Spread art, not viruses

Spread art, not viruses

By Rhonda Dredge

In March, Chinese curator Charlie Xiao was in McGraths Lane behind Tolarno Gallery putting up posters to promote his Instagram campaign #spreadartnotviruses.

“We need to stay connected during the outbreak,” he said. “I’m inviting people to upload their artistic response to the pandemic.” 

Already young artists from China have contributed pictures and a poster has been hung in the sky over Beijing using augmented reality developed in Melbourne. 

The collaborative venture between high-end Tolarno Gallery in Exhibition St and the ambitious young curator began in September last year when Charlie raised $120,000 to buy a gallery installation called Colony.

He’d planned to tour the collection of oversized imaginary viruses to Tank Shanghai in China when the epidemic hit.

“Pop art and surrealism are big in China,” Charlie said. The works arrived but were put into quarantine. “Then the model viruses became a reality.” 

He said Colony was not dystopic but an immersive way of showing our interconnectedness. People took pictures of themselves with the viruses and uploaded them on Instagram.

Charlie’s latest initiative is a means of finding something positive to say in the midst of fear and uncertainty.

He says the Instagram campaign is an example of reciprocal art. 

“It’s more about humanity not viruses. The action is to speak up and put in the effort.”

“It’s a people movement. You’re getting people in China trapped in their rooms for weeks and weeks. Some are making the most of going to the bathroom.” 

“There’s too much negativity. I see it. You feel there is racism happening or young people saying it’s not worrying me. It’s only for old people.”

While many CBD galleries have closed, Tolarno will continue to mount exhibitions during the lockdown. Viewing can be arranged by appointment •

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