Anthropogenic Anxiety


Portrait 2020-2021

Climate change during our era of the Anthropocene is inextricably linked with Covid-19 — since March 2020 humans have lived through this pandemic experiencing isolation, sickness, deaths, and cyclical periods of fear cut by suspended relief with Covid-19’s ebbs and flow. The beginning of the pandemic is portrayed by Winnipeg artist, Joanna Black in her art, Portrait 2020-2021 with the world shutting down: increasing death counts, isolation, and personal loss. Her video art, Covid-19 Spaces: Self Portrait, (Video Still) is about technology, location, interaction, and transmission. The technological lifelines in lockdowns create a sense of self that is amplified and echoed with cancelled face-to-face contact/communication as we increasingly rely on the sustenance and support of the virtual world.

Joanna Black (BA Fine Arts & English; MA, PhD, Arts Education) has since 1989 been active in visual art as an artist, curator, and speaker. She is a Professor at the University of Manitoba in Visual Art Education and is cross-appointed as an Adjunct Professor at the School of Art, University of Manitoba. Currently, she teaches visual art and art education at the University of Manitoba. Black has exhibited her new media, paintings, multimedia and performance artworks in Canada and the United States in solo and group shows. Her focus has always been on the political: art during Covid-19 in relation to the human condition and environment and art for social change and human rights issues.

From Anthropogenic Anxiety:

The recent regulated and confining pandemic years have operated to aggravate already existing anthropogenic anxieties. Climate change – oppressive unpredictable heat waves, uncontrolled forest fires, rising oceans levels – have had an impact on the race that both facilitated it and now roils from its effects. Aggressive urban sprawl bulldozes the land, and we search from among the rubble to find what of “land” remains. In Canada, the colonial project created divisiveness, poverty, and an early death for some, but also vast wealth and proprietorship for others. Can this unsettling situation be unraveled, or have we gone too far?

Anxiety became an oft-experienced emotion in our classrooms – mostly online – at our universities over the last two years. A research team, here represented by Pam Patterson, OCAD University and Joanna Black, University of Manitoba, sought to explore generative potentials found in addressing anthropogenic and Covid-19 anxieties. We worked alongside our students and with community members, galleries, and professional colleagues in a creative investigation. Over 100 people joined to broadly explore in visual mediums, personal narratives of the pandemic and the larger emerging anthropogenic era.  

Here in exhibition alongside each other and paired respectively with students, Sasha Shevchenko, OCAD University  and Sarah Paradis, University of Manitoba, we provide a glimpse into this complex dialogue.

The larger project is now housed on a website and, at the University of Manitoba, on an open access libguide.

COVID-19 Anxiety & COVID Pedagogies: Tools, Content & Strategies