The COVID Chronicles – 11

Geneva, 9 January, 2021

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It would have been difficult to imagine when I posted the tenth, pre-christmas Chronicles, that the pandemic news could get worse. Well, it has. I always try to remain upbeat writing here but it’s difficult in the face of surges of COVID-19 cases in many countries, new lockdowns, new variants of the coronavirus and, most worrisome, the possibility that one such variant might ultimately generate “vaccine escape” meaning that the current vaccines may be less effective. 

Snow on the ground prevents wintery golf and so, in search of something to give my flagging spirits a boost, I called in at Galerie Cimaise last week. I was confronted by some truly arresting images that somehow capture the times perfectly.

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“About Flying” is a collection of mesmerising, intriguing and exquisite photographs by one of Geneva’s high profile and most creative photographers, Aline Kundig. It is about the aftermath of beautiful things inevitably falling to pieces. It is a statement that anything delicate and ephemeral carries a potential for dislocation together with an innate resilience. As one critic noted, Aline’s butterflys are magnificent in their grotesque dismemberment(!) 

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Aline harbours a fascination for the interface of beauty and death. She insists that beauty can, and does, continue to live long after the soul has taken flight. With these images of shattered butterflies scattered on an entomologist’s light-board, she has somehow stolen the exotic butterfly show from the dusty drawers of the collectors and the classifiers of dead insects. I am sure that if, after the last shutter-click, Aline had blown her butterfly bits off the light-board she would have seen them remain airborne and even reassemble in butterflight. 

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The backstory is telling. Aline has had a year full of grief. Determined to come face-to-face with her woes, she ordered dead butterflies on-line from specialist butterfly farms all over the world. They arrived carefully packed and completely in tact. She then tore them apart and crushed them letting the pieces fall on the light board. “This was a wonderful thing to do!” she told me. “It was therapeutic!” 

Since speaking to Aline, a right-wing mob has taken over the Capitol in Washington DC. Guns were drawn. Shots were fired. Five people died. Congressmen and congresswomen hid under their seats. Offices were looted. The National Guard was called out. The blame is laid at the President’s feet.

Aline did not give titles to her broken butterfly images. For the three above, I might suggest “Democracy,” “Truth” and “Respect.”