It was predicted that lockdown could lead to a creativity boom, and so far this seems like it might have been the case. More time led to a wealth of art projects, charitable online exhibitions and a recorded rise in sales of certain arts & crafts materials. The household windows of England’s streets are evidence of this; where images of rainbows decoratively sit, created lovingly by those of all ages.
One of the most unique lockdown projects has been the Walk on By Window Exhibition (or @w.o.b.w.e). It was launched by artist Georgia Grinter and takes on the emerging theme of displaying art in our windows. Georgia put out an Open Call asking friends to create an exhibition in the window of their home, to take a photo of it, and send it back for her to share. She received submissions from Malta, India, Belgium, Wales, Argentina, Brazil and Canada to name a few. All of which have been shared on the w.o.b.w.e Instagram account.
Tim Ralston, Barreiro, Lisbon
The reason for the project was simple, the artworld was adapting; exhibitions were going online, and shows were being curated for Instagram. However, as Georgia says, “despite this flurry of ‘contact’ through artwork, it was still hard to ignore the fact that all this communication was digital, when one of the most important factors about art is that it is a physical experience.” She goes on to say “I was reading about the Mexican muralist Jose Clemente Orozco whose paintings were strongly political during the early 20th century. Coincidentally, he discovered his biggest inspiration through a shop window, by walking by the influential illustrator, Jose Posada’s workshop every day on his way to school. Finding this little story just confirmed these thoughts about human curiosity, that people always look at what is around them.”
There is a message within these window galleries, whether to house a rainbow or an art exhibition, that you don’t need to be an artist to make art. Still, many people in normal life feel awkward about showing off their creations. Imposter syndrome grips both artists and non artists alike, but most people enjoy the feeling of sharing what they have made. Could it be that given some time away from the rest of the world, people have started to open up? The residential windows filled with colourful art would imply that this break was what we needed to remind us what art often is; fun.
While everyone is forced to remain at home, windows are the window to the soul. An image in the window is a statement, placed there in the same manner we might put something on Instagram. It is the act of putting something we have made in a small square for people to enjoy. It is something we are proud of, and something that represents who we are. Nothing highlights the connection between w.o.b.w.e and Instagram quite like one artist, Florencia Del Fabbro from Buenos Aires. Three paintings of plates of food appear in her window. She had been texting pictures of meals to friends so that no-one was eating alone, and now she was sharing these moments with her neighbours. Despite the link between our windows and Instagram, who we’re sharing images with and why has shifted, and the distinction is huge. Firstly the audience is now neighbours living in close proximity, and secondly, there is meaning in these physical images, they are there to raise morale and cheer up someone’s day.
There is significance in these exhibitions taking place from home. As Georgia continues, “there is an energy in a work being exhibited in the place it was created… in chaos, marked by our habitual living. The work reflects our movement and in this situation our frustration of imprisonment and daily repetitiveness. These are not traditional galleries, the work sits in a context that is totally unique, away from the ‘homogenised aesthetic that white wall galleries drum into us.”
Through the w.o.b.w.e project, the window has become a conceptual space, each one a differently shaped challenge, and places for site-specific installation. An intricately painted eye peaks out from a window in New Delhi. The cage-like iron that sits in front of it adds so much meaning to the now fearful looking eye. Elsewhere, reflections that appear in the window panes tell a story. Some are layered with the reflections of trees, and others with geometric reflections of the city. Not only household windows are submitted, but car windows, and art carefully placed outside as gifts to the street. One painting is hung outside the 02 Forum in Kentish Town, another outside the Edinburgh Portrait Gallery, where much of the artist’s inspiration for making work had come from.
Lockdown was undoubtedly the perfect moment for the brewing of a project like this. A quiet and reflective time for making, and a desire to communicate with those physically close to us. Living purely as our online selves was fun for a bit, but there was a craving for the real world. The same can be said for viewing art; no matter how much our eyes are oversaturated with art on the internet, the desire to experience it in real life remains.
For some people, life as they knew it pre-lockdown is slowly beginning to emerge. Submissions to w.o.b.w.e have slowed as life gets that little bit more busy again. Perhaps now is the time to look more deeply at this project. It is a way of decorating our streets, interacting with neighbours, and a new, and free way to exhibit art. The project is already re-establishing and developing its aims and I don’t doubt we will see it evolve with the times. One lesson learnt through this all is that people will always ‘make’, maybe even more so in times of crisis, so hopefully this impulse to share what we create is one thing we can hold onto.