Q&A Quarantine and Art: “Art Will Be the Fuel”

Sanquin

Here is the latest Q&A conversation between Marsha Pearce and Remy Jungerman. It is part of the series Q&A Quarantine and Art [also see previous post Q&A Quarantine and Art.] Here are excerpts of the conversation. For full interview and photos of Jungerman’s work, go to Q&A: Art Will Be the Fuel.

Marsha Pearce: Remy, how are you? Are you sheltering in Amsterdam? And have you been following news about Suriname? I read a New York Times article, which reported that the fall in prices of oil and gold – Suriname’s two main export commodities – has created financial distress for the country.

Remy Jungerman: Thank you for thinking about me at this time in which every person in the world has been impacted in some way by this pandemic – though the circumstances vary, of course, given the reality of the country we live in and how each government is addressing helping its people through this. I am very fortunate to be in Amsterdam at the moment, where I have daily access to my studio. At the same time, I miss being in New York and so sad that I am separated from my partner and don’t know when I’ll see her again.

At the beginning of the pandemic, Suriname was doing pretty well. In recent days, however, the number of COVID-19 infections have grown. Since Suriname doesn’t have the resources to deal with an outbreak, they went into a second lockdown and have to be very careful with who is coming in from the neighbouring countries. Financial distress has always been part of the Surinamese economy and with the current fall in the prices of oil and gold it will be very hard to rebuild after the pandemic. Recently, there were elections in Suriname and my hope is that the chosen politician can bring a change and use the resources in a better way.

Your art practice explores different sources: African elements, Surinamese Maroon culture, Winti (an Afro-Surinamese religion) and 20th Century Modernism. Your work considers their proximity as you bring these aspects into close relationships with each other. How are you thinking about connections and closeness in this pandemic context, which is defined by staying apart?

As the world has come to a standstill, we now realise the limitations of connection physically, because traveling around the globe has been impossible. We’re now seeing that without physical travel we can still be connected online. We have time to rethink our connectivity. As Yinka Shonibare put it: “The pandemic is giving us time to think about the kind of life we want afterwards.” One thing we should not forget as members of the African diaspora is the spiritual connection we have through the Atlantic with the motherland, Africa, and what it has meant to the development of modernism. That connectivity will always remain and it’s maybe getting even stronger in these strange times. In my work, that connection is always there as an ancestral force and this pandemic is not going to take it away. Visual art exists in a third dimension. The idea, the material and the realisation happen in a space that even the artist can be surprised to see emerge. So, by staying apart we are now having time to consider the future and evaluate history and how we want to continue. The arts will be the fuel that will move us forward and heal our souls. [. . .]

For full interview, visit http://marshapearce.com/qanda/art-will-be-the-fuel/

[Photograph above by Aatjan Renders: “Artist Remy Jungerman in Amsterdam.”]

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