Decameron-19: dispatches from the isolated city

(site under construction) 


                    DECAMERON-19, dispatches from the isolated city is a transnational collaboration of 100 stories from cities around the world as a cultural response to living through this pandemic.

The project draws inspiration from the literature of plague, in particular Boccaccio’s Decameron in which ten characters tell stories of isolation from the Black Death of 1348. In an empty villa outside Florence, the group took turns to tell each other fictional and bawdy stories of the everyday, structured around a theme for each of the ten days they spent together. By contrast our journey begins in the street, at the global scale with a network of artists from diverse cities experiencing differing states of lockdown, policy measures and economic responses.

Decameron-19 is about imagining our worlds differently through the act of making and as an embodied response to the unique spatial, psychological, social and political conditions we find ourselves in. It seeks to generate dialogue about the future life of cities, by leading practitioners who work with the specificity of their respective practices, local contexts and conditions of lockdown.

As with Decameron (the original), there are set rules that govern the telling of stories of isolation and the slow return to a new normal. Each week, an artist from the network provides a ‘score’ (a theme, context, site or set of instructions for an intervention) as a form of storytelling across countries, societies and cultural contexts as a means to better understand and thereby transform our lived environments. Simultaneously, 10 or more artists interpret the score in different places, creating unique but often similarly orientated works that amplify similitude and solidarity whilst telling personal stories about coping with life under Covid-19. We therefore seek to revive a culture of transnational exchange via an awareness of difference, a pluralism of perspectives and forms of life explored through the practices of artistic production.

Boccaccio’s Decameron was a unique telling of life in Europe during the Black Death. This new project is an opportunity to capture (through creative practice) the abrupt changes to our everyday lives. It enters a critical space that will confront many challenges, not least the demand for ‘No Return to Normal’ as we invent new ways of being in the world post-pandemic. Urgent debates about the role of art in crises are ever present, including the right to the city and how this might be a site for critical art practices.

Reviving a culture of solidarity, each project shares visions of life under Covid-19 and how we can reclaim the space of the city as site for democratic process and the imagining of alternatives. Solidarity is expressed through the project’s unique methodology of producing weekly scores.

With the weekly sharing (exchange) of scores we discover new methods of collaboration, moving and making as ensemble across spaces and geographies, inhabiting each other’s practices, methodologies and media. New insights, solidarities and understanding are shared in weekly virtual meetings. These are central to the project, as they extend from the primary audience of each intervention in public space, to a private space of care and mutual respect, adding to a critical, generative and research orientated space of exchange. This has become an exceptional time of social upheaval, as entire regions come in/out of lockdown the complex unfolding of the coronavirus crisis combines a continuum of social injustice and inequality erupting in new struggles, protests and expressions of solidarity. Artists will be called upon to bring new poetics and objectives into these social struggles as they take shape.

Current Global and European network: London (UK), Glasgow (UK), Cork (IRE), Lisbon (PT), Madrid (ES), Valencia (ES), Carcassone (FR), Rennes (FR), Strasbourg (FR), Altkirch (Alsace/ FR), Dreseden (GE), Bergamo (I) Venice (I), Prague (CZ), Vilnius (LT), Warsaw (PL), Belgrade (SRB), Moscow (RU), Mumbai (IN), Baroda (IN).

Currently Contributing artists:

BGBG (Anja Dimitrijevic & Laura Santini); Mathieu Tremblin, Cynthia Montier; Peter McCaughey; Sharmila Samant; Igor Ponosov; Zara Joan Miller; @xcrswx (Crystabel Riley & Seymour Wright); Deana Kolenčíková; Ben Parry; Lia Mazzari; Epos 257; Encastrable; Jonathan Naas; Arzhel Prioul; Marianne Villière; Aïda Gomez; Billy Steiger; Dovilė Šimonytė; Lucie Freynhagen, Robert Luzar, Vladimir Turner.

Concept & curation: Lia Mazzari & Ben Parry

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Image by Sharmila Samant