So right on the precipice of the pandemic, late February, early March, I was in Bali in Indonesia. And I was there to really immerse myself culturally but then also to just pause in my life and really think about the directions I was taking within my work and life and all those kinds of things. So I think that there is a visual influence of Balinesian arts and culture within that, but it was also like we kind of rolled off... We flew home on this wave of when everything was starting to shut down and everything, so I'm still searching for being able to articulate what it is that changed. But I think if you were to look at my paintings before and after, I think you can see a visual color palette shift in some of the ways I'm handling the materials. But I think conceptually, some of the things I was working on before is really tied into what I'm thinking about now even, if that makes sense.
0:13:45 MS: Yeah, no it does, yeah. Did you... Do you remember when you first heard about the coronavirus or COVID-19?
0:13:53 SB: I have good friends that live in Italy because I went to graduate school there. And so I remember hearing about it in Italy and in China, and just felt like it felt really like a bubble. The idea that it would turn into a global pandemic. I don't know if it was just not on my radar, and maybe it wasn't. Also, I'm teaching full-time and parenting full... Doing all the things that everybody is doing, so maybe I just didn't envision what it could be. But I do remember... I feel like I remember even hearing about it in December, early January in the news, but didn't conceptualize it in the ways that maybe I should... Maybe everyone feels like the should've or could've, right? So yeah.
0:14:44 MS: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Time moving in a straight line is problematic. 0:14:46 SB: Yes.
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0:14:47 MS: It's we can't... Yeah, you know.
0:14:48 SB: Right, the whole linear nature of time, such a problem. 0:14:51 MS: Yeah. But so you heard about it before you went to Bali? 0:14:54 SB: I did.
0:14:55 MS: This is fascinating.
0:14:56 SB: Yes, yes.
0:14:57 MS: Did that give you pause about going to Bali?
0:15:00 MS: Of course, of course, of course. And I talked to all the people and felt like I did due diligence on figuring out what that looked like or didn't look like, and certainly considered not going. But in retrospect, I think it was still a really good thing to have done, and maybe it's one of those hindsight’s 20/20, and everything turned out fine and... But it's still... I think it's one of the most impactful things I could have done for myself on lots of levels, but it also is very strange sitting here and saying, "Oh yeah, I made that decision." So it's very interesting to think about. But so I basically came home and stayed home since then.
0:15:50 MS: That's so weird. The Bali trip is such as demarcating line in your life now?
0:15:54 SB: It's very weird. Yeah, that's very weird. Yeah, so I'm kind of [Laughs] working my brain around that. But I went with a group of really powerful rad women and on the flip of it, I'm really glad I went because, I mean, who knows when I'll travel again, right?
0:16:14 MS: Yeah, yeah. I know. Coming here today was a big trip for me. This is exciting. [Laughs]
0:16:21 MS: I means it's a bit like you said, vacation, like taking a little drive up the shore. [Laughs]
0:16:25 MS: Yeah, I know, it was really nice. 0:16:27 SB: Right.
0:16:27 MS: So the Bali trip, it sounded like just the experience of going there, that probably could have had some effects on what you were gonna do artistically in March anyway. It's probably now all this mishmash of who knows whether it was a trip or the pandemic or...
0:16:50 SB: Right, right. Yeah, it was kind of a seismic shift. It felt a lot like the home I came home to was different than the home I left in so many different ways, and so it's... But that said, there's this parallel juxtaposition where I live in the country, and so I don't really... Even though I know these things are going on and I have friends and family that are directly affected by many things with the pandemic, I also am at home with my kids on day 137. And so there's this rolling sameness that is, at the same time, I look at the news and I talk to my friends and family, and then it's also...
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So it's got this, has this kind of monotone drone sound alongside this very intense time in our world. So it's a very strange juxtaposition that got me. I mean, it's just very wild.
— Sarah Brokke
Stories of Wisdom from Bodies in Separation (SWaBS): Archiving the Coronavirus Pandemic Through the Lens of Humanities has been made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this project, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.