‘Solace from the Wasteland I’ (2020) 1m55 is a short moving image work that functions as Beales’ visual and aural meditation on the way social media (whilst simultaneously technologies of dominance) can act as infrastructures of care. The work has a whispered soundtrack of found snippets of public conversations taken from social media in which people are exchanging reassurances and kindnesses – looking after and out for each other. This is combined with a montage of found footage of hand massages sourced from Instagram which are overlaid over personal footage from the artist’s experience of everyday life during Covid-19. The personal sequences mark milestone moments during lockdown – relating to Beales’ grief at the loss of her grandfather (without being able to see him or hold his hand one last time) and the intensity of caring for young children. In ‘Solace from the Wasteland I’ Beales’ reflects on how social media enabled a sense of connectedness to others dealing with grief and caring responsibilities during a time of enforced social-distance.
Together these elements function as a visual & aural meditation on care. The colourways are heightened and graphic elements added to create a sensual and visually rich, flowing, lush field of images designed to provide a refuge for the viewer for a small window of time.
This work functions as a riposte to an earlier work ‘Update from the Wasteland I’ (2017) which responded to my insomniac journeys through a twitter sphere that I found hypnotic, addictive and claustrophobic. It formed part of the body of work ‘Are We All Addicts Now?’ (shown at Furtherfield in 2017) that looked at how digital technologies are designed to be addictive and maximise the engagement of the user, without examining the consequences on our collective mental health. The soundtrack accompanying this work consisted of a concrete poem of whispers from my twitter timeline, and formed part of a prologue to ‘Solace from the Wasteland I’. Watch ‘Update from the Wasteland I’ here.
‘Solace from the Wasteland’ is born of this time, of the necessity for kindness and kinder interactions in order to survive social isolation and the losses we are facing – all of which digital technologies can support if we choose to use them in a different way.
Commissioned by Nadine Roestenburg for Disrupt & Reflect at Impakt Festival, Netherlands December 2020. Made possible by the support of Arts Council England.