Wish you were here

I am no aficionado of social media. I don’t do twitter or Facebook, though I do have a website which gets updated every couple of years. I’m suspicious of perfectly curated lives. I find it abhorrent that children’s end of year school photos come with the option of digitally erased pimples and whitened teeth. I’ve watched on, deeply troubled, as elections and referendum results globally have been manipulated by unseen forces in the cyber world. Disturbingly, I see how social media can be harnessed for spreading dangerous misinformation and lies; and how it can offer a platform for trolling and the spreading of hate and division.

When invited to participate in this digital Lockdown Residency with Art Arcadia, initially, I was reticent. With encouragement from Paola, Art Arcadia’s Programme Manager, I tentatively agreed. Some weeks later, we met for a socially distanced training session amongst the gravestones, in St Augustine’s churchyard. By early December, I had launched into a takeover of their Instagram account, settling in after a glitch or two. I find the occasional technical malfunction quite reassuring. Resistant to the idea of complete control, I prefer happenstance in both work and life. For example, I enjoyed the live Instagram conversation between Edy Fung and Michelle McKeown as part of Edy’s exhibition at Art Arcadia in December. I also enjoyed the long pause as they tried to connect, the occasional video interference, the frisson resulting from the low battery on Edy’s cell phone.

I grew up in a generation without internet, without computers. Phones were connected to a wire in the hall. Cameras used film that was then dispatched to the chemist for processing, the resulting photographs being collected a week later. You never knew quite what you would get back. No edits, no filters – cropping, straightening, adjusting exposure, contrast or colour. I often revert to analogue technology. I enjoy the slowness, the mishaps, the happy accidents.

But lack of control in a time of crisis is very scary. For a year, Covid 19 has unleashed fear, psychological and economic suffering, sickness and death across the globe. Waves of the virus affecting and re infecting nations, new variants with higher transmission rates, international borders  closed as countries try to contain the spread. During the year 2020, and Christmas especially, the pandemic has separated loved ones. We’ve endured shielding, self-isolating, restrictions on movement, restrictions on gatherings; hospitals, care homes and prisons cut off from visitors. But digital technology has kept people connected.

On a personal level, this has never felt so relevant or urgent. During the course of writing this piece, events took a tragic turn. My mother, who had been cocooning since the outbreak of the virus in March, had a fall at home and was taken to hospital. The only means of contact was via sporadic ‘virtual visits’ using the hospital’s iPad. While in hospital, she contracted Coronavirus. She passed away a couple of weeks later.

We are in the midst of a pandemic. Millions of people are sick or grieving. Hospitals are at breaking point. Medical staff are exhausted and traumatized.

My mum was an ordinary extraordinary woman.

I miss my two boys, I miss my family. I miss my friends. But most of all I miss my mum.

In loving memory

Wish you were here.

Connie Morris: 23rd January 1931 – 12th January 2021



Homage to my Mother