I Tried To Hear With My Heart
by Steven Cohen
The covid-19 confinement has been a real test of artistic autonomy and resourcefulness. Paying the rent, a kind of geo-politics. I worked 100% alone with only what I could find in my studio. I made many objects but only a single performance: A selfie-portrait. 23 000 people have died in France alone of covid-19. I put on my corona make-up in sacred silence wich is broken repeatedly by the sirens of ambulances. I am forbidden to go out. I am compelled to go in. My art is my trench. The thorns are from the grave of someone I love. The bat is gentle on my lips. Blameless. Like death.
The Covid bat make-up
I am a white South African jewish queer artist who lives in France and works internationally. I say this not because I need a box to lock myself in, but because I must be aware of the origins of this position I have assumed – aware of my white privilege, my experience of being raised in apartheid South Africa, questions about what post-colonial means, my orientation as a member of a historically persecuted race of jews, my intersectional position as a queer artist whose work is often made in high heels and make-up and designed for confrontation.
I need to be vigilantly conscious of the origins of my voice as an artist … when I should express my self … when as a white man I should shut the fuck up. The covid pandemic, the long months of very tight lock-down in France, have been difficult for me, as with everyone and easier than for many. A time to reflect on how tough everyday life is for marginalised people in compromised situations trying to stay afloat in a sea of systemic injustices. I tried to hear with my heart. To think. It was a time of great solitude. Bukowski wrote „drink from the well of yourself and begin again“.
From the 14 March to the 11th of May I spoke little. I wrote extensively. I created a few visual artworks. My voice was in my hands. I went out for necessities only four times in two months. I dreamed covividly. I slept little. I ate little. I spent little. I earned nothing. I invested in new ideas for my next work. I refused over two dozen interviews or propositions to create video statements for which no payment was offered. I am not mercenary, but I am not a pushover for institutions and galleries. Only really for chocolate. I wrote over 300 pages of diary, but publicly I was relatively reticent.
14 March – baboon, shelves
8 April – anti-semitism
9 April – Golgotha, skull shoes
11 April – Salaryman, Japan, free art
20 April – Cleaning Time, Vienna
10 May – Mothers Day, Family
Company Steven Cohen website http://steven-cohen.com/
Stevenson gallery https://www.stevenson.info/artist/steven-cohen