Uplifting, meditative, and downright freaky video pieces from Richard Kennedy, Chloe Wise, and more

Art from Isolation is a series Document Journal began at the start of the coronavirus quarantine in the United States. The series surveys how artists in different disciplines are making work under lockdown and responding, directly or indirectly, to the crisis.

In its first installment, we heard from photographers. Today, we hear from performance, video, and multimedia artists. We’ve asked each artist to create a piece that interprets “isolation,” and beyond that we’ve left everything up to the artists.

In the weeks ahead, check back for further installments featuring illustrators, writers, musicians, and more.

Richard Kennedy, QUARANTINA OPERETTA mask ON (2020)

Richard Kennedy: Making this piece was super fun and a much needed release. I kept going back and forth between an uptempo and more emo concept, and it came down to what I needed the morning I shot. I just moved to Berlin and I’ve been hoarding spring rave looks to cope with the grey winter here. Where does a fun girl go with all these party clothes in the middle of a pandemic? I was thinking through my emotions and invited all my quarantine personalities to Club Corona. I tried to imagine what a rave will look like in the age of social distancing, so I danced around with hopes that online viewers will join, creating a chain of remote raves.

Document: How can isolation be a catalyst for creativity?

Richard: Being alone forces you to confront yourself and your beliefs in a productive way. I lived in Upstate New York for a year and spent a lot of time in isolation while writing my thesis. It was during this time I learned how much I actually craved isolation and saw how productive and generative of ideas it could be. Time to think and experiment is a luxury that I truly value, and I believe once you conquer the fear of being alone and see it as a gift, things start to happen. I’ve been reading a lot, watching documentaries, rolling around on my studio floor, and being super weird without any outside pressure. Once boredom becomes a choice, the space to transcend the fear and make new meaning of isolation appears.


Chloe Wise, It’s the least the world can do (2020)
New York

Chloe Wise: This is me “FaceTiming” “myself” (but who knows). I took a segment of notes from my phone (where I always keep an ongoing compilation of anonymous quotes and collected overheard statements, etc) and reimagined it as absurdist dialogue. Surprisingly, it fell into in context and weirdly felt pertinent to the situation we find ourselves in, or maybe that’s just my brain on quarantine.

Document: What are you doing aside from making art to stay sane during isolation?

Chloe: No one said I was sane during isolation. I can not confirm or deny that statement. I am not really making much art in the usual sense, but, I’m baking and cooking a heck-ton, and spending lots of time with my siamese children.


David Henry Brown Jr, Mad House is Nobodies House (2020)
New York

David Henry Brown Jr: In my works from this series which I call Resemblage, I physically collage and sculpt on my own body in order to reach an emotional dream like space that comes from within. I use chance in my process, for example I found the abandoned filthy dollhouse on the street some years ago. The dolls are also part of my weird collection of strange props that line the walls of my studio, a visual language-expression of my mind.

I call this piece ‘Nobodies House’ which references my theory of the Fantastic Nobody. Nobody means not having a body, or disembodiment. My Instagram character David Nobody, is me without a body. We are bodiless when we are on our phones or online, there is a loss of the physical and a freedom to manifest oneself as a creative digital mask.

The house is a metaphor for the mind. Each floor represents a different aspect of the self/personality. The ego, the superego are upstairs and the door to the basement is the id, which is located where my heart is on my chest. I see the piece as a self portrait as an inside out person, I’m wearing my surreal emotion-inside, on my outside.

Document: How can isolation be a catalyst for creativity?

David: We are born alone, and we die alone. Isolation is part of existence; it’s good for introspection. This whole Resemblage series, which I started in 2015, has mostly been me working alone in my studio. I think the isolation has been very fruitful for my work. I have been exiled and quarantined by my art for years, although I certainly have had plenty of gallery shows, live performances, and street performances to add to the mix.

I feel that the isolation and toxicity that was hidden inside us all in the last economic boom is now our outer reality. I can now see that the grotesque quality to my Resemblage artworks in the last years were only showing what most of us did not want to see and feel at the time. I can’t lie to myself and look away. The sugar coated consumerist simulated reality we just lived through is now popped like a bubble. I even look around and see everyone wearing masks on the street and in public. I’m hoping to find solace and peace on the planet and to help the public bridge our isolations into creative synergies, for our survival/consciousness and to improve our relationship with the planet.


Zoë Marden, The Tentacles of Covid Capitalism (2020)

Zoë Marden: I work with performance, video, text, sound, sculpture and installation to create alternate worlds and speculative futures. I work to expand the constraints of gender, sexuality, and queerness through the investigation of science fiction and mythologies and how they can inform contemporary culture.

My work is propositional, to imagine other realms or other ways of being in the world. The COVID-19 crisis is a terrifying situation that is laying bare the inequality in the world and showing us how capitalism is fraying at the seams. This piece is an attempt to make sense of what is happening around us, to see what portals exist in this time of potential radical change.

This piece comes out of a long term research project on Donna Haraway’s writing on tentacular thinking; her work is poetic activism and perfect reading during a pandemic. This piece brings together different strands of my research in a sort of visual essay/conversation. Since my self isolation began a couple of weeks ago I can’t count how many Zoom meetings I have been on so I decided to use a recording of one of them in the piece. Video conferencing has become our new way of communicating and being intimate with one another.


Miles Greenberg, Untitled Chandelier (Study for Confinement) (2020)

Miles Greenberg: I decided to revisit the format of my very first performance from 2015 called Chandelier. The time felt right.
Chandelier was an experiment; I was seventeen, had just rented my first studio space, and decided to put out a Facebook invite to some hundred or so random guests for a vaguely described cocktail party with no further information except the address and that it’d be between 11:00 PM and 1:00 AM. I set up a table in the middle of the room with some prosecco and cheese and left the door unlocked with a note attached reading something like, ‘Dear guests, have a drink, stay as long as you wish, leave whenever you like.’ Then, I switched off all the lights, got naked, and suspended myself up three meters from a chain and a harness, blindfolded and holding four lit candles. Once the ladder was gone, I had to totally relinquish control for two hours. I had no idea who was in my space or what they were going to do, and I was in a lot of pain; it really pushed me to my limit at the time. Total uncertainty. I think that speaks to where a lot of us are at right now.

Document: How can isolation be a catalyst for creativity?

Miles: Times of voluntary isolation can be fruitful opportunities to become acquainted more intimately with one’s own body and sensitivities; to spend time learning what moves you and what doesn’t; to experiment and create, uninterrupted; to develop notions that make sense to you and only you. It’s part of the job. That’s when, and only when, it’s voluntary. COVID-19 is a different situation, because none of this is voluntary. It isn’t an artistic endeavor, it’s a global health catastrophe steeped in systemic inequity. The virus has only exacerbated the existent divide between those who have the resources to make art and those who do not. It has alienated far more artists from their practices than those to whom it has given inspiration and studio time. The paradox is that we need art and poetry now as much as ever, but I’m having a very hard time seeing this as a catalyst or an opportunity when I know that my ability to make art and answer these questions right now is a rare privilege on all fronts.

And sure, I could talk about how I’m reading, I’m exercising, I’m learning Russian, and I’m watching Battlestar Galactica start-to-finish. Most importantly, though, is that I’m not forcing myself to make art.


Dagnini, Private performances (2020)

Dagnini: This performance is a part of an ongoing project I call Private Performances. Performances from this series usually are happening one-on-one with the viewer, or for a strictly limited number of participants in a forest, sandy quarry, in a kitchen or veranda, an empty gallery, or a museum. Free from the usual institutional context, the performance environment interacts with the act itself. Spectator is usually a necessary but replaceable part of the equation, whereas in this kind of private situation the spectator is unique, not one of many. The exchange between the artist, the spectator, and the environment takes place on very different terms.

This time the performance takes place in a bathroom. It is an important place in every person’s life—an everyday functional facility and yet a space for solitary meditation, eternal thoughts, or trying to deal with existential crises. These days I have an increasingly hard time finding peace or even simple pleasures in my bathing routine. Your day-to-day life may be sort of isolated and you may not be going out too often spending most of your time working on your projects at home or in a studio—but when you are told to stay inside by someone else it’s a different experience. Your simple pleasures or the usual ways of finding peace are harder to achieve. The sacred space is ruined. It feels like another isolation inside the isolation.


Astrit Ismaili, Reacting to ‘Love Research’/Pregnant boy (2020)

Astrit Ismaili: For this contribution, I used the ‘YouTube video reaction’ as a format to contemplate on a project I did in the past titled ‘Love Research’ and share the ongoing narrative of my alter ego ‘the pregnant boy.’ The work deals with loneliness, identity, and politics of inclusion and seclusion within the neoliberal system. Since these topics are quite present during the pandemic, I thought it would be interesting to do a reaction on this work now and see if it will somehow nuance the current context we’re dealing with.

Document: Describe your process for making this piece?

Astrit: ‘Love Research’ is a one shot video performance in which I perform as ‘the pregnant boy’ together with the ladies from the combiwel community in Amsterdam. Making this reaction was a chance to share the narrative of ‘the pregnant boy,’ building bridges between fiction and reality using speculate fabulation as a form of storytelling.

Document: What are you doing aside from making art to stay sane during isolation?

Astrit: I am enjoying not making art (lol). Living the hectic, time pressured neoliberal life often has left us with no time to reflect. I am using this time to look back at my past projects, read what I didn’t have time to read in my normal routine, learn to do things I should’ve known like for example become a better cook. Watching a lot of anime and lectures I never had time to watch. Basically I am doing things that I love and couldn’t do before the pandemic because of no time!

Marc Arthur, Wandering in Ypsilanti (2020)
Ypsilanti, Michigan

Marc Arthur: This is inspired by George Bernard Shaw’s The Doctor’s Dilemma. Written in 1906 about a doctor who develops a cure for tuberculosis, the play feels particularly relevant right now. I was thinking about this line in particular: “Science is always simple and always profound. It is only the half-truths that are dangerous. Ignorant faddists pick up some superficial information about germs; and they write to the papers and try to discredit science.”

Document: Describe your process for making this piece.

Marc: Being in isolation has allowed my mind to wander, which is very much what the process of making this has been about. That is why the idea for the project that I just described is not apparent by simply watching the video—because I have let my mind wander and swerve to articulate a more abstract experience of the play. For me this wandering is supported and enhanced by where I’m currently living and where this video was shot in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

Love Bailey, Untitled (2020)
Temecula, CA

Love Bailey: My inspiration for this piece is a call to action, a declaration for artistic liberation! The time is now! We cannot let fear destroy our future.

Document: How can isolation be a catalyst for creativity?

Love: At times like these, the road to depression is a slippery slope. I have to fight to keep my soul alive, like my life depends on it!

Document: What are you doing aside from making art to stay sane during isolation?

Love: Nourishing my vessel, smoothies, soups, teas. Protecting the land in front of me, the plants and animals. Dancing to the music to keep the Slather vibes flowin and staying in touch with the ones I love as a reminder were all in this together!


Alicia Mersy, CORONAL LOOPS (2020)
New York

Alicia Mersy: I woke up Monday morning and was like there must be a deeper meaning to this coronavirus I need to talk to people. I took my bike, went to Prospect Park and stopped every time I saw someone I felt like talking to and asked them what they think corona really is.

My work uses the camera to connect to people and to the divine, by forging pathways towards personal and collective peace within a world of infinite production and boundless orientation. The work draws from big phenomena including the natural sciences, global capitalism and the infinitude of galactic spirituality to explore decolonial aesthetics and political resistance. Working through the various mediums of media, photography and installation I intend to create space for conversations surrounding self representation, social, class guilt politics, and the resistance of repressive global structures and spirituality.

Document: What are you doing aside from making art to stay sane during isolation?

Alicia: I make hummus in my house and deliver it to people’s homes in NYC.