“Everything passes away — suffering, pain, blood, hunger, pestilence. The sword will pass away too, but the stars will remain when the shadows of our presence and our deeds have vanished from the Earth. There is no man who does not know that. Why, then, will we not turn our eyes toward the stars? Why?”
- Mikhail Bulgakov, The White Guard (1971)
In the aftermath of “Quarantine: 40 Days and 40 Nights” and of Geandy and Imara’s initial lockdown, the crucible of reality generated by this moment of cessation of daily life as we knew it gave birth to social movements that manifested on every continent and in a plurality of countries. As Covid Lockdown drew to a close, the United States erupted with protests, the reaction to the killing of George Floyd, by policeman Derek Chauvin, on May 25, 2020. These protests brought to heightened attention the ongoing movement that demands an awareness of the impact that American racism has had on the lives of its Black population and these protests have initiated demands for national police reforms. Black Lives Matter has become a global rallying cry and supporting protests in other countries have raised awareness about pervasive, structural discrimination that has been met by a demand for equity and equality.
The protests for equity, equality and reform have spread throughout the world, to Europe, Africa, Latin America and Asia. These protests have reached all countries and with multiple nationalities, racial groups and ethnic categories and they have brought together the multiple peoples embodied in the mixed histories of Geandy and Imara. Can a divided country stand together is the question implicit in the protests and in voices raised calling for equality and freedom, as people gather braving the possibility of getting Covid as they pull together to demand equal rights. Black Lives Matter has become a wake-up call for the world and one in which there is universal participation bespeaking universal support for the voices that cannot be silenced any longer. With the end of the Covid Lockdown has come a cry for renewal and reform and recognition.
The events that generated Black Lives Matter is captured in Americana, an extension of “Quarantine: 40 Days and 40 Nights” into the events that followed the killing of George Floyd. In this photograph, multiracial Imara stands looking at herself, reflected in two different mirrors, indicating the duality of her place in this historical time, as someone who inherited the mixed histories of the groups that have yet to resolve the history of conquest and slavery that binds the Americas to Europe and Africa. As Geandy sits and eats a slice of watermelon, he holds a fruit laden with racial implications that also references the theme of Adam and Eve and the fruit of bitter knowledge that cast them out of Paradise.
Plagues come and they go, they kill and they change the world. In the aftermath of the Plague of Justinian, came the economic and cultural renaissance of Charlemagne, that began c. 800. After the plague of Athens, Thucydides (460-400 B.C.) wrote in his account of the time, The History of the Peloponnesian War, that those who had survived the plague became more charitable and less selfish as they helped the sick and the dying. In the aftermath of the 1348 Black Death, Europe embarked in the unprecedented prosperity that generated the Renaissance of art and culture that linked the contemporary world to the Classical culture of antiquity and in an economic expansion that lasted into the Seventeenth Century. Plague eradicates and destroys but it also clarifies, as it pares life down to essentials.
The challenge Geandy Pavón establishes in “Quarantine: 40 Days and 40 Nights” is in the form of a question - what follows Covid, after the world has changed and we have thought about all of the questions of life that brought us through the cycles of life, religion, regeneration and death? In this series of photographs, Pavón meditated on history and life leaving the future to be configured by those who will emerge on the other side changed by the events that will have been survived.
Perhaps, what follows, is what is found in Pavón’s Americana Still Life, a resolution to a conflict that is found in the acceptance of the reality that the convergence of histories can be merged.