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Inside outside & the very catchy phrase of Unprecedented times

Updated: Oct 6, 2020

Artist: Yvette Martin


Pandemics have now been cast into the net of Disasters of which I am interrogating through this work. One can’t help but be infected by the parameters we are now operating within, even while safety flags remind us to keep our distance.

Will the pandemic prove to be the great leveller between the human nature divide?

As climate change, deforestation and population growth bring nature and culture closer together, our populations are more at risk of disasters such as Pandemics. After undertaking corona virus test, Inside outside & the very catchy phrase of Unprecedented times was developed from an accumulative experience of Covid-19. Among the few preventative measures available in our armoury against the invisible virus; mask wearing, and social distancing have bought up many cultural and societal challenges. As a sometime traveller to Asia, mask wearing in these regions is notably a socially acceptable thing to do. Whereas my own experience of wearing a mask, due to corona testing here in Darwin, felt unconventional and confronting. With border closures and low to nil Covid numbers, the Territory has not yet been forced to mandate mask wearing, unlike Melbourne and Sydney, making the experience even more an absurd feeling.

Control measures such as Social distancing is a phenomenon that the whole world is getting used to in its varying forms. In its extreme, people are forced to stay in their home earning very little human contact if any. In more general terms, it implores people stay a healthy distance apart from each other, 1.5 meters no less. Within this context Inside outside’s poncho mask is worn like a blanket and acts as a protective layer of skin, a soft shield, a social barrier. Using the language of civic construction and safety signs and symbols, the reassembled fluorescent flags signals caution, keeping others out while protecting the body within. Beginning at the eye line as would a traditional surgical mask, small triangles incrementally become larger from the face down, until the scale teeters on mimicking that of the standard industrial safety flag. The circular pattern of the poncho ensures the material can flare and balloon outwards to become a physical representation of a barrier; a warning, a space keeping shape.

Rope cords continue past its bottom edge anchoring itself to the earth, to a fence, a rock, grounding the body from space to the site. The site is important representing the erosion of our ecosystems at a time when we most need them, for instance, the big old trees taken down by a cyclone, or purposely removed to make room for development forming a highway or a building. The rope anchor points merge body with nature and culture in a similar way that 1960s artist Lygia Clarkes used her ‘organic line’ to investigate tension and relationships and the interior of the body of the painting[1]. In Inside outside the 'organic line' works as both the thread that connects and grounds, and a conductor transferring and holding tension between human and nature.

The ‘material precariousness’ that has been described of Clarks work also resonates with this piece due to its fragile construction, each triangle holding on to the next by a single hand stitched knot, embodying the fragility of mother earth and our relationship with it. The weight and tension of the fabric causes it to pull itself apart in places, its ephemeral architecture both appropriate and problematic for repeated use, calling for material re-enforcing.

Safety flags are a part of the International regulation system of Occupational Health and Safety, and as contemporary regulatory commodity. They are an apparatus of advancement of a “progressive” capitalist society and land re-use. The works dualism then acts as social distancing device and a warning of the repercussions of unbridled progress in the name of capitalism, a marker of movement through these social and environmental changes.

[1] I am inspired by Lygia Clark’s practice which includes painting and performance. See MOMA playlist Lygia Clark: The Abandonment of Art, 1948–1988,

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