the covid time warp

the covid time warp

Ahead of her window installation, Here We Have No Lasting City, Susan Johnston shares her thoughts and process for her latest ceramics work.

Here We Have No Lasting City will be on view in our window from March 3, 2023 to April 1, 2023.

I call it the covid time warp. A time when the globe was thrown into a sort of stasis where we were all holding our breath and floating in pause. It was in this profound season that I had an opportunity to be part of only five cohorts permitted to meet in person at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in the advanced open studio offering. Although we were working in person, masks, vaccines and handwashing were all part of this new paradigm.

An unexpected outfall of the pandemic moment was the onslaught of digital use. Although we were meeting face to face our professors still required us to interact in the digital space, only assigning credit when the digital requirements were met. This dynamic of being pushed into technology in ever-increasing [required] ways began to shape my thoughts on this historical moment. As the digital world engulfed us with new apps tracking medical information that had the power to restrict your access to society, I realized I had lost some of the freedoms of my world. My historical sense of myself in the world was over. My generation from Vancouver who had enjoyed a non-digital upbringing were really now at a juncture of loss. This realization inspired the creation of this installation, “Here We Have No Lasting City”.                                                                                                            

For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.
-Hebrews 13:14
Inspired by this verse from the New Testament, I expressed this idea in a memorial pole putting a period on what was. Although I spoke personally, I am also trying to speak to the broader historical truth about the fall of societies. This work is a portent of profound societal change on a global scale.

The canopic jars in the form of birds have a few layers of meaning. Canopic jars were used to contain the organs of the dead in ancient cultures as a tribute to that loss. These canopic jars contain ashes representing the end of the former, of what has been.
Thorns will overrun her citadels, nettles and brambles her strongholds. She will become a haunt for jackals, a home for owls.
-Isaiah 34:13

The Birds are a symbol of an overtaken ruin left now “…. as a haunt of jackals” denoting the rise and fall of empires. This installation is a tribute to what was, and a portent to any who are pressing pause to consider this profound global moment.