29 September 2020
Image: Oliver Chanarin, photo: Fiona Jane Burgess
We’re looking back at the Three Questions series, where we asked artists we have worked with in the past to answer three questions during their time in lockdown: What are the best of times now? What are the worst of times now? What would you like to hold on to that you have learnt in these times? We’re speaking to Francesca Bertolotti-Bailey about the series.
Why did you choose to ask those three questions?
The questions came about in conversation with friends – artists, writers and makers – during the lockdown. I then decided to formalise them: I wanted to capture the peaks and troughs in their wellbeing, satisfaction and happiness during these times of uncertainty and confusion – to understand whether their work might serve as an anchor for their inner stability. With the third question I wanted to gauge their future expectations with respect to the changes in behaviour, sociality, professional patterns, and work/life balance engendered by the pandemic.
Did you find any of the responses unexpected?
No, I wouldn’t say so. Most artists talked less about their work than their personal and private lives, and some of them directly mentioned the natural environment as a humbling or comforting companion during the lockdown. Perhaps the most surprising responses came from Oliver Chanarin and Nikhil Chopra, who both showed how productive the time had been for their practice, and from Issam Kourbaj and Alice Channer, who both treated the video response almost as an artwork in itself.
Did you have a favourite response? Did you find any similarities and/or differences in the responses?
I don’t have a favourite response. In provoking intellectual and emotional reactions on the part of the viewer, the project really worked as a series, where the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. Each new response cast new light on the previous ones while influencing the next. I know that our audience closely followed every new instalment, comparing the responses to their own experience. In the end, I believe that the artists gave voice to a widespread feeling.
What have you taken away from the Three Questions project?
My takeaway is definitely the proof, once again, that artists have the power to make us look again, think again. They didn’t shy away from showing their own fragilities and fears, but showed us the strength that comes from lucidity, sensitivity and perseverance. I hope that a deeper awareness of both the self and the other is what we can all take away from these extraordinary times.
Watch the series