During the pandemic, one of the only ‘safe’ social activities that I (and many others) have felt comfortable with has been going on walks with family and friends. In a time of immense loneliness, grief, fear, and languishing, going for walks with loved ones has come to symbolize a moment of connection, a momentary escape from the fear of COVID-19, and a return to nature and to a mode of slow living where meaning, joy, and art is found again outside of the logic of capitalism.
A combination of landscapes and soundscapes I’ve encountered throughout the pandemic this collection is a reflection on the past, a gentle longing for the future, and a rambling return to what has been important to me during the pandemic.
plants languish in the drought
lose vitality, grow feeble and weak;
become dispirited and suffer neglect
existing in an unpleasant situation
for a long time;
lovers languish in the distance
lose intimacy, grow detached and strange
become disenchanted and offer neglect
existing in an isolating situation
for a long, long time;
lose connection, grow selfish and alone
become disengaged and accept neglect
existing in a secluded situation
for a long, long time;
families languish in the mundane
lose alone time, grow worn out and drained
become overwhelmed and fear neglect
existing in a stressful situation
for a long, long time;
workers languish in the office
lose motivation, grow irritable and tired
become disillusioned and resent neglect
existing in an unethical situation
for a long, long,
too long time.
This project was inspired by Angela Rawlings’ multidisciplinary series GIBBER, and by Kathleen Stewart’s book, Ordinary Affects, which examines the ordinary moments in life, or the things that happen “in impulses, sensations, expectations, daydreams, encounters, and habits of relating” (2). Over the past few years, I’ve found my life to be unfulfilling; I was working full-time while doing my Ph.D. part-time, and I was stretching myself thin. I was a self-proclaimed workaholic and was very invested in hustle culture, and my physical and mental health were always placed second to professional achievement.
I realized that how I was living my life wasn’t bringing me happiness. I was pushing myself too hard trying to prove that I could ‘make it’ both in industry and academia. I was also diagnosed with a chronic pain condition at this time which, coupled with some personal loss, led to a period of burnout and depression. I spent weeks and months lying on my couch, crying every day, and feeling both numb and deep desperation for something else.
Since then, I’ve been searching for meaning in ordinary moments. I’ve been rethinking what it means to me to live a good life, how I want to spend my time, and what success and happiness look like for me. It’s been a long road to recovery and a journey that I’m still on and going for walks has been one way for me to think and clear my head. And now, more than ever, I think there is beauty to be found in the moments and events that are often overlooked, in stillness, in being with friends and family, and in nature, and that’s what this project is about.
Since March 2020, I have gone on walks with friends, family, and by myself, sat on docks, listened to the rain, watched the sun go down, and have taken photos. In that time, I accumulated a collection of photos taken with the Live Photos feature on my iPhone XR. Live Photos are an iPhone feature that records 1.5 seconds before and after you take a picture, resulting in a moving picture. Next, I selected several Live Photos, all taken at the same location around the same time, and selected “Save as Video” on my iPhone. This function stitches together several Live Photos and creates short (5-20 second) videos. From there, I uploaded the videos to YouTube, saved the videos as unlisted, and embedded them here.
For the opening video, I used videos that I had taken over the pandemic as the background and overlaid the poem as text on top using Canva. I then downloaded the files, opened them in iMovie, created a voiceover of me reading the poem and added royalty-free music. Finally, I uploaded the video to YouTube as unlisted and added it to the collection. For the audio files, I stitched together video snippets I had taken during my pandemic walks and saved them as audio files. I uploaded the audio files to Soundcloud and embedded them here.
The first stanza of the poem “languishing” was compiled from a series of dictionary entries for the word ‘languishing,’ a combination of definitions and example sentences from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the Cambridge American Dictionary, and the Collins English Dictionary. In each following stanza, I have revised the first stanza to fit the various areas of life that have been changed, perhaps irrevocably, by the pandemic.