Quarantine Reflections

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📚📚📚 Oddly enough, and suddenly as always (it’s a silent lurker), Spring is here — and although life will eventually return to some kind of normal, for now it is somewhat dormant. Covid-19 has in many ways slowed the world down, while for some (like paramedics, doctors, registered nurses and grocery store employees) life has most definitely sped up, and become more acute, raw and surreal. We, the ones without jobs society has deemed critical, are the lucky ones, being spared. Everyday life is humming with a soft sheltered rhythm.

Some are struggling with this, and the loss of structure and order is not an easy feat. For my little family of three, with a girl of almost a year and half, life is not so quiet and still. But this has proved to be more rewarding than I first thought, as my initial reaction to the kindergarten closing for an indefinite amount of time was dread and despair — having just recently regained some sort of normality after parental leave. My daughter’s ignorance of the potential invisible threat outside is bliss — and that’s also infectious. Her smiles are infectious, her tumbling, bubbly laugh. Her wonder, her curiosity, her longing for comfort and cuddles. Her whining, well, perhaps that too. But it’s her curiosity that I am mostly intrigued by.

Books are strange and secretive objects. One obvious reason is that they only reveal their spine to casual onlookers. The cover and content is for the curious reader, picking out selected titles with nimble fingers. We recently moved all our books into the bookshelves again, after a period of exile on our mezzanine, as our daughter wouldn’t stop picking them out, examining them roughly (i.e. eating them). So this weekend we were again reintroduced to titles we hadn’t seen in awhile, and for me, it was like revisiting old friends.

For one, I got to reconnect with «Oryx & Crake», Margaret Atwood’s inimitable speculative fiction book of 2003. The thematic content of the book (not really a spoiler, but a pandemic is guest-starring) does coincide with the current affairs of today.

Overpopulation, gene-splicing and the ramifications of human consumption and unchallenged capitalism are addressed in smart and extremely humorous language. Oryx & Crake is part one of the MaddAddam trilogy, and although I’ve read Oryx & Crake numerous times, I’vet yet to complete the whole series more than once. This will be my time.

I also found a few books while moving into my new studio (!) that to me defines certain periods in my life: The selected works of renowned graphic designer and illustrator Olle Eksell (which I bought when I was first learning InDesign, struggling dearly with all the features in Adobe, dreaming of better days while perusing his pages of whimsical, naïve characters) and a publication of semi-erotic lithographs by Danish artist Alexander Tovborg, purchased at New York Art Book Fair in 2014, where I first decided that I wanted to start my own design practice.

I wouldn’t describe myself as a luddite. I can relish in digital thingamajigs, apps and whatnot, but I always buy books. I like paper things. I don’t own a Kindle, and I have one singular audiobook (Philip Pullmans’s «The Secret Commonwealth», a gargantuan tome deemed a bit too heavy schlepping around while strolling my sleeping daughter). Paper is such a tactile element, and I have no doubt that the sensory touch of flipping through a publication can awaken memories. .

I’ve seen several photographer friends post pictures of their favorite photography books recently, and I thought this could be extended further. With the libraries closed (mind, bookstores are still open in Norway for the time being), perhaps we can shift our gaze towards the books we already have in our possession — and challenge ourselves to be curious about things we’ve once deemed fascinating enough to bring home, into our lives and everyday rhythms. 📘📘📘

Olle Eksell
Olle Eksell
Olle Eksell
Alexander Tovborg
Olle Eksell
Olle Eksell
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