40 pLUS

lynette m.f. bosch, ph.d.

SUNY Distinguished Professor, SUNY Geneseo

“The truth,” says The Plague’s narrator, “is that everyone is bored, and devotes himself to cultivating habits.” People are busy leading their routine lives, scurrying about to complete each day’s tasks within what always seems an insufficient allotment of time. The workdays, meetings, and journals come and go in a steady rhythm. We are busy — as busy as a person can be — but are we truly aware and alive?”

- Albert Camus, The Plague (1947)

In “Quarantine: 40 Days and 40 Nights,” we live with Geandy and Imara in historical time, as well as in the timeless world of art and in the process of making art detailed by Geandy in this series, where he thinks about life, love, death, sickness, plague, comic books, Walt Disney, John Milton, Genesis, the Virgin Mary, Ochún, Cuba, the United States, Latin America, Europe, Africa and the History of Art and Philosophy, in capital letters, with a little Theology thrown in for good measure. A significant historical time is a time of events, of politics, of circumstances, of life turned upside down, of controversy and confusion, generated by the chaos of displacement from what is assumed to be “the normal.” Those of us caught in the Covid lockdown are very aware that we are witnesses to a historical event comparable to the plagues of Ashdod, Justinian, the 1348 Black Plague, the 1918-1920 Spanish Flu, and the more recent AIDS epidemic. The world will continue but our world will not be the same. 

In 1814, the poet and fabulist, Ivan Krylov wrote “The Inquisitive Man,” a fable about a man, who went into a museum, where he was able to see all the wonders the museum contained, yet he missed a very large elephant also in the room. When Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote “Demons” (1871-72), he described his character, Belinsky, as a man, “who didn’t notice the elephant in the museum.” By 1959, the phrase appeared in The New York Times, worded as “… an elephant in the living room,” although it was a popular saying long before then. On Day 33 (The Elephant In The Waiting Room), the shadow Elephant on the wall, marks the time of Covid in the United States, as a time when people waited, with the proverbial “Elephant in the Room.” The proverbial elephant is symbolic of all of the aspects of life during lockdown that were difficult or impossible to address. For those on lockdown - unresolved personal conflicts, fear of illness and death, the inability to comprehend the social and economic breakdown, the worries about health and finances and stalled lives - became elements, which could not be fully discussed for fear of upsetting the delicate balance of daily life. Yet, such aspects of life were present and the shadow elephant on the wall above Geandy and Imara is a metaphor for the experiences of those in lockdown. On another wall appears a framed image of the Caridad del Cobre, indicating the twin nationalities of Geandy and Imara. It is they and their two countries, the American and the Latin American, which have been bound together by the global lockdown that has brought the world to a halt. And so Geandy and Imara, sit on the sofa, wearing their best clothes, ready to return to normal life.

day 33 - the elephant in the waiting room

The intense lockdown in which Geandy and Imara participated, as Geandy generated this series of photographs, lasted for 40 days and 40 nights and by Day 37 (Quarantine: The Impossibility Of Some Numbers In The Mind Of Someone Free), the reality of the forced incarceration manifested in a longing for the freedom of everyday life now denied. On Day 37, Imara retreated to her bed to sleep, while Geandy anxiously checked his phone for news, as the steady pace of Covid marched on and their lockdown continued.

day 37 - The impossibility of some numbers in the mind of someone free

Day 39 (Quarantine: People), commemorates those in lockdown, those who are ill, those who have died became part of a throng of humanity, whose shadow images in positive and negative coloration stand as the testimony of the epidemic. Imara stands, with arms folded, wearing a mask, as the wall behind her fills up with the indistinct figures of those who have passed.

day 39 - people