The outbreak picks up pace and things change very fast as the restrictions intensify and the outlook looks grimmer and grimmer. On the other hand my social media and inboxes are flooded with e mails about things to watch, make and do. People seem to embrace the opportunities that working from home and reducing emissions might bring, some - like me- marvel at Spring erupting outside our windows and how some of the birds are nesting early this year since its so quiet out there. Yet there are also many who shout for help fearing they will go mad, buckling under the strain of working from home while home schooling- the home is becoming both a nest and a trap.
And then a friend sends me a message: ' I went into town today. All the parking lots were empty. Few people here and there. A queue in a small pharmacy shop. Like after a nuclear holocaust. And still, a young homeless woman sits in the corner. I bought her food and drink and asked her if she has a place to sleep. She said she hoped to have enough money to pay for a room in the shelter for the night. It feels like here at home we are watching a film, everyday another episode. Meanwhile outside- in the centre not far away- one collides with a reality that beggars belief.'
When I started working on this project, while winter was still raging and I traipsed around Luton in powering rain, homelessness was very much in my thoughts. Now as we cocoon ourselves in our reasonably comfortable - if small - homes, to binge watch, embark on all the projects we've never had time for, or carry on working, albeit in very reduced and often stressful circumstances - I am at a loss as to how those with no home at all will cope.
In an article titled 'Who's There?' photography scholar Ariela Azaoulay reminds us that 'the ruling power renders- directly or indirectly - a never -ending variety of horrifying forms to the home of those it does not recognise as normal citizens: non citizens, defective citizens, refugees, the homeless, the paperless, the displaced, migrant workers, caregivers or traded women'**. Azoulay asks that we resist the perpetuation of dispossession by regimes that seek to portray some as external to the societies where they reside. In order to do that, she says we must include ALL those governed, which 'requires citizens who sit cozily in their homes to ponder anew the regime under which they live as responsible...'**.
Growing up in a secular Jewish environment as I did, Spring with its Passover holiday was always celebrated as the time of freedom and renewal. Religious Jews celebrate the story of God passing over the homes of the Jews as He hit the Egyptians' with one disaster after another (Ten Plagues altogether- each harsher than the other) as He released his chosen people from slavery. With that in mind I am left questioning how this most extraordinary of Springs that is upon us will treat those that have only just overcame the harsh winter outside. Do we just cary on passing over and looking away? Or might this abnormal Spring be a wake up call and the time we spend safely cocooned at home raise fundamental questions relating to all peoples' rights to a safe home and adequate care?
* HomeLessHome (2010) is the name of an exhibition staged at the Museum on the Seam in Jerusalem.
** Who's There by Ariela Azoulay in HomeLessHome catalogue.