On March 24, 2020, in direct response to the global coronavirus pandemic, artist Piotr Szyhalski / Labor Camp created his first COVID-19: Labor Camp Report. What started as a single drawing slowly morphed into a daily practice, a way to reconcile and record the thoughts, feelings, and change being wrought in the world. These ink drawings and hand-lettered texts were shared daily by Szyhalski on Instagram, poignantly capturing our politically fraught and excruciatingly painful landscape. Accompanied by powerful captions by the artist, this series—covering the 225 days from the start of the pandemic to the 2020 US presidential election—operates as both a witness to the crisis and a container of time, time that is both labored and lost.
Artists have always led the way forward and now more than ever we need their voices. As Szyhalski said in an article profiling the COVID-19: Labor Camp Report published by the Walker Art Center, “I really believe that as artists, we need to be doing this. If there is a responsibility, the responsibility is to be there, to witness, and to respond and to reflect what we are experiencing, and unfortunately what we are experiencing has a shitload of hurt.”
Szyhalski's drawings transform our collective dismay and anger against the injustice into powerful, concise images of resistance. While the urgency of our current moment lends the work much of its power, it is the universality of the issues that Szyhalski captures that make the COVID-19: Labor Camp Report so profoundly important.
Deeply inspiring, Szyhalski’s work offers a space to confront the complexity, uncertainty, and absurdity of the events of 2020, all the while reminding us of the importance of compassion, criticality, and change. This exhibition, presented for the first time in the Northwest, is a poignant yet insistent record of a year." (Promo Copy)