Narine Arakelian is arguably one of the only artists whose past work foreshadowed the events that led to Coronavirus pandemic. In 2018, she became fascinated with the phrase ‘May you live in interesting times.’ She wanted to know what it meant and what it could represent. After spending several months researching its meaning, she took what she uncovered and created artwork based on the principle, and displayed it at the Venice Biennale.
“The phrase ‘May You Live In Interesting Times’ was the fundamental thesis behind the whole concept of my exhibition,” explains Arakelian. “Like most of the artists at the Biennale, I discussed in my works the possible apocalypse of mankind. I saw the task of creating contemporary art was to focus the viewer's eyes on global problems such as ecology and media misinformation.”
Although at the time she had no way of knowing that this work would be so prescient, the accuracy of her predictions turned out to be terrifying. Not only did she see the coming pandemic, but her work suggested that the pandemic would take away our breath. Her work “Confession” superimposed X-rays of human lungs (including her own) over landscapes of nature during the winter. This work was released with the ‘Bloom’ Performance in 2019 at the 58th Venice Biennale as part of the ‘Pharos Flower’ solo exhibition at the Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo (Venice, Italy). The objective? To illustrate the fact that Earth’s breath is our breath -- and vice versa.
The Coronavirus pandemic has been and will continue to be a difficult time for everyone across the globe, and Arakelian wants to do her part to help people maintain hope. To achieve this, she has developed an Instagram AR-filter-performance that aims to spread her message of ‘Love&Hope’ across the world.
The AR-filter-performance by Narine Arakelian features a medical-style face mask with the words ‘Love&Hope’ flashing across it. When the user opens and closes their eyes, stars are released across the screen, and when the user taps their forehead, a halo appears. If the sound is turned on, a voiceover from the artist herself will repeat the praying words of ‘Love&Hope’.
This social media AR-performance art aims to bring strength and belief to those who need it during this pandemic, through an enduring message of love and hope. It succeeds - Arakelian’s soft tones gently reassure the user.
The creation of this social media art can be understood as ‘Empathy Aesthetics’ art practice of Altermodern Era. This is a terminology coined by Richard Wearn, Professor of Art California State University, Los Angeles when referring to Arakelian’s work. The phrase refers to a new cultural manifestation that holds the recent memory of a world curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic, showcasing a new and instrumental representation that seeks to utilize technology and experience in order to promote empathetic responsiveness.
Not only has she created this Social Media Performance Art for it’s beautiful message but Arakelian plans to use this AR-filter performance as a tool for donating masks to hospitals in need of PPE.
The WHO and the government have required, in many areas across the world, that everyone going out in public wears a facemask. With the shortages on protective equipment needed by essential workers and people dealing with those sick with the disease, mask supplies are low. Most people are creating their own or donating to those who need it. Masks are a very crucial part to everyone staying safe and healthy. Everyone deserves a mask, and that is Arakelian’s goal.
Arakelian’s mission is to donate masks for COVID-19 relief every time a celebrity posts a selfie in her ‘Love&Hope’ AR-filter-performance. She herself will be donating a certain amount of masks depending on how many likes accumulate over the next few weeks and she encourages others to do the same via their own posts.
As well as contributing personally, Arakelian is encouraging others to do the same by sharing the mask and encouraging followers and friends to donate as well to a crowdfunder she is launching to generate additional money to buy more masks to donate.
To use her filter, search on Instagram for #LoveXXL360 or head to Narine’s Instagram at @narinearakelian.