Three artists imagine what a COVID Memorial should look like
Channeling grief through art in Uvalde, Texas
Framework: ZIP Codes
This 2013 article by Anna Clark, “The Tyranny of the Zip Code: They Don’t Just Locate Us. They Define Us,” explains that beyond providing a categorization system for sorting mail, zip codes are used for a variety of purposes, including determining the allocation of government resources. She argues that rather than connecting us, zip codes divide us: their links to resource allocation are mirrored by political positions and debates.
The 63106 Project is a collaborative storytelling project investigating and highlighting the impact of the pandemic on people living in St. Louis’ 63106 ZIPcode. The project is part of Ferguson Beyond Ferguson, a nonprofit focused on racial equity.
The Opportunity Atlas is an interactive site focused on the question, “Which neighborhoods in America offer children the best chance to rise out of poverty?” Users can search locations, i.e. by zipcode, and review a range of data connected to children’s outcomes in adulthood: household income, incarceration rate, teenage birth rate, employment rates, median rent, job growth rates, etc.
This article, and accompanying photographs, capture Queens’ uneven pandemic recovery. Although the article celebrates the palpable return of vibrant energy on the borough’s streets, in some of the hardest hit ZIP codes, economic struggles persist.
Inspiration: Artistic Projects and Analytical Essays
This article explores Vermont Poet Laureate Mary Ruefle’s postage poetry project. Ruefle is anonymously mailing 1,000 poems to 1,000 Vermonters chosen randomly from a phone book. Some poems are intended to make readers think about current events in the state and nation, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Arrivals and Departures is a public art installation by Yara El-Sherbini and Davina Drummond. It was organized by the Brooklyn Academy of Music and open from March 24 through April 11, 2021 at the Brooklyn Borough Hall. Names of people who were arriving (through birth) or departing (through death) were honored on a train station-style board; a form on BAM’s website invited submissions from around the world.
“Creating an Inhabitable World for Humans Means Dismantling Rigid Forms of Individuality” by Judith Butler is a meditation on the differential impacts of the ongoing pandemic. Butler notes that, despite these differential impacts, the pandemic links all people together and encourages a renewed sense of interconnectedness. Considering this interconnectedness, our shared future depends on being more mindful of our relationships with the people and world around us.
In “Learning from the Virus,” Paul Preciado employs a Foucauldian framework to explore the politics of governance and meaning of sovereignty throughout the pandemic. He considers the broader history of pandemics and their accompanying political transformations alongside a meditation on biopolitics.
“Photographs of Covid, One Year Later” includes links to various photo essays exploring experiences of the pandemic. Topics include covid denial, suffering and death, and covid’s third wave.
Reflection by Artist Michele Pearson Clarke about the charged meaning of public art, and public space, in light of the ongoing pandemic. Focusing on Toronto, she argues for Indigenous place-making city-wide and support for new methods of community-engaged public art works.
“Four Studies of Black Healing ” is primarily a photo essay featuring work by photographers Gioncarlo Valentine and Elliot Jerome Brown Jr. The photographs were taken on journeys through the South and respond to this central question: “After a year of disproportionate loss from the pandemic and the continuous threat of police violence, on top of centuries of discrimination and disenfranchisement, what does healing look like for Black Americans?”
Mara Gay’s “What if America Had Learned from New York City?” explores New York City’s transformation from COVID-19 epicenter to recovery leader. She points to high vaccination rates and widespread masking as a model for the nation, while also calling attention to the necessity of ongoing work to ensure better vaccine and social equity across racial and economic boundaries.
Todd Heisler and David Gonzalez, “These 115 Workers Helped Keep New York Alive in Its Darkest Months,” features photographs of service workers alongside a reflection on the centrality of their labor in the local and national economy. Text highlights the service workers’ hardships, dedication, and diverse labor practices during the pandemic.
The New York Times “The Daily” podcast, “Stories from the Great American Labor Shortage,” features the stories of employers and workers, who reflect on how the pandemic has transformed their lives.
Grieving, Memorials, & Activism
“Giving shape to grief: COVID-19 memorials from around the world” features photographs of diverse COVID-19 memorials. From paint to stone to light, from Brazil to Worcester, people honor those who died of COVID-19.
In “The Final Pandemic Betrayed,” Ed Yong investigates the complex politics and experiences of grief amidst the ongoing pandemic. The piece features photographs by Aaron Turner.
“A World Remembers: Memorials Honor COVID-19’s 5 Million Dead” describes a variety of memorials dedicated to people who died of COVID-19 around the world. Accompanied by photographs and video clips, this article also provides historical context for contemporary memorials and experiences of mourning.
Sheryl Gray Stolberg, “Scarred by Covid, Survivors and Victims’ Families Aim to Be a Political Force,” explores activism by Covid survivors and others affected by its impact, including relatives of both survivors and people who have passed away. The article describes the difficulty of Covid-related activism due to political divisions, while highlighting activists’ goals, such as a national holiday to honor victims, mental health and disability benefits, and increased research about long-haul Covid.
In “Urged by Battery Park City Locals, Work Paused on Essential Workers Monument,” Valentina Di Liscia covers local outcry over the construction of the “Circle of Heroes” memorial in Battery Park City. Residents oppose the project because they were not consulted about its development or and believe that it will reduce green space. They demanded a pause in order to support greater community engagement.
Marked by COVID is a non-profit organization which organizes all-volunteer events and connects COVID activist hubs across the country. The group’s activities include funding “honest obituaries,” organizing actions, amplifying personal stories, advocating for a COVID Memorial Day, and coordinating a sympathy card exchange.
What Loss Looks Like: Times Readers Share Artifacts of Remembrance
This is a “virtual memorial,” composed of images and interviews solicited by the New York Times. The photos are of objects that serve as reminders of people who have passed away throughout the pandemic, whether due to COVID or other causes.
Alice Kelly’s “COVID, Commemoration, and Cultural Memory” analyzes American practices of memorialization, such as practices of cultural memory clustered around World War I, in order to highlight precedents, parallels, and possibilities for our particular moment.
In “Memorials to COVID-19 Must Hold Space for Grief and Accountability,” Monument Lab’s Paul Farber and Patricia Eunji Kim caution us against building COVID memorials focused singularly on heroism and closure. Rather, memorials should explore the overlapping crises of our contemporary moment and hold space for multiple, differential experiences of the pandemic.
Postcard gallery featuring letters of support for frontline workers. Anyone can submit a postcard, using this site: simply choose artwork, write, and hit submit to share your message.
“670,000 Flags on the National Mall Pay Tribute to Covid-19’s Devastating Causes” features information about In America:Remember, an art installation at the National Mall. On view September 17 – October 3, 2021, the installation invites visitors to add tributes to loved ones who passed away due to COVID-19, on small white flags. The flags fill all 20 acres of the National Mall.
This article describes artist Cara Levine’s “Dig a Hole to Put Your Grief In,” a collaborative project developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the BLM movement, social uprisings over police brutality, and the existential threat of climate change. The project consists of Levine, and a team of participants, working together to dig a large hole, participate in activities and rituals, and create related artistic projects.
“Grieving Families Asked Congress to Recognize Covid’s Victims. It Didn’t Go Well” describes COVID activists’ frustrations, as the struggle to communicate with elected officials. It also explores their demands and strategies, including marching in Washington, with particular emphasis on activism around declaring the first Monday of every March a Covid Memorial Day.
“Covid Know More” is an educational project by the NAACP which seeks to combat Black Americans’ increased vulnerability to COVID-19 by offering information about vaccine safety and effectiveness, news about COVID-19, and educational material which can be disseminated widely.