Contact Tracing is an online screening program bringing together works from Mudam’s collection of artist film and video, which make up one fifth of the museum’s collection. The selection reflects on our powerful ambivalence to ‘contact’ engendered by the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as our increased awareness of the boundaries that protect and restrict us from proximity and presence. In our current global context, contact carries the risk of infection and necessitates its opposite: isolation. After more than a year of confinement and social distancing measures, concern oscillates between exposure to infection and social alienation.
As we examine touch and proximity in a new light, this program explores the nuances of previously unquestioned behavior. The feminist theorist and philosopher of physics Karen Barad has noted that even at a molecular level, contact is an ambivalent event. As the feeling of touch is enabled by opposing molecular magnets (or ‘electro-magnetic repulsion’), contact is actually a process of pushing away. While Covid-19 has shifted our conception of the complexities embedded in moments of contact, the works in Contact Tracing show how artists have consistently sought to expose the crowding together and pulling apart of how we live together, alone and in the world.