In this project you are invited to become the artist, contributing your own ‘piece of sky’ that will join a larger ‘virtual sky’ made up of thousands of images from across the world.
Solidarity Sky is inspired by Anne Frank who, while in hiding from persecution at the age of 13, wrote in her diary: I looked out of the open window…over all the roofs and on to the horizon, which was such a pale blue that it was hard to see the dividing line. “As long as this exists” I thought, “and I may live to see it, this sunshine, the cloudless skies, while this lasts, I cannot be unhappy”
What she captures in this quote is the power of the sky, despite circumstances, to hold our hopes, dreams and desires. Solidarity Sky aims to build on this sentiment. It intends to encourage creative participation, unite people across real and imagined borders and foster hope through shared visions of something we all hold common – the sky above our heads.
Here, the creators of Solidarity Sky and artistic duo, Luke Conroy from Australia and Anne Fehres from The Netherlands, give us the opportunity to dive deep into this powerful project.
How has “Solidarity Sky” evolved since it started?
This project was born in the early stages of 2020, when the full impact of COVID-19 was slowly being realised. We wanted this project to play a small role in encouraging a sense of global community, amongst the isolation and barriers which were starting to appear. The internet became a fascinating place for us, to see how people documented their response to isolation in different ways. We wanted Solidarity Sky to bring together one aspect of this – everyone’s view of the sky from wherever they were in the world – as a way of promoting a sense of shared global community. Through the support of Stroom Den Haag and CultuurSchakel in the Netherlands we were able to build a simple website around this idea, which allowed people to submit their photos of the sky. When then used a variety of advertising avenues – social media, hanging posters in local businesses and letterbox drops – to spread the word of the project. Through the life of the project, it grew from having a few submissions from the Netherlands, to eventually having submissions from over 90 countries across the world.
What impact did it have?
The quantifiable impact was that we received over 1500 submissions from over 90 different countries. The website that displayed the submitted images had thousands of visitors from all over the world. The nonquantifiable impact, can only be speculated upon. We noticed that we had quite a few submissions were from return visitors to the page. This suggests that these people were thinking about and conscious of the project, after having first heard of it. We hope that this is an indication that the project provided a meaningful moment of solidarity and reflection in these people lives.
Did the initiative require any shifts or modifications in the process? If yes, why?
As the submissions for this project grew, we became increasingly interested in the spread of the locations where each sky photograph came from. For the reason we decided to also develop and add an interactive map to the Solidarity Sky platform, where all of these locations could be easily visualised at once.
Who are the faces behind this initiative?
Solidarity Sky is a project created by Luke Conroy (1990, Australia) and Anne Fehres (1988, The Netherlands). We are an artist duo working together since 2016. From our diverse geographic and disciplinary background we bring together a creative and information exchange. Drawing upon Luke’s background as a sociologist and Anne’s training as a documentary filmmaker, the projects we create are born out of a shared curiosity for the themes of identity, history and the culture of everyday life. Responding to these themes, we use a wide range of media that includes photography, digital art, textile design, video, and installation.
Our approach towards a subject takes the form of collage, where ‘collage’ refers not just to a way of making but a way of thinking. In thinking about a subject we engage in in-depth research, community collaboration and subjective observations. In the creation of our works, we give each subject space to develop its own form of expression, whether this be through digital printed works, moving images or tactile objects. Our end product is a collision of various fragments that can be social, personal, playful and everywhere in between. Ultimately we aim to create works that have a theoretical depth while also being visually and emotionally stimulating.
How did the audience react?
As this was an online project, the exact nature of audience reactions will not be known. Our website analytics tell us however, that users spent on average 5+ minutes on the site, which indicates that there was a connection with the project.
Is there anything you would like to point out or highlight?
A large inspiration for the project was a particular quote from the iconic Dutch diary writer, Anne Frank. The quote, written while in hiding from prosecution at the age of 13, said, “I looked out of the open window…over all the roofs and on to the horizon, which was such a pale blue that it was hard to see the dividing line. ‘As long as this exists’ I thought, ‘and I may live to see it, this sunshine, the cloudless skies, while this lasts, I cannot be unhappy’”. This quote seemed to resonate strongly with people, with many people reflecting in email, on social media and in conversation, about the symbolic meaning of the sky during challenging times. As an extension of this, we asked for contributors to the project, to translate this quote in their mother tongue. From this ‘open call’ we were able to have this quote translated in 18 different languages – which were then shared on our social media pages.
Did this whole process bring you to any kind of conclusions?
As artists, we often have many ideas which we sit on and be it lack of certainty or opportunity – we do not get the chance to follow them through. One of the impacts of COVID-19 was that it presented many spontaneous opportunities for artistic reflection and action. The time between Solidarity Sky being an idea and then being a funded project with an operational website was about 3 weeks. While there are always things we would like to do better and there are many different ways this project could have gone, one key conclusion for us was to be reminded of the benefit to just create and run with an idea and see where it goes. Another broader conclusion is that, this project aimed to bring people together, but also it was done in a fairly anonymous way. We collected locations and the first names of participants, but this was all. So while close connections to specific people was not a result of this project, we did get a strong feeling of community and solidarity and hope that the audience shared in this as well.
What are you looking for in the future?
We are currently working on plans to take the images from the Solidarity Sky platform online and give them a new life elsewhere. Plans for this are in the early stages, but we would like to introduce these images in a physical way, in public space. As the Anne Frank quote is a key part of the project, we envision sound to be part of the extension of the idea. While we enjoyed the digital aspect of this project, we think there is an added value to be gained from bringing in to new audience in public spaces.
What do you think about the Creatives Unite platform? Do you feel it serves its purpose?
People across Europe are doing it tough right now and we need platforms that can empower and inspire us in the future. For artists in particular, it is good to have events to stay inspired, knowledge of opportunities for future funding and stories of other artist’s sharing their world. It is great that the Creatives Unite platform can bring such resources together.
Is there anything you would like to add?
If people would like to check out the Solidarity sky project or submit their own image of the sky – they can go here: https://www.solidaritysky.com/
Thank you Solidarity Sky! 🙂