Though the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has brought untold hardships to communities around the world, it has also proven the resilience of Nashville’s arts community. In response, artists throughout the area have created work that helps audiences process and confront this difficult time and curators and arts spaces have found creative ways to display it.
This is the story of The Holding: Traces of Contact, a dance and visual art piece by artist and Vanderbilt professor Jana Harper. Originally conceived as a live performance, the work has been rethought to convey its timely reflection on our responsibilities as global citizens in a prerecorded video, so that audiences can interact with it from their own homes.
Nashville’s OZ Arts performance and installation space is streaming The Holding: Traces of Contact on its website and social platforms until June 30, 2020.
When it became clear that OZ Arts could not premier the piece in person, Harper collaborated with videographer Sam Boyette to restructure the piece and ensure that it could still reach audiences, adding the subtitle “Traces of Contact.” In its adaptation and subject matter, the final piece reflects an interesting dynamic that is being woven into visual arts across the world: many artists are creating work that confronts their experiences with coronavirus in ways that are tailor made for the realities of consuming and contemplating art at this time.
“The piece reflects the restrictions and adaptations made necessary by the coronavirus, including dances without any physical contact,” OZ Arts explained in a statement. “All of the videos were shot outside and with sufficient space between the dancers, and if at any point the dancers do touch, they are performers who were already quarantined together. This piece encompasses many of the feelings people are experiencing throughout these days and is designed to foster empathy for the shared human experience.”
The piece features ten dancers and music by composer Moksha Sommer. It includes the use of multicolored ropes of fabric, which seem to represent the burdens we carry, our ties to each other and the boundaries imposed by social distancing guidelines.
“The project began with a simple question, ‘What are the burdens we carry?’,” said Harper in a statement for the piece’s program. “Without a doubt, the burden we are collectively experiencing right now is COVID-19. It has changed daily life for everyone and it caused us to transform our project… It also informed our creative process: it caused us to ask new questions about the rhythms of COVID life and what burden sharing looks like under these new circumstances.”
Though it unflinchingly addresses the weight of our burdens and difficulty this new normal presents, through the resilience of its production and uplifting nature of its composition, The Holding offers a reminder that we are not alone in our struggles.
Jana Harper is an associate professor of the practice at Vanderbilt University’s Department of Art. She has exhibited and curated work throughout the country.
OZ Arts Nashville is located at 6172 Cockrill Bend Circle.