Lockdown - Bubbles

By Felicity Milburn

From mine to yours

I’m always intrigued by how rapidly new words and phrases embed themselves in our everyday language. Major events, good and bad, seem to accelerate this process, as we reach for expressions to fit our changing reality. How perfectly the satisfyingly forthright and vaguely profane ‘munted’ summed up the damage and frustrations of Canterbury’s earthquake years! The COVID-19 pandemic has required further additions to our shared vocabulary – first ‘social-distancing’’, then ‘flattening the curve’, and now ‘bubble’ – a word I usually associate with children’s games and bath time repurposed to remind us of the need for constant personal vigilance if we hope to slow the infection’s spread.

This odd global moment, with us all intentionally isolating from each other and yet also sharing in that isolation, right across the world, put me in mind of a work by Anne Noble, White Lantern, from the Gallery’s collection. It’s a photograph of an inflatable plastic globe, shot against a black background so it takes on a hint of galactic scale, even as we know it’s something we could easily hold in our hands. Right at the centre of the sphere, and in the middle of our view, is a valve – and part of the tension of Noble’s image is how easy it would be to deflate this tiny replica of the world. Perhaps especially here in Ōtautahi, we know just how fragile and tenuous – and how filled up with air – that suggestion of stability is.

Noble’s work, made after a residency in Antarctica, speaks directly to ideas of protection and shared responsibility, but the others I’ve chosen for this set explore a pretty wide spectrum of ideas and impulses. Some suggest isolation; others connection – and there’s a sacred stone circle thrown in for good measure (can’t hurt, right?). What connects them for me is that, like all bubbles, they are reminders of our shared air, our vulnerability, and our obligations to each other.

Felicity Milburn
Lead Curator
Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū

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