Photo collages and text by Victoria González García
Victoria González García is an Argentinian photographer currently based in Madrid. Apart from purely artistic motifs, she enjoys using photography to illustrate social issues. When Spain entered into the period of the Covid-19 pandemic crisis, Victoria began recording everything she saw in her environment. She decided on an artistic project with a focus on the pollution being caused by protective masks and gloves that people lamentably throw away thoughtlessly. This is her personal account told in visual poetry.
From the first moment the Covid-19 health emergency was declared in Madrid, I began to record everything. The declaration caught me in the middle of the city. On the way back to my house on my bike I stopped and took pictures of everything that was happening around me.
Madrid, the city where there is a bar on every corner, where people are out and about no matter what time it is, the city that exudes vitality and noise; a city where, little by little, a science fiction film was beginning, my city, being silenced right in front of my eyes.
As the days went by on my trips to the supermarket, once a week, I began to notice that the streets were getting dirtier and dirtier and that the urban waste was no longer the same. It had changed. I began to feel that space had mutated completely.
It was impossible not to see the plastic masks and gloves, of all colors and sizes, that were polluting every space on the sidewalk or street, flying and pirouetting in the wind. I felt the need to immortalize everything that my eyes saw in amazement. Due to the great capacity of transmission of the coronavirus, the obligatory use of disposable masks and gloves, and the bad waste management practices of their users, the contamination of our planet seemed to grow and grow, overflowing.
The pandemic changed some of our daily habits. We were locked up and we were supposed to generate less waste, but the opposite happened. During the course of the quarantine I observed many profiles on social networks with different photo postings that referred to trips and, for the most part, all proclaimed the urgency of being outdoors, of living with nature. How contradictory and ironic it is to desire those sites, but to do nothing to care for them and preserve them. This is how "Poetics of the Pandemic" was born, a visual reflection of the 50 days that the quarantine lasted in Madrid.
In the project I use my own photographs and some in the public domain, as well as videos with still images. I counterpose images of the waste generated in the pandemic with natural scenarios, looking for a complementarity and, at the same time, a visual reflection of this great problem that grows hand in hand with COVID-19. The coronavirus will pass, but the rubbish will stay. The idea of using images in the public domain was born out of the impossibility of traveling and moving to places outside my home.
I use visual poetry as an instrument, an experimental form in which the image, in all its facets, prevails over the other components, taking into account that artistic creation is already a discourse in itself. The isolation made me go through all states of mind, but through photography and art I was able to sublimate my anguish. In my personal case, it was a time of much productivity: I took up old projects and developed others. Among these is this project, with which I wish to generate awareness through my photographs, about the use and disposal, mainly, of those elements that protect us against the spread of the coronavirus.
This is my appeal to society, to people's sense of responsibility and individual conscience, so that they no longer throw these disposable elements on the public streets. Since masks and gloves can generate not only a health problem (since some pathogens use garbage as a vector for spreading), but also a big ecological problem, especially in the marine ecosystem. There is already evidence from non-governmental organizations that the oceans are suffering from the ravages of Covid 19.
In addition to the existing problem of ocean pollution with microplastics, there is now the sad fact that the waste from the pandemic is being added to the problem. Gloves and masks are not biodegradable, so they can remain in our seas for hundreds of years. As I said a few lines above: the coronavirus will pass, but the rubbish will not. This is also part of the pandemic´s impact.
Thank you for sharing your poetic story with us, Vico. We hope that people around the world will become aware of the need to manage waste carefully.