I don't want to go clubbing on Zoom
Notes on digital fatigue and relief
Objective: Abandoned outdoor theater seats from the Seventh Art Cinema in the Sinai Peninsula (Fig 1.); Google Maps view of Craco, a ghost town in southern Italy (Fig 2) ; One-point perspective demonstration in the ghost town of Bannock, Montana (Fig 3, courtesy of the author).
I don’t want to go clubbing on Zoom
but I do want to build upon our intimacy with each other and myself. I’ll write you letters, read you strange stories of prejudiced children who bully elderly women on playgrounds, and sing you the Happy Birthday song when I’m not washing my hands. I will also cry for you, and pray, and charge my crystals under the Super Pink Moon. I will cross the street for you, and take out the trash, and scrub down the bathroom for three hours just how you like it. Then I’ll bake a pizza with a pre-made crust, even if you can’t eat it right now. I’ll send the pictures over Whatsapp to you, and only you, but I will also show it off on my Instagram story for everyone else to know that I’m still here.
I have prescription glasses that I don’t wear because they give me headaches, and I get headaches for not wearing my prescription glasses. I’m starting to wonder if digital fatigue will impact natural selection in the long term. I’m not always so confident I’m adapting if this is the case.
Within the first few days of being homebound, I found a list of things to do/ to see / to fill the void of waiting before time becomes relative. It was a public Google Doc, and I was an Anonymous Fox in a sea of other animals in the Google Ecosystem. In five minutes, I found 2,500 online museums, and 20 websites where I can watch other artists sing, dance, and re-enact normalcy for me, and only me, and only you. Next, I found a link to a virtual tour of our country’s national parks, and then I mourned the start of my new life as a permanent artificial resident on the internet. At least I can still breathe clean air to my lungs. I cannot depend on a stable internet connection for that.
I miss hiking the most on some days, which is odd because I kind of suck at the activity. I am better at dancing, catching trains just as the doors close, and slivering through crowds seamlessly when the sidewalk’s current moves too slow. I miss the mindlessness of walking up a mountain as the air grows thin, but I don’t think I miss the pain of elevation gain pressing on my lungs. The breath has become a prime social currency these days. I realize that perhaps I’m romanticizing this whole being outside thing a bit too much (as you also might) but then I remember the rewards of freedom and mobility that come with it all (as you should). Even before this all started, not everyone has been granted these joys. There is a special kind of euphoria that comes with being a brown kid who can wander and rest at the mountaintop.
I don’t want to go clubbing on Zoom, but I will take my students on a field trip to explore ghost towns on the Street View mode of Google Maps for our next online art class. Crumbling, empty houses sit on mountainsides under clear blue skies as monuments to things that humans build but can’t sustain. The windows of these homes have probably seen their own share of loss, displacement, and catastrophe, yet they seem to stand safely away from the current spatial and social conditions of now: high population density, low-income multi-generational homes, hunched bodies over desks, the TV sound of daytime talk show hosts who have now resorted to video conferencing on the air (have you watched “The View” these days?) Andrew Cuomo’s voice reverberating through shoebox living rooms, panicked families mid-screaming match, the symphony of ambulances driving by all afternoon, the all-encompassing 7 pm cheers, the toll of an overburdened American healthcare system.
“Are you playing a video game?” my mother asks as she sees me strolling through the streets of Las Vegas before I settle on these more rural destinations.
We will rest on the mountaintop as a class, and (attempt to) learn how to draw in perspective. Maybe once class is dismissed, I will go on a road trip to the desert by myself and breathe.
I want to build upon our intimacy with each other and myself, so I’ve reduced my life into a screen for you, as you might have for me. Acts of love are sustainable, or so I thought until I’ve built the routine of muting my microphone daily in the past month and a half. I ramble on and forget I’m still muted. It’s just me and time keeps passing. When we can dance and sweat together again, I hope we leave part of the virtual behind as well.
Read more about the theater here
“Welcome to the Zoom Party” - Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic
“Why Zoom is Terrible” - Kate Murphy, NY Times
Thinking About Livestreaming as an Artist? Read This First - Creative Capital