Lockdown Love Stories offer a time capsule of relationships in a pandemic
- Credit: Archant
Kentish Town artist Philippa Found has sourced 100 anonymous submissions for her participatory guerilla art project by chalking invitations around Hampstead Heath
March saw Philippa Found locked down in Kentish Town, with a young child, in the final months of an art degree.
Restricted to one excursion a day, and unable to get to a studio, she decided to take her graduation project out to local parks with her three-year-old daughter’s chalks.
On Primrose Hill, Talacre open sapce, Hampstead Heath and beyond, she chalked out her website lockdownlovestories.com.
Curious browsers were then invited to leave their own tales of how enforced isolation had affected their love lives. The 100 or more stories gathered so far on her guerilla art project will go towards her final degree at Chelsea College, but also offer a time capsule of love under lockdown.
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“At the beginning of lockdown, I read a statistic that the number of people who reported dreaming about their ex had rocketed by 2,450 percent and I thought something is collectively happening here,” explains Found.
“These people are potentially feeling shameful and need a space where they can confess anonymously, share their stories and find other stories that resonate and show them whatever they are feeling, they are not alone.
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“The best way to counter shame is create a safe space to share your story alleviate yourself of that burden and see your experience reflected back.”
Found says the “profound shift that is happening to our relationships, how we love during lockdown, is going to be the defining story of our time.”
“I wanted to tell that story.”
The collision of stories and art runs deep for her. Found studied Creative Writing at UEA under Booker prizewinner Bernadine Evaristo, but previously ran the Rollo Art Gallery, which put Giancarlo Neri’s giant sculpture The Writer on Hampstead Heath.
“My practice fits between art and writing and tends to revolve around desire and shame, telling women’s stories as a way of countering silencing and oppression.”
Telling a story through “collective diverse voices” meant either sourcing them in a virtual or phsyical space.
“I thought, how am I going to reach people when you are only allowed out once a day?’
“It was either online or in a park. Parks are an unrestricted democratic space, so I decided ‘I am going to the parks’. Every time I went out I grabbed my daughter Tig’s chalks and went chalking.”
Her inbox was soon flooded with what she calls “a collective love story told in fragments”. The biggest response came from Hampstead Heath, and the anonymous, often ungendered tales offer a poignant glimpse into intimate lives.
“They are unedited, it’s important to keep it in the voice of that individual, it makes it more personal and intimate - editing is a form of shaming.”
Deciding to lockdown with someone you had just met online, the heartbreak of miscarriage during lockdown, the desperate craving for touch, and the frustration of stalled romances were all a theme.
Touching ones include a husband’s heartfelt paean to freshly realising his love for his wife, and a newly married couple who came across the chalking while walking in Regent’s Park.
Less romantically there is the woman who enjoyed daily intense phonecalls with her new lover stuck in Paris, only for him to disappear after a five day reunion.
Or the Hampstead woman who heard little from her boyfriend during lockdown only to be dumped by phone.
“She thought he was setting up the new hospital at the Excel Centre but he was actually seeing another girl.”
Her own experience was of early “nice chilled weeks together” with her husband and child followed by a more tetchy juggling of childcare and work commitments.
“It started with a lot of stories about reaching out to exes, but over time there was an appreciation of love and kindness during this tough time and how lockdown can be a catalyst for a relationship. As the landscape of dating adjusts to a post pandemic world, maybe Millennials and Gen Z are learning to fall in love in this slower more meaningful way.