“As an artist, rather than wallowing in my despair, I chose to make light of what might be the most depressing catastrophe that the world has seen for some time.”
– Miriam Elia
Covid-19 has made locking yourself in and waiting to die as you astutely avoid death the ‘new normal’. But how did normal become so discomforting? This slipping of life into a trap was created by a potentially fatal microscopic virus filtered through manipulated data, political expediency, paranoia, a news cycle run by EVulture Plc and fear of death, dread of illness and the coming to the fore all the stuff the sane push to the back of your minds as you just get on with and never waste the day.
Like those forgotten old dears oven-readied for the light (or fires) to come in the hereafter in their overheated Covid-friendly care-homes, sipping undiluted orange cordial and awaiting the call from God’s receptionist, we’ve been gripped by a collective senility, hankering after what’s gone, living life in reruns and stocking up on tinned food.
If we’re going to go back, let’s avoid yesterday’s televised death stats and head to the thrusting 1950s in the company of Miriam Elia. In her terrific new book, Let’s Do Lockdown, Miriam juxtaposes 1950s dynamism and ambition with today’s morbid obsession with death league tables and the so-called ‘war on coronavirus’, which unlike an actual war won’t see your granny’s house bombed nor any victor.
“The 50s styling is very important to the effect because the 50s and 60s were this time of tremendous optimism and modernity postwar,” she tells the Guardian. “You had the welfare state, the pill for women – a real sense of change. Humour comes when you contrast two worlds very clearly together, so I’ve taken that postwar optimism and contrasting it with this brutal nihilism that we have now. And also, on an aesthetic level, I absolutely adore that era, so it’s just a pleasure for me.
“It also works because the characters have this conformity to them – the boy always wears the same jumper and Mummy looks like Queen Elizabeth. And we all have to conform right now: wear a mask, do this. You can’t meet grandma but you can meet your mates in the pub or go out for a day’s fox hunting. It didn’t make any sense.”
So grab your face mask and satchel, and join Mummy, John and Susan (not Peter and Jane) as they venture out in this fearful new world. The children end up with no real-life friends, no education, and are conditioned to see their peers as portable germ vessels.
Across each page Susan and John, guided by an abundance of love, care and neurosis only Mummy can provide her offspring, depict highly identifiable everyday situations ranging from lemongrass shortages to taped-up no-go-zone children’s playgrounds. Elia’s artworks, created in a colourful and bold watercolour style, depict Mummy teaching her children baking skills and reinterpreting empirical evidence provided by the daily press briefings.
Spread the joy of laughing at the reaction to Covid-19 with cards, mugs and Miriam’s book, all available in the shop.
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