As an artist working between Australia and The Netherlands, the restrictions have had a drastic effect on my practice. When the first lockdowns started, I was in Argentina about to undertake shooting my first feature-length film. I’d spent years researching, fundraising, and planning. I was filming in the south of Patagonia when the Argentinean government announced a 14-day lockdown. I was luckily able to get on the last long-distance bus back to Buenos Aires to take a flight out of the country. Argentina was subsequently locked down under military control for more than 150 days.
I managed to get back to the Netherlands, planning to return to Australia in late 2020, however, this was not possible due to the restrictive (financial, logistical) conditions and with so many Australians in a position less fortunate than me with their residency permits trying to get home. The Dutch government opened everything up during summer 2020, which led to complete chaos as the winter months came in. In December we went into a restrictive six-month lockdown. More and more of my friends and peers got sick. Around 40% of those have been left with varying symptoms of long COVID, some still struggling to return to normal up to eight months later.
I was finally vaccinated in June of 2021 and things seem to be returning to some kind of normalcy here, though there have been many losses. I, sadly, lost an uncle in Argentina to COVID a few months ago. He had been unable to get access to a vaccine, which has made me even more grateful I had such easy access to an effective vaccine in the Netherlands. I hope to be able to return to Australia in 2022, but that’s looking less likely all the time.
I have been in a fortunate enough position to be able to work from home during the worst of the pandemic. I spent most of 2020 on my balcony with my laptop working on various screenplays. The feature film I was making has taken a different turn and has become various smaller (but no less exciting) projects that can mostly be made outside of Argentina, which won’t be safe to visit again for at least another year. The lockdowns associated with the pandemic have made it so all of my work has to be made locally and to be mostly shown online. I have physical solo exhibitions at the Samstag Museum of Art and MOORE CONTEMPORARY coming up later this year but I won’t be able to visit for the install and openings. Fortunately, as a video artist and photographer, my absence hasn’t caused too many logistical issues.
+ La Maruja La Mano Pilar Mata Dupont, 2021. photo print, acrylic face mounted on aluminium. 120 x 90cm.
During this period I was commissioned by Lauren Carroll Harris from Prototype to create a chapter of that feature film using footage I’d managed to capture before having to leave Argentina in March 2020. I shot some extra scenes for that here in Rotterdam with a distanced, masked, skeleton crew due to the fact we were in a lockdown. I even performed the character myself to cut down on the people in the room. That film, La Maruja, has since shown on Prototype’s website and was subsequently shown with its associated photo series at MOORE CONTEMPORARY in September 2021. I also worked on a related concept for a fictional video work set in Perth, La Piedra, which was a finalist in the Ian Potter Moving Image Commission and given a $20,000 grant to develop. This will have to remain in script form until I can safely return to Australia.
I used to spend more than half the year in different places around the world researching and working. With everything that has happened in the last 18 months my work has become much more studio-based and writing focused.
+ La Maruja Pilar Mata Dupont, 2021. Installation view at MOORE CONTEMPORARY.
Author/s: Pilar Mata Dupont