Ghost City Avenue S is an interactive series of embedded encounters with the immediate effects of the pandemic and lockdown, such as isolation and confusion, and the ramifications, such as surging unemployment rates for populations that had not needed public assistance and precarious international relations between the superpowers of China and the United States. As Zellon explains: “It is a maze from which to navigate the pandemic and also, just possibly, a path out.”
The work emerged as Zellen returned from walks through an empty Los Angeles to take refuge online, relearning coding to make art at a time when people could not gather due to lockdowns and social distancing. Ghost City Avenue S lives inside an earlier project called Ghost City. Animated stick figures morph into spiral that spin to look like models of the virus.
Zellen reimagines the work of artists during the pandemic as moving online since galleries, museums, and public spaces were increasingly inaccessible because of lockdowns. The internet quickly became a space for socially-distanced social interactions. As once lively city streets were transformed into “ghost towns,” the internet became increasingly crowded, though not in ways that users might notice beyond slower connections.
A section on unemployment, for example, offers a sense of the pandemic’s effects in different locations on the ability to work and provide for one’s family. Animated figures walk through state-shaped spaces. Crowds represent population density.
Unemployment rates in May 2019 were 40% in Djibouti, 27.9% in Palestine (West Bank), and 27.1% in South Africa; whereas ones in Bolivia, Kyrgyzstan, Norway, and South Korea were only 3%. Digging deeper into these pages, we find comparative data from May 2019 and June 2020. Canada’s rate increases from 5.7% to 13.7%; Philippines, from 5.2% to 17.7%; United States, from 3.6 to 14.7%.
The project was also displayed in the LAX airport, transforming transportation infrastructure into public-art exhibition space. It is also available as an app for use on mobiles.
Ghost City Avenue S asks us to explore and create our own pathways through a mix of animations, data, and reflections that enter into the physical and virtual spaces of our lives.