ArtHouse Jersey currently has two artists, Joss MacDonald and Christina Orchard, staying in our Greve de Lecq Barracks for two weeks while self-isolating. You can visit the ‘Artist in Residence’ section of our homepage to read their biographies.
While in residence, we have asked both Joss and Christina to write more about how they have been spending their time, giving an insight into projects they are involved with as well as their own reflections. Their blog posts below touch on being an artist during the current climate COVID-19 presents, as well as both the negative and positive impacts enforced isolation has had on both their own practices.
Much like everybody else at the moment, our lives have taken an unexpected and fairly dystopian twist. We made the decision to come back to Jersey from our home in London on a whim last Sunday and were kindly welcomed in by ArtHouse Jersey to quarantine at the Greve De Lecq Barracks. Although as a freelance music composer isolation is something that I am well versed in, spending 14 days in quarantine at a historical building on the scenic north coast of Jersey is definitely a change from my small home studio in the urban jungle of Hammersmith.
Being an artist at the moment is much like being in any profession in these times – it’s hard to keep your head in the game when the world seems to be falling down around you. I spent the first week of self-isolation in London avoiding all responsibility and watercolour painting Disney characters, because apparently that’s what I needed to do to cope. I think it’s really important to acknowledge that that is absolutely fine – you should always put your mental health before anything else. Remember, we are living through a pandemic!
Now, like many of us I have become a lot more used to this new way of life and it’s been easier to get on top of my work. I have been composing for an ongoing project that I can’t quite release the details of yet, and have also participated in two worldwide orchestra projects that were released this last weekend.
The first, a project called ‘Lockdown Orchestra’ where the magic of technology puts 150 strangers in the same concert hall as they play a new orchestral piece called ‘Flight Fantastic’ by composer Ben Morales Frost. I was a part of the sound editing team and the whole thing was completed within a week from the first callout for instrumentalists! Not totally sure how we pulled that off, but it sounded pretty epic when it came together.
The second project released this weekend was for World Piano Day (the 88th day of the year) and is entitled ‘Music By 300 Strangers’, a concept by Christian Henson, composer and owner of Spitfire Audio to create a piece of systems music composed by… yep, you guessed it, 300 strangers! The end product was the perfect demonstration that although we can’t physically be together in these strange times, we can still continue to create art and build communities and friendships that arguably are more important now than ever.
If you can take anything positive from this situation it is seeing musicians, actors, artists and creatives of all backgrounds share their craft online purely to spark joy in other people.
Experiencing the new ways in which we are all working to create a sense of community in a time where physical communication is scarce and knowing that once this is all over we will hug each other tighter, appreciate our freedom better and never take toilet paper for granted again.
As I write this, I am just over a week into self-isolation. I thought I would take this opportunity to tell you, dear reader, exactly what I have been up to whilst waiting out my full 14-day embargo on fresh air. As an actor it feels like quite a turbulent time for me and many of my friends foolhardy enough to have chosen the same career – especially as a lot of our work stems from actually physically being somewhere that isn’t your own front room.
Many people I know (myself included) have felt a lot like the proverbial ‘lost puppy’, if indeed that ‘puppy’ in question was an ‘out-of-work actor’. However there is no point moping about that, and for this past week that is exactly what I have not done!
Due to being in isolation you’d probably be thinking ‘Well as a physical performer he can’t be doing much physical movement work in isolation’ and you would be RIGHT! Kind of. I have been trying to maintain a level of activeness everyday, which I would recommend to you all if you can. If you are struggling for ideas, a friend of mine told me to do the 20/20 challenge. This essentially is 20 press-ups and 20 squats, everyday. Day one is easy enough, but day two really takes it out of you.
Other than that, I have been using much of the time for creative ideas. Yes, that magical word ‘ideas’. A word that before isolation just meant ‘procrastination from actual physical work’ now IN isolation is the holy-grail that I, and many like me, grasp on tightly to. I may spend much of my next week in quarantine working on a new skill, work on a new accent or perhaps try my hand at juggling… again. Who knows – my main goal is to try and stay upbeat and look at this time as a free ticket to hone and better my self and my craft.
Another positive that has come from this week has been the opportunity of doing some much needed admin work with my theatre company ‘Project Lockout’. Sadly our latest show ‘The Maniac Complex’ which was to be performed on the 22nd of March as part of the London Vault Festival was cancelled. So I spent much of this week talking with the company about how best to continue making work after everything is back to normal. We have a few (here’s that word again) ‘ideas’ up our sleeves, so be sure to follow us on Instagram and Twitter if you like the sound of gritty cinematic mime, spoken word and physical theatre acted against epic sound score. When I put it like that, you’d be mad not to!
If there was one positive thing to being an artist cooped up for an uncertain amount of time, it is that when it is all over there will be a flurry of new ideas that are sure to rapidly bring us back to a level of creativity, togetherness and sheer wondrousness. At least, that is my one wish for us all.