Some other work I had been working on last year (2020) is a series of prints based on Victorian board games. I had recently come across The Swan of Elegance and other beautifully illustrated games, and the mix of the illustrations and the social messages I found eccentric and unique, and I started forming ideas as to how I could use them.
When the pandemic hit, lots of stories about animals and wildlife taking over areas usually busy with humans began to appear, along with commentary on social media as to whether many of them were true or not, and if it mattered. ‘Emissaries of Hope and Possibility’ is the result of the research I made into these stories . The images in the ovals, which make up the route for the game, depict various stories that appeared on social media and the news, fake and real, of wildlife taking over during the pandemic in areas usually full of humans.Many turned out to be fake and were debunked, my favourite being that lions has been deployed on the streets of Russia by Putin to keep people in check!
The title comes from a New York Times article about re-wilding our cities on social media. There were also several articles doing the rounds about whether many of these stories were fake or real, and if it mattered. They were spreading feelings of hope during a desperate time, and many gave glimpses of what a post – covid world could look like if we took the lessons on board.
Reading about the coronavirus and the potential for ‘mindboggling numbers of viruses‘ to appear if we carry along the path we are on, abusing nature and the planet, I found deeply disturbing.
Zoonotic viral spillover is the transmission of a pathogen from a vertebrate animal to a human, and in this ‘game’ one of the theories of how new viruses end up infecting humans, when they had previously been circulating harmlessly among bats is explained. Deforestation in rain forests, to make way for intensive farming for global demand for cheap food, leads to the bats leaving their home and setting up nearer to humans. They then pass the virus onto other animals who are even closer to humans, such as domestic animals, or those exploited and packed in unnatural environments, such as those in wet markets or the fur trade. These animals are much closer to humans and the virus eventually mutteus and jumps to them. A simplistic explanation of what is a deeply complex problem, at the heart of which seems to be an exploitation of the natural world and its resources to mainly satisfy the greed of consumerist societies.
‘Emissaries of Hope and Possibility’ is a more lighthearted look at human relationships with animals during this pandemic, where as ‘Zoonotic Viral Spillover’ has a more urgent and serious message highlighting the possible consequences if we do no act now.
At the end of 2020 these prints were exhibited in ‘Class of 2020’ exhibition at Surrey Quays shopping centre, organised by artist Rod Kitson. It was open for a couple of weeks before lockdown hit, and at time of writing remains locked behind the shop window at Surrey Quays shopping centre!