Amidst the stress of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, the artist Annabel Daou wants to take on your worries. In a 12-hour durational performance this week, the New York-based artist will silently reflect on other people's “worries” from dusk until dawn, when “burdens feel the heaviest”, she says.
Daou is inviting the public to submit one or two concerns weighing on them to firstname.lastname@example.org and choose a time slot. She will then select and schedule these worries, focusing solely on one submission at the requested time while pacing her apartment, while holding a set of hand-made “worry beads”. Each participant will be sent a digital copy of an original drawing by Daou annotated with the time and date specific to their submission.
The performance “has its origins in my memories of the long hallway in my childhood apartment in Beirut,” Daou says. “Growing up during the Lebanese Civil War, I would watch the men pace back and forth, often carrying worry beads”, an amulet derived from Greek and Cypriot culture that can be manipulated with one or two hands as a stress-reliever. Unlike prayer beads, the artist explains, these have no religious or ceremonial purpose.
The performance will be continuous, with no more than a two-minute break over 12 hours, and will be live-streamed on the Instagram accounts of Galeria Tanja Wagner and Signs and Symbols, which are jointly presenting the project, from 3 April at 6pm until 6am the next morning.
Daou was in the midst of a six-month residency at the International Studio and Curatorial Program in Brooklyn when she and other artists were forced to vacate the studios last month due to the Covid-19 crisis in New York. “I was just beginning to conceive the project when the situation became more serious and social distancing started to be implemented”, she says. The work has since become “a way to consider my role with respect to others, as an artist and as a human being in this world”.
Artists are used to being alone for long stretches in their apartments or studios, according to Daou, which can perhaps better equip them for shouldering the sense of isolation that so many are feeling under social distancing measures. “For me personally, having grown up during a war, there are additional aspects of this situation that also feel familiar," she says. "But, at the same time, it’s all quite surreal."
For Daou, worrying about others is a skill that everyone could stand to cultivate and the current crisis is a greater call to care for the collective. “I do feel that, politically and socially, many of us probably knew that at some point something would happen to make us have to assess how we live with and treat each other as society, both locally and globally.”