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For over four decades, the New York-based nonprofit arts organization Creative Time has engaged the public with artists’ voices. Recently in response to the pandemic, Creative Time launched “Creative Time Comics”—a comic strip series that invites international artists to create works that reflect the reality of today.
With Creative Time’s programming, Executive Director Justine Ludwig has been addressing an array of tough topics, like privilege and incarceration, through art installations and events. But today, like so many of us, Ludwig is isolated at home. As she contemplates the impact of the pandemic, she’s focusing on staying inspired.
Whitewall spoke with Ludwig about what’s keeping her hopeful, how she’s looking back at the Creative Time Summit archive, and what questions this social pause has her asking.
WHITEWALL: How are you doing?
JUSTINE LUDWIG: I’m okay. I am profoundly privileged to have a roof over my head and continued employment. I rarely get to remain in one place for extended periods of time, so I am enjoying time with my partner and my dog. At the same time, I struggle with the psychological toll of uncertainty and fear for the well-being of my community and loved ones.
WW: What are you listening to, reading, watch?
JL: I have been enjoying Fiona Apple’s new album, Fetch the Bolt Cutters, and turning back to the comfort of some of my favorite musicians, including Kendrick Lamar, Death Grips, and FKA Twigs.
The Midnight Gospel’s wonderful ruminations on meditation, magick, and death have been fitting and mind-expanding at the moment. I have also loved turning to Art21’s archive and the Creative Time Summit archive for inspiration.
Currently, I am jumping between a few different books that resonate with the current moment, including Albert Camus’s The Plague, Slavoj Žižek’s Pandemic!, and Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine.
On a lighter note, I just treated myself to Yoko Ono’s gorgeous publication, Acorn. So many of her proposed gestures feel especially poignant today.
WW: How are you staying connected?
JL: Walking by friends’ homes and saying a distant hello, video studio visits, and calling with friends around the world. Being in the arts, I am close with people based in many different countries, and it has been interesting to learn how different communities are reacting to COVID-19.
In light of this, Creative Time has launched a comic series inviting artists to reflect on the distinct international realities of this moment.
WW: How are you staying creative? Are you able to make work at this time?
JL: I’ve been writing and thinking about what public art looks like in the wake of the pandemic. How will we convene after this and how do we heal? How can art help facilitate new communal needs?
I struggle with the emphasis on productivity right now. We need time and space to allow for individual and collective mourning. We need to be generous with ourselves and allow for the bad days along with the good. In this time, when we are geographically restrained, I use meditation and mindfulness practices to move beyond my confinement. I have found this to aid in my creativity.
WW: Where are you finding hope or inspiration?
JL: My neighborhood in Brooklyn is currently in full bloom, the world continues without industry, I find hope whenever I take my dog out for walks and can smell the lilacs. Sometimes literally stopping to smell the roses.
One thing I have found beautiful in this moment is how so many people are turning to art as a mode of restorative care. As many individuals are staying indoors and are committed to physical distancing, we rely on books, movies, and visual art in the digital sphere as sources of emotional and intellectual succor.
In that same vein, at Creative Time we are in the process of reviewing the second iteration of our Emerging Artist Open Call, and I have been so inspired by the proposals we have received. There is something deeply therapeutic about projecting into the future and thinking about what innovative projects we will support in years to come.
This is an opportunity to consider the world that we want to see moving forward. This moment needs to inspire positive action and change. We must address some of the gross inequities in this country and the most basic immediate needs of the population. We are seeing in real time the positive short-term impact of self-isolation on climate change; this only reiterates our responsibilities to sustainable practices. Now is exactly the time to act on behalf of future generations.