SCULPTURE BEYOND BOUNDARIES OF PANDEMIC
Fine Art Department, Yaba College of Technology
The present COVID-19 pandemic has literarily brought the whole world to a halt. This stagnation is generally viewed from its standpoint of economic social and political deterioration, but it can be said that it has been very progressive for the sculptors, because they have ample time for innovation, creativity, and virtual exhibition.
The COVID-19 Pandemic no doubt took the world by storm, as it touches the lives of every human being on Earth, directly or indirectly. However, people around the world have been expressing these feelings through, various means and the sculptors are not left behind. Within this COVID-19 lockdown, the International Sculptors Day was celebrated on the 25th of April 2020 and the Nigerian sculptors were not left out, as a virtual exhibition which to some people is the future of visual art was curated and showcased to the world online.
McMullan (2020), believe that the art world has found itself in a position of having to come up with new ways of functioning at a time of mass quarantine, by closing exhibitions, delaying fairs, while pivoting online. The virtual exhibition among other things shows the high spirit of Nigerian sculptors, as they acquire a broader perspective of their arts and went beyond the boundaries of the pandemic to showcase their works.
Art is believed to have the potentials of transforming a nation. Right from the Paleolithic age, art has always been an integral part of man, through culture, entertainment, politics, among others. After the second world war, Joseph Beuys a German artist, viewed art from a dimension healing mental health, thus he propounded a theory that everyone has inherent freedom, creativity, and transformative power, and as such has the potential to be an artist. Figurative art started transforming from this period and going beyond space, gallery, and museum to involving the public and create social change and social practice, because he perceives art as an agent of cure. Beuy in Mclleran (1987), asserts, “Art as a pill to swallow and digest … an ointment to rub in … healing by-products emerged”.
For this reason, sculpture in the expanded field has the potentials to transform and create awareness on the prevention of the spread of Covid-19 as well as making artist more productive during the lockdown. The exhibition of Nigerian sculptors in the Covid-19 lockdown explores the extent to which art can contribute to effective communication about the lives and experiences of people in lockdown.
The sculpture ‘Beyond the Lockdown’ exhibition provided Nigerian sculptors the avenue to respond to fundamental situations. Edewor (2020) wrote “In a pandemic such as we have in our hands dubbed Covid-19, the medical doctor’s response has been to battle the health condition in the frontline; the hospital is her theater of war…the artist is probably the one that approaches times such as this from a perspective devoid of the stampede. With her creative antennas well exerted, there is sublime divine connectivity that injects a valve of consciousness induced for the birthing of a new reality”. For the sculptors, the works exhibited are with the intension of providing hope to the hopeless, bringing joy to the sad and radiating love in the society that is filled with anxiety. Burroughs and Chernow, are of the opinion that the arts are now more important than ever. They can entertain, heal and comfort us during these anxious times.
Also, the exhibition will stand as visual documentation to the unborn generation, as was done during the Spanish flu of 1918, when artists contributed immensely with cartoons in the daily and illustrations on the walls and strategic places. The interactions of people in anxiety during the pandemic with artworks that speak hope and positive words create psychological relief and faith while dealing with social and health disappointing situations, which makes the artist a contributor to the management of the deadly virus.
Although many people, both the literate and non-literate, have some level of awareness of the virus and how it is transmitted, to the modes of prevention. Having the capacity to discuss openly and create a body of sculptures that can impact people’s lives could make a positive impact. Central to this virtual exhibition, of course, are the artworks themselves. The exhibits were hybrid art forms that were conceived and created during the lockdown, with approaches taken to create awareness on the COVID-19 global pandemic.
The sculptors created forms from materials such as wood, bronze, metal, glass fiber among other; and also, used idioms, such as realism and abstraction to express their thoughts. These are a novel way to create awareness during the lockdown. In this sense, the exhibition showcased a new genre of sculptures with tendencies of generating peace, joy and hope; that are more valuable and capable of facilitating social change other than mere aesthetic that is drawn from traditional sculptures.
Beyond the extensive public benefits, sculpture is also capable of taking a sick person’s mind off their pain and lower their stress levels, this makes sculpture not to be only decorative but part of the entire model of care. Thus, this new idea of virtual sculpture exhibition has not only kept the sculptors busy but also introduced a socially-oriented practice that can bring hope and relief to both the people suffering from COVID-19 and their loved ones. Unlike the physical exhibition that the audience have to move to the gallery to enjoy, the online exhibition brings arts to the hospital bed. Against the backdrop of influenza, the sculptors and their works became the ideal model of mental health stability and aesthetic surmise that can bring a turn around to the difficult condition.
Edewor, U.N.O. (2020). Sculpture Beyond Lockdown. Sculpture Association of Nigeria. Lagos.
Jennifer Mclerran (1987) Art History Research Paper (Joseph Beuy’s Artist as Healer). LIT Verlag. London.
McMullan, T. (2020). The Art World Geos Virtual, Frieze Magazine. New York.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the Centre for Housing and Sustainable Development or the University of Lagos, Nigeria