Reclaiming Space

Letter 0

by Annachiara Vispi

    I graduated university in 2019. 

   The year just passed was my first year in the real world. No instructions, no grades, no pre-arranged Google calendar, and to be honest, by the first month I was absolutely exhausted. Still exhausted from four years of college, yes, but also with the new weight of knowing my decisions really mattered. I had to be productive, but I felt completely unprepared for life. College had made everything seem too easy. I tried contacting fellow artists I knew, but very little came of it. I participated in a couple of projects, but they came and went very quickly, and by the end of February I was staring into the void. I had nothing planned. Truly, for the first time in my life, nothing at all.

   I knew that March was going to be an unavoidable pause where I was going to have to sit down and really figure things out. The thought of watching the world go by while I sat there, idea-less, comparing myself to everyone else, terrified me. What I didn’t know was that in March, most of the world was going to enter lockdown. Suddenly, everybody paused with me, and there was nobody around to compare myself to. Let’s put the pandemic-induced stress aside – I think we all felt that – but in lockdown, I stopped worrying about my actions. With nothing to do and nothing to be doing, I could do whatever I felt like. I began noticing how warped our very idea of productivity is: we measure happiness through success, success through achievement, and achievement through numbers. Yet here, quarantined in my house, I was content, and felt the most fulfilled I had been since graduation. There was no being productive; there was just a day, then another one. Making myself happy was the most productive thing I could do.

   Some days I got everything wrong. I woke up numb and went through motions, feeling outside of myself until the evening. I ate too much and wasted time cleaning. Some days I stuck to whatever plan I had written the evening before just to realise the plan itself was completely wrong. I was planning a lot in the early days, but I was mostly planning with an ideal me in mind, not considering what the real version would truly feel like doing. Here’s the thing though: I was allowed to get things wrong. Nothing was on the line – it was just me. Me, and a lot of free time. I could make mistakes as long as I learned something from them.

   One of the things I learned is that I am happiest when I’m creating something. However, I also need an objective to create for and people to create with. I knew a lot of other people, young people especially, young artists like me, who felt the same. I also knew I had a lot of half-ideas sitting in Word documents and iPhone notes while I waited for someone to give me the permission to make something out of them. In the meantime, theatres stayed closed. Future prospects moved further into the future. I decided I was going to give myself that permission, and I was going to invite other people to join me. I’ve always struggled with creating art by myself. This is how this collective started.

   This collective wants to reclaim public spaces. The physical ones might be closed, and stay that way for a while. Yet, as we’ve very well seen over the past few months, the Internet is there and free for all to use. When things happen on the Internet, the lack of resources or slots isn’t an excuse anymore. There’s enough space for everybody, and therefore it’s easier for everyone to use that space fairly. It’s easier to not only show, but also listen. We don’t want to limit this website to an exhibition space, but rather make it a forum of conversation, a marketplace of ideas where artists can inspire and be inspired. That’s what a Stoa was in Ancient Greece: a place of exchange.

   I wanted to find a purpose, so I created one. I had no idea it was that simple, but it really is. Any idea is worth something if you make it into something. All you have to do is get rid of anything in your mind that is stopping you. We are still in a pandemic; this is a hard time. Still, we can choose to see it as free time that has been given to us – to experiment, to discover, but most importantly, to fail. So please, whatever it is you want to create, I hope this serves as inspiration. This space, this community is for us. Give yourself permission. Do the thing. Make the art. And if you feel like it, share it with us. We’ll be here to listen.