Cauleen Smith: ‘COVID MANIFESTO’ Calendar 8 – 15 November 2020

An unfolding calendar of supporting content to accompany Cauleen Smith’s COVID MANIFESTO

In November 2020 we were proud to collaborate with CIRCA, the new and independently curated digital art platform created by artist Josef O’Connor, launching its second month of programming with the interdisciplinary California-based artist Cauleen Smith. The inaugural c. 20:20 exhibition transforms the giant 4K screen of Piccadilly Lights into a digital canvas each month by pausing the adverts on screen for two minutes each day at 20:20 - 20:22 GMT.

More info and watch CIRCA’s evolving live programme with a different artist every month (currently Tony Cokes) here: circa.art

Cauleen Smith’s works compile her Instagram series COVID MANIFESTO which the artist initiated a couple of weeks after the United States went into lockdown. For c. 20:20 Smith rewrote and revealed each point of the Manifesto throughout the duration of November, as a sort of ‘living’ still life where the artist’s desk became the tableau. COVID MANIFESTO consists of 23 pronouncements punctuated by 7 intermissions selected from Smith’s existing works. Over the month, the personal and poetic, the eventful and now historical, featured as Smith responded to Covid-19 and its multiple aftermaths.

This online platform now serves as a space for filling in the voids, turning the volume up and dynamic storytelling. Here you can dive into the creative process and research archives that have produced the work, revealing a further radical narrative fully enunciated.

During November 2020 The CIRCA website was transformed into an extraordinary archive of past projects from the artist’s trajectory, references from her ongoing research and allusions to her revolutionary imaginary, constituting a virtual mid-career survey. We welcome both local audiences standing in Piccadilly and global participant tuned in online to engage with both the scattered snippets of COVID MANIFESTO and the long form.

By accessing web content persistently, you can generate conditions of possibility. The collaborative project is a call for a proposal of virtual proximity and distance, in which a series of new social relations to content and the meaning of place are entirely reshaped. It is a timely narrative providing insight into an individual’s intimate experience as shared through social media— a form of storytelling that holds a mirror up to society, one daily pronouncement at a time.

CIRCA’s November 2020 daily calendar was curated in collaboration by CIRCA’s Tony Tremlett and The Showroom Curator Katherine Finerty – HERE

Explore COVID MANIFESTO: Week 2 (8 – 15 November 2020) below!


“This film, along with Spin and Guardian of Blackstone is part of a constellation of films THE WAY OUT IS THE WAY TWO all ruminating on the time that Sun Ra spent in Chicago Becoming Sun Ra. In a box of ephemera saved by SRa’s business manager, Alton Abraham, was a pack of souvenir post cards from the pyramids of Egypt. The images that Sun Ra and his Arkestra made there are so iconic that these trinkets, saved so decades after their trip there, felt especially poignant. Some tangible evidence that once again these two men had made the impossible a reality. I was once on a panel with an Egyptian artist who mocked Sun Ra, suggesting his name was ignorantly redundant. I ignored the slight and went on to discuss the incredibly interesting musical cross pollination between SRa and Salas Ragab, the innovative Cairo jazz band leader. African condescension towards blacks of the diaspora is not uncommon and registers as always misplaced— revealing a tragic alignment with colonial masters who encourage notions of a proprietary authenticity. Black diaspora fearlessness- our need and willingness to boldly go wherever our dreams take us is the dynamism of the culture we create and practice. This little film was a love letter to Mr. Abraham and Sun Ra, two men who together boldly showed us all the way…. – Cauleen Smith



- Latoya Ruby Frazier Flint Michigan NO FILTER photo

Cauleen Smith, COVID MANIFESTO 7 on the Piccadilly Lights. Video, colour, sound, 2 min. Courtesy the artist, CIRCA, and The Showroom, London

Further Reading:

Carolyn Lazard: The World Is Unknown


“Episode 17: SPIN. Just like in previous offering Two media artifacts are set-beside and along-with in order to propose an in-addition-to. The sublime solo piano is an unreleased rehearsal recording that I found on some of Alton Abram’s (Sun Ra’s friend and business manager) personal tape while in residence @esschicago. The video clip, chopped and looped, was plucked from another film that I posted on this channel a few weeks back. Toni was (is) a very sweet and very tough girl. Gifted athlete, taller than all the boys her age. In my short time knowing her I never observed her being extra frilly and silly. So when I caught her twirling about in the Sun Ra cape I gave the kids to wear it pinched me somehow in the sweetest possible way. I just wanted to hold that moment of Toni-at-play forever. Sun Ra’s keyboard work does just that. The Sound Of Joy. ## sunra #thesoundofjoy #blackstonebikeshop #57thstreetbeachchicago #thewayoutisthewaytwo This work first appeared in a constellation of short videos ruminating on Sun Ra’s process of Becoming in Chicago. The collection- The Way Out Is The Way Two is among my favorite bodies of work and least viewed. It’s not unusual for taste-makers and I to have very different views about what my best work is. But I’m firever grateful to @juliewidholm for making the opportunity for me to make the work while she was at MCA Chicago.” – Cauleen Smith’s Instagram 26 June

Cauleen Smith, COVID MANIFESTO 8 on the Piccadilly Lights. Video, colour, sound, 2 min. Courtesy the artist, CIRCA, and The Showroom, London

Further Reading:



THE GRID. 2010. I’m dedicating this video to everyone who has come to consciousness about our human condition and is out in these streets expanding social justice in whatever way you need to. A lot of folks surprised at the power of activists this summer. I was! Shouldn’t have been. They’ve been mobilizing and honing resistance-craft for years now. ## BLM now socially comprehensible because black women methodically built the discourse necessary for legibility. Changing the world is a process, a collaboration, a proposal for impossible things. — this video stars Alem Brhan Sapp. @alemsapp Produced by Kahlil Joseph. Shot in Malibu state park. Responding to prevailing ideas around Land Art and the series of gestures from Smithson while he residenced at Kent State in particular. A slow methodical 15 minutes. Maybe it’s a minute for every 10 years of black struggle. Maybe. Get comfy. - Cauleen Smith’s Instagram, 29 June

out of
Jail. NOW.


- Silke Otto-Knapp print**

Cauleen Smith, COVID MANIFESTO 9 on the Piccadilly Lights. Video, colour, sound, 2 min. Courtesy the artist, CIRCA, and The Showroom, London.

“”Deeply embedded in our “ways of doing business” in America, is the fundamental belief that the black body, even while producing great profits (especially when incarcerated), can and must absorb brute force and coercive control within our cultural and economic markets. Indeed, systemic knowledge proposed that black people don’t feel pain the way white people do; moreover, and the pain inflicted upon us is provoked by our very blackness which marks us as fugitive.”


“Orange Jumpsuit” and it’s partner “Blue Scrubs, Yellow Scrubs, Trustees, All above” were commissioned by Los Angeles Municipal Gallery at barnsdall for the group show “Loitering is Delightful”. Inspired by an essay by Ross Gay about the perils and pleasures of loitering, these videos use a longstanding device within my practice of the Ikebana to contemplate the vulnerability of black bodies in public space that are not deployed for labor profit or entertainment. The colors of the flowers are the colors of clothing worn in LA County Jail (yellow and blue) and state prison (orange — in fact there are 5 colors, green grey and yellow and red as well). This is the Left video in a pendant pair for flat screen presentation.” – Cauleen Smith

Cauleen Smith, INTERMISSION 3 on the Piccadilly Lights. Video, colour, sound, 2 min. Courtesy the artist, CIRCA, and The Showroom, London.


“Smith is an LA-based interdisciplinary artist whose experimental practice and vision for radical utopias inspire us to disrupt our everyday. Her COVID MANIFESTO—a project curated by The Showroom in collaboration with CIRCA on the Piccadilly Lights this November—offered us a timely insight into an individual’s intimate experience as shared through social media. The work is a powerful, politically charged reminder of the aesthetic significance of transient items in our daily routine; a storytelling that holds a mirror up to society, one daily pronouncement at a time.” — Elvira Dyangani Ose

As featured in Elephant Magazine

We deserve
better than


- Waving cat - MANEKI NEKO
- Black beads**

Cauleen Smith, COVID MANIFESTO 10 on the Piccadilly Lights. Video, colour, sound, 2 min. Courtesy the artist, CIRCA, and The Showroom, London.


“It is nice to discuss… a film that concerns the ways that humans negotiate a relationship with the planet. In a literal sense, this planet that we call Earth (a lovely word) is our spaceship. It sustains and protects us from the cold and dark of multiverses that we are not yet capable of understanding. This core truth informs everything I make, but the explicitness of my articulations of these concerns/beliefs in “Song for Earth and Folk” rather surprised me!
This film emerged out of a process outside of my usual methods. The Chicago Film Archive invited me to make a found-footage film and I was paired with a local Chicago band, which was commissioned to make the sound track. The archive is on a rescue mission, they collect any Chicago-made celluloid films, home movies, industrial films, documentaries, experimental films, you name it. I decided to narrow the search based on images that I would simply enjoy looking at: flowers, outerspace, “Africa”, birds, and bicycles.” - Gumbs, Alexis Pauline “Cauleen Smith: Song for Earth and Folk.” Vdrome






“Occupying almost the entire first floor of MASS MoCA’s Building 4, the exhibition features a range of Smith’s early and more recent films, including The Changing Same (2001), Black and Blue Over You (After Bas Jan Ader for Ishan) (2010) and H-E-L-L-O (2014). Also on display are BLK FMNNST Loaner Library 1989–2019 (2019), 32 new drawings of book covers that build upon Smith’s activist canon presented in Human_3.0 Reading List 2015–16 (2017); We Already Have What We Need (2019), a new video installation of tableaux featuring African figurines, plants, tchotchkes and other small objects displayed in front of grainy footage of protests, underwater scenes and cosmological events, all projected via CCTV onto five six-and-a-half-metre sails; and a selection of Smith’s iconic In the Wake banners (2017), which were presented in the 2017 Whitney Biennial. The five embroidered silk-rayon velvet and satin flags host phrases and symbols that recur throughout Smith’s oeuvre. Camera, Pen, or Gun? (2017), a deep blue banner with an orange school pencil, microphone, camera shutter and guns on one side and the question, ‘Camera pen or gun?’ in baby blue letters on the other, recalls school shootings and the widespread filming of violence, including police brutality, on mobile phones.” – Esmé Hogeveen in At MASS MoCA, Cauleen Smith Builds an Afrofuturist World

Freeways are
but we still
why? why? why?




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