As you go . . .
the roads under your feet,
towards a new future
14 April, 2020
The last time I was in China (Shanghai) was in January 2020. I left on 21 January 2020 after giving a workshop to curators at the Power Station of Art. The day before my departure I tried to get masks for friends and family in Serbia for protection against air pollution there, but I realized that shelves were empty and that the panic had started. On 23 January, the lockdown in Wuhan commenced.
In early February, representatives from the partner institution for the project, Zdenka Badovinac, Gulnara Kasmaileva and Murat Djumailev travelled to Addis Ababa for a project meeting.
Nikita Choi was unable to attend due to restrictions placed upon the flights to China from Europe. There were still a great number of flights from China to Ethiopia, although the airport felt apocalyptic, with passengers being greeted by people in white suits, gloves and masks as they checked in. Everyone from airport customs officers to cleaning staff had some kind of protection.
On my flight to Ethiopia I met doctor who claimed that this virus situation can only happen in Africa and Asia, and for Europe this sounded like a distant and impossible scenario of the third-world.
On the day of my return from Addis Ababa, doctor Li Wenliang died.
On 4 March, I left Belgrade for Melbourne with my family. At that time, Serbia had no virus-affected patients and today, 13 April, they have reported over 4000 cases within one month. Australia closed its borders soon after we arrived.
Has the virus has made us truly global, as some claim, or has it exposed our fears towards the Other through the racism and xenophobia that we have faced in recent months?
What this situation has forced us to do is learn to live with our own limitations and acknowledge our privileged positions in the world. Most of us have clean water, have houses to be isolated within.
In learning this new way of life and thinking hard to understand what our reality will look like and what kind of new ‘normal’ we need to accept, knowing for sure that there will be no return to the previous state of affairs, I have decided to continue with the project and try to stay connected as a form of mutual support.
While the Belt and Road Initiative is a point of departure of the project and during this difficult time the data economy with medical supplies creates new narratives around it, this project and partnerships prove that although BRI is a “State” economic and political action, it starts to connect other non-state energies across the regions that are not controllable and are not part of the state narrative, but rather a process of constant de-colonization.
The online journal was originally framed as a vehicle that will track the progress of artists’ research and present archival material combining text, interviews and images-based contributions for the duration of the project. In addition, due to a lack of knowledge production platforms within the local contexts engaged by the project, the journal will provide for the development of exchange and the fostering of research.
While our daily life is limited to home isolation and families, we need to remind ourselves that the personal and familial are political spaces crucial to decolonizing and healing processes.1Noelani Goodyear-Ka‘o¯pua (Kanaka Maoli) in her text Indigenous Oceanic Futures.
This could be good time to start.
While local on-the-ground research remains crucial, the online journal will provide the connecting point and sharing platform for ideas, solidarity, kindness, as well as a passage for self-reflection and thinking about what is next for us.
The journal starts with entries on the pandemic from colleagues and institutional partners from different localities that the project is engaging with. Their individual reflections on the pandemic from Belgrade, Ljubljana, Addis Ababa, Bishkek, Shanghai, and Guangzhou reflect their own personal challenges of being mother, partner, lover, friend, son and daughter, museum curator, director, and artist, in a new reality.
Through these first texts for the journal, we try to understand how the pandemic changes the socio-political setting within the local context, how the community reflects on it, what institutions look like in this moment, how people connect, how you can protect yourself and loved-ones and stay awake to the challenges in front of us.
During the meeting in Addis Ababa, we have established a number of commonalities that we share, and research on these commonalities and their work in progress will be shared through the following months and years.
As our reality changes rapidly, we will stay dynamic and respond to urgencies that should be addressed.
The online journal has been supported by the Foundation for Art Initiatives as part of the discoursive platform of first stage of the project.
 Noelani Goodyear-Ka‘o¯pua (Kanaka Maoli) in her text Indigenous Oceanic Futures.