Logbook of lockdown in La Chapelle
The days go by, slowly, and, like a convict in his cell, I scratch another line into the wall with my penknife. Every day, for twenty days now, we have been here, waiting. Waiting for what? For whom? For information? For a cure? For news from the rest of the world? For how long will we have to wait?
I recall the plight of Vladimir and Estragon, the heroes of Samuel Becketts masterpiece, Waiting for Godot. They’ve been waiting for so long they can no longer remember who Godot is, nor why they want to wait for him. Will that happen to us? Forgotten, even to ourselves.
A long time ago, in the time before everything stopped, I watched a production of the play. Everything was white. The clothes of the actors, the stage, even the tree in the corner.
For the last twenty days I’ve been making photographs of the reduced world in which we are now living, with my wife, Muriel, and our son, Nino. Our clothes, like those of Vladimir and Estragon, are white too, as are the walls of our living space. An absurd, sterile place, that we have been confined to for our own good, and for the safety of all others.
The first image is of my smartphone, wrapped in cellophane, in a desperate attempt to protect against infection. The digital display reads, "12:00 17 mars 2020" The day and the hour that lockdown began.
Against a white backdrop, other images follow: portraits of my cellmates; still-lives of the objects we need to get through the day; our food, medication and other supplies - or what’s left of them as stocks run short in the local supermarket. The events that mark the passage of time - like birthdays. In this enveloping whiteness, the present has replaced all context.
The photographs stack up, taking the form of an intimate diary, marked by the questions and worries that are becoming increasingly urgent: What does the mandatory wearing of a mask mean? Do men and women have different feelings about it? How did my son get sick? Is he going to be okay? Are we going to survive economically during this period?
Outside, during the rare, brief, authorized excursions, the white light of the sun is bright and blinding. And the streets are empty. Where did all the people go? They too, are locked in their cells.
We’re all condemned to wait for a resolution, for an unknown result, just like Vladimir and Estragon.
- Ed Alcock, April 6, 2020