by Marissa Bennett

This work is a revisitation and analysis of images taken while I was living in Italy during the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, with an emphasis on photos from a weekend trip to Venice on February 22, 2020. It was on this day that the first person in Italy died from the novel coronavirus. Although it was not supposed to be the last weekend of Carnevale celebrations, the rapid spread of the virus cancelled any sort of mass gathering in the region within days. The areas primarily impacted by the virus at this time, Milan and Venice and their surrounding regions, were eventually placed on complete lockdown, followed by the entirety of Italy and now everywhere else in the world. While in the moment I experienced Carnevale celebrations with great joy, I now only feel claustrophobic when I view these images and they hold new meanings for me.

This project revisits my collection of images from February 22 and their connection to the optical unconscious, exploring the concept of touch and how it will be redefined by the COVID-19 pandemic. It further includes perspectives other than my own through the use of a Google Form, crowdsourcing anonymous responses to the questions I was also asking myself about our society's shifting relationship with touch. The responses, alongside imagery from that day in Venice, are meant to be almost indistinguishable from one another to emulate a single collective voice. By highlighting the similarities and contrasts of societal perceptions of touch, contextualized before, during, and after the pandemic, I hope to create an archival record that communicates how a global catastrophe is capable of reshaping basic human interaction as we know it. •