Despite being more digitally connected than ever before, the COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings have still left many of us feeling isolated. To counter the radical separation we’re all contending with right now, a group of artists and curators in Detroit created a web project called "Six Feet of Distance: Meditations and Resources on Art and Social Practice."
Sherina Sharpe and Christin Lee are two of the founding members of the digital experiment, which offers a platform for sharing and finding art during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sharpe is a writer, editor, performer, and educator who works with an art collective called THE TETRA. Lee is the founder of Room Project, a low-cost creative space for women and non-binary artists in Detroit.
“We were like, ‘We want to create a hub, a crossroads, for artists who are creating during this time. How do we bring everyone together who are all speaking through their various mediums into one place?’” Sharpe said.
The Six Feet of Distance website features a broad assortment of artistic work, as well as resources for coping with the current public health crisis. Anyone who would like to join the project can submit details on their work or event to the platform’s curators through the website. Detroit rapper Curtis Roach’s popular TikTok video “Bored in the House” is included on the website, as well as a photo series by photographer Carlos Diaz called Detroit de Nuit. There are links to poetry, prose, music, and performance. In addition, the site includes a link to the Detroit Cultural Crisis Survey, which aims to gather and share feedback on how the novel coronavirus is affecting the people and culture of Detroit.
The project draws on "social practice," a sector of art that treats the interactions people have with one another as an art form itself as opposed to a final, material product. The Six Feet of Distance creators said they hope that in the future, the platform will also serve as an archive of what Detroit artists were thinking and making during the pandemic.
“To capture all of these simultaneous narratives happening at the same time … we probably can't do it in real time, but putting it on a platform means that in six months, in a year, we can start to look back and see what was really happening. It’s so hard to know what’s actually happening when you’re in the middle of a crisis,” Lee said.
Sharpe said Six Feet of Distance also addresses a lack of connection in the Detroit arts community. Even before COVID-19, Sharpe said, the city's creative community had had a history of division. This new platform, she said, makes space for more collaboration.
“We’ve been creating in silos, and we’ve been creating as if we’re the only one, and we just don’t have that luxury anymore,” Sharpe explained. “We have to find each other.”
Sharpe said that from what she’s seen, artists and their work have been undergoing a major transformation during the ongoing health crisis. While the pandemic has meant significant challenges for many artists, Lee added, it has also allowed them room for experimentation.
“The world is somewhat new. Even if, in that newness, there’s so much terror and trepidation, there’s also this kind of play and strangeness and sense of discovery."
Support for arts and culture coverage comes in part from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.