Remote Civic Studio

Thirty Days

Chavala Ymker

As I sit at my desk, putting the finishing touches on this project, it’s been three weeks since I left campus and two weeks since I’ve been self-quarantined in my apartment. I have always wanted to be a part of history, that one monumental event that changes everything. Never did I imagine that event would be a global pandemic. It still feels surreal, this moment that will change the course of my life. At moments, I laugh at the insane hilarity and others, I am nearly crushed by the weight of loss and uncertainty. My greatest concern is that when this is all over, we will soon forget the isolation and fear as we rebuild the future.

Over the past semester, Civic Studio considered the nature of history and its preservation. Museums often serve as “cabinets of curiosities,” a place to go and marvel at people and objects distanced from our own experiences. In a similar manner, archives compile elements of a non-contextual history. Yet, both museums and archives serve the purpose of reminding us about where we came from, even in the blurriest outlines of an archive photo.

I want to follow the example of archives with the intention of capturing this moment for myself and others. The power of archiving in the moment, is that I can contextualize and identify each idea, object and image rather than leaving a future stranger to guess at their origin and meaning. Historians are already encouraging people to record their stories because what we record now will be a more accurate representation of our experiences. Thus these projects are not only a remembrance for those of us who are living through this unprecedented time, but for all who come after us. This pandemic has forced our publics to expand across the world and through time as we band together even through social distancing. The physical distance is pushing us toward friends we haven’t talked to in years, and opening opportunities for a Michigan girl to perform at a California open mic.

Thirty Days is a collection of images important to my personal experience of the lockdown. From a wrapper of the last meal I ate, to a stick I found on my frequent walks during isolation, the mundane items take on an element of comedic tragedy. It’s the absurdity of being trapped in an apartment for weeks on end compared with the pain of watching friends deal with the death of loved ones.

Three months ago, I walked through the Grand Rapids Public Museum Archive and wondered at each object preserved to represent a storied past. Now, this pandemic has been deemed of historic importance, and my own work is going to be a part of a similar archive. Perhaps in twenty years, another student will walk through the same collection and wonder about the stories behind my objects.

Other projects from Remote Civic Studio

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