Exhibition: In the Era of Covid, The Plague Archives Investigates Attitudes Towards Disease Throughout History
Spanning the tenth through the twenty-first century, Maya Gurantz’s exhibition at The Pitzer College Art Galleries presents an archive of historical images and new video essays. See the exhibition’s companion site on Instagram: #theplaguearchives.
The Plague Archives runs from January 28–March 25, 2023, Tues.–Sat., noon–5 p.m. at the Lenzner Family Art Gallery
The Plague Archives encourages a non-linear reading of the subject of disease and its (mis)representation across different historical eras. “One of the things I have learned from doing The Plague Archives,” notes Gurantz, “is that a key stage in any outbreak of disease is amnesia. People want to forget. Even when a disease still rages, still kills, still infects, still inconveniences.”
The exhibition’s images and texts, drawn from a plethora of filmic, scientific, religious, and musicological sources, create a visually dense archive. Elements range from horrific 14th Century depictions of the bubonic plague and a turn of the 20th-Century promotional postcard for a bucolic tuberculosis sanitorium to a selection of videos addressing HIV-AIDS activism in 1980s and ’90s America.
Video “lecture-performances” created by Gurantz for the exhibition explore connections between plague narratives and their impact on ideas and world affairs. The Plague Roots of Hate maps the relationship between pandemics and racism across multiple locales–including the bubonic plague of 1901 and the creation of the first South African townships, which later became a model for the apartheid state.
“Traditional archives present an institutional narrative,” says Ennis. “Queering the official archive by inserting marginalized histories and bringing them to the fore underscores their relevance to our current times.” The concurrent exhibition Britt Ransom: Arise and Seek at Pitzer’s Nichols Gallery also presents a nontraditional archive.
Gurantz’s interdisciplinary research-based practice incorporates dance, video, performance, text, and installation, which she deploys to examine constructions of race, gender, and class in relation to shared myths, public rituals, and private desires. Learn more about Gurantz here.