, activist and environmental artist. In the early ‘90s the artist decided to devote herself entirely to the protection of water resources on the planet, threatened by industrial and agricultural activities. In 1991, she founded the NGO Keepers of the Waters, which aims to support scientific, educational, and artistic projects related to raising awareness about the water crisis. In the 1990s, Damon traveled to Asia to initiate artistic and activist projects related to river protection, mainly with the Funan River and the Lhasa River. The Keepers of the Waters festival included the works of such artists depicted here as: Li Jixiang and Yin Xiuzhen.

It is a collage of two photos found by Agnieszka Polska on the same page of a magazine from the 1980s, confronting a photo illustrating an article about human dependence on fossil fuels with an ad for champagne.

Akira Tsuboi is a nurse, activist, and a self-taught painter. He uses art to convey information on the consequences of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant disaster Tsuboi interviewed paramedics, teachers, monks, employees of the power plant, cleaning services and social assistance centers, farmers, etc. Then he creates "protest paintings" on wooden panels. Staying away from the artistic mainstream, Tsuboi presents his work in the form of books, during protests, and improvised exhibitions in public spaces (which is why he often meets with police interventions).

The works of Manumie Qavavau—an Inuit artist, drawer and meticulous print-maker—flow between two extremes: narrativity and surrealism. Transformation is a recurring theme, suggesting a fluid relationship between the human and animal world, as well as between nature and technology.