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An exploration of the theme of isolation drawing connections to the aecetic history of self-isolation in the pursuit of spiritual enlightenment.

As Covid-19 swept the globe in March 2020 and closed borders, social distancing, shuttered venues, cancelled events and self-isolation became the new norms, TIO artist Beth McMahon found herself  alone in Taipei. Unable to undertake the planned creative development of Gathering for the postponed 2020 Light Festival, Isolation was born.

Conceived, developed and created in the final 10 days of March 2020, Isolation was a rumination on our new shared normal. A series of illuminate still life installations made quickly using simple, domestic objects. Visitors to Treasure Hill Artist Village were invited to peer through the windows of the Frontier Galleries to see a glimpse of imagined self-isolation scenarios where loneliness, longing and hope combine.

Each artwork was made in response to a specific real time event in Australia during March 2020. Isolation shares the perspective of the artist as an Australian observing the spread of and response to Covid-19 at home, while aesthetically reflecting their residency at Treasure Hill Artist Village in Taipei, Taiwan. The mix of Taiwanese objects with Australian sounds and news events captures the lived experience of the artist at the time.

Work 1

TITLE: Abstinence (March 6, 2020)

DESCRIPTION: Hand rolled - you can't eat it

MATERIALS: paper bowl, fork, hand rolled toilet paper, LED lights

AUDIO: Australian Flying Fox Colony


Flying Foxes also called Fruit Bats are an Australian native bat found in large numbers across the eastern coast (including in major cities). They're known for ravenously eating ripe fruit from trees at this time of year. The Flying Fox audio is a reference to the ravenous stockpiling of goods (specifically toilet paper) in Australia at this time, and to the possible origin of covid-19 in bats. 



Work 2

TITLE: Prayer (March 12, 2020)

DESCRIPTION: An altar dedicated to empty assurances

MATERIALS: TV, multiple remote controls, tangle of miscellaneous cables, crumbs, half drunk coffee in mugs with burnt incense, snuffed out candles

AUDIO: Recorded recitations of assuring phrases from press conferences


In the March 12th address the Prime Minister assures Australians there is a plan, and that the government is ready for a pandemic. At this time, the plan is economic and designed to support aviation, tourism and large corporations. Within 10 days millions of Australians will have lost their jobs. 



Work 3

TITLE: Purification (March 16, 2020)

DESCRIPTION: It's not just the flu - A medicine circle for ritual cold and flu banishment 

MATERIALS: Humidifier, small potted plants, citrus fruits, disinfectant spray, eucalyptus oil

AUDIO: Morse code of "Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet" Aristotle 


Some Australians believe covid-19 is just another flu because a right-wing media personality tells their listeners that being concerned about the pandemic is "hysteria". Some state governments break with the federal government and announce a state of Emergency. Borders close to foreign visitors.



Work 4

TITLE: Patience (March 18, 2020)

DESCRIPTION:  #savelivesstayhome - Footsteps recorded in self illuminated slippers disappear into particles on the shag-pile rug

MATERIALS: Slippers, string LED lights, shag-pile rug

AUDIO: Recitation of exceptions to stay at home request


All Australians are asked to self isolate at home if they can. There are a raft of exceptions that cause mass confusions. The message is stay at home - unless you can't, so then go out and work or buy things. Australians flood twitter asking for a lockdown and clearer communication. 



Work 5

TITLE: Aspiration (March 27, 2020)

DESCRIPTION: Quarantine - Unmade bed, lamp, bedsheets, pillowcases. A shaft of light from an unseen source sends pearlescent* bursts of colour through the doorway.

MATERIALS: White linens, string, pegs, projection, lamp, bed, bedding


*Pearlescent or crystal like bead-shaped objects are found in the cremated remains of Buddhist spiritual masters. 


As Australian cases top 4000, the government announces that all Australians arriving from overseas will be placed in quarantine for 14 days effective from March 28. The operation will be carried out by Border Force (Immigration & Customs officials) and the ADF (Australian Defence Force Army). No provisions for onward travel to passengers' home states have been provided. 

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