by Georgia Lale
Last year today, I was recovering from my second thyroid cancer surgery and preparing for my Radioactive Iodine treatment. Today is my 58th day of lockdown. This is the third time in my life that I have had to quarantine myself for health reasons. In March 2010, I stayed home for a month while I was recovering from a surgery. In July 2019, I was in isolation for a week. I had revised a high dose of radioactive treatment and I could have jeopardized the health of the people I would have come in touch with. Since March 2020, we have been in quarantine for similar reasons; to flatten the carve, to protect our loved once, to support the first responders and to take the pressure from the healthcare system. A very dear friend of mine has been in the hospital fighting for her life for over a month. I have friends that lost many people. My partner has students that lost their parents. New York City, our city, is bleeding.
We have lost many art workers and I am devastated though not surprised. People in the entertainment business are usually uninsured and suffer from health conditions that are too expensive to treat. Many times, we look at an art work and we forget that the artist is a human like all of us; that loves, hates, and desires. We imagine that the artist is a mythical creature that doesn’t need physical and emotional support. A kind of God that never needs food and does not get sick. We usually have this misconception because the artist gives life and intellect to inorganic material, but this ability of theirs’ doesn’t make them gods. This ability makes them human. Art workers are essential to society not solely to entertain it. In difficult times we are getting hit the hardest and we are not receiving due support. At the same time, we are somehow expected to create masterpieces during the quarantine because we have “free time” and because the “struggle is real”. Though the struggle is too real for too many, some of us do not have money to pay rent, to buy food and to provide for our families. The majority of us do not have health insurance and we are terrified of hospital bills. I was in Venice and in Madrid in January and I was very lucky not to contract the virus. I am very happy that my latest cancer checkups went well but this situation has been hard on me. I have been struggling with insomnia since I remember myself though lately it has worsened. It seems like I cannot fall asleep when it is dark outside.
During my staying in Venice, I developed and performed the durational piece “Fragile Monuments”, that lasted five hours, as part of the Venice International Performance Art Week. The piece was about the fragility of Venice and of the human body. As a thyroid cancer fighter, I wanted to see my body as a cultural monument that needs to be preserved and restored because it has been exposed to damaging environmental conditions. It seems like we have forgotten that the human body, like any other form of life, is a monument. Society should first make sure its creatives’ bodies and mental health are taken care off before demanding from us mass entertainment during and after a lethal and debilitating pandemic. My performance taught me that I must give my body the time it needs to recover and that I don’t have the power to fast forward the healing process. Though I do have the power to fight for universal health care for all. My power, my voice is my art. I did not become an artist to entertain. I did not have the choice to become an artist. I was cursed with this power but I am using it to speak up for what is a universally right. I cannot wait to see you all again on the front lines of creation.
Georgia Lale is a Greek visual artist with Anatolian heritage, based in New York City. Through performance, video, sculpture and installations, Lale explores the ways the human body functions and interacts within the social and political realm of modern society. Her public interventions intend to empower individual freedom of speech and expression. She received her MFA from the School of Visual Arts, New York City, and her BFA from the Athens School of Fine Arts, Greece. Her work was presented at the Greek Pavilion at the 15th Venice Architecture Biennale. She is the recipient of the Goulandris Foundation scholarship, the Gerondelis Foundation scholarship and the School of Visual Arts Paula Rhodes Memorial Award for Exceptional Achievement in MFA Fine Arts studies. Her work has been shown internationally, including New York City, Athens, Berlin, Brussels and Izmir. Lale has exhibited her work at various venues in New York City area and beyond, including Smack Mellon, Shiva Gallery, Studio 10 Gallery, Paris Koh Fine Arts/Gallery d’Arte, SVA Flatiron Gallery and The Hole, among others. She has curated the “Aegean” group show at AAA3A Gallery, NY, with Greek and Turkeys artist based in NYC. Lale’s public interventions have been performed at the Metropolitan Museum of the Arts, at the National Mall of Washington D.C., at the Statue of Liberty, at the United Nations Secretariat Building, at the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens and at the Celsus Library of Ephesus. She has been the panel member of numerous academic conferences organized by the Dedalus Foundation, the MoMA Archives, the Yale History of Art Modernist Forum and the Yale School of Management.
Featured photo: Georgia Lale, Fragile Monuments Performance, 2020, photo by Mauro Sambo.