So much has happened in the world since early 2019 when Benches was first published. The virus COVID-19 spread rapidly from Hubei Province in China to most every country in the world. Entire countries are in lock-down, businesses are closing, schools have suspended classes, hospitals are overloaded and travel, which was important to the Benches project, is practically impossible and in fact in most places is not possible at all. The Canada-US boarder has closed along with borders in other countries. The isolation I illustrated with the Benches project has become commonplace. The socially active people, colleagues at work, friends and even families, at least in a physical sense, are now absent from our lives. There’s no touching, we keep 6 feet apartfrom each other. In a real way, welcome to the world described by images in Benches.
This sense of loneliness and isolation may be new emotions for many people and maybe this will heighten awareness of how others have felt for years. And yet I find it interesting how the general public is responding to the social separation, songs being sung from balconies in parts of Europe, a community choir it seems. Neighbours who typically went about their business in silence are suddenly asking how one another is doing - from a distance and perhaps that’s a key take-away from this pandemic, when it ends, and it will end of course, once the isolations and quarantines end, don’t fall silent again. Ask a neighbour how they’re doing, acknowledge the quiet co-worker or classmate.
Benches is about isolation, loneliness and exclusion of the people we see every day. The people on the commutes to and from work, our co-workers, neighbours and even people in our own family. When asked we might describe them as anti-social, quiet or private, someone who prefers to read or eat alone or maybe moody. The real stories are deeply personal and often never discussed with casual friends on the bus, co-workers or others.