​About Closed Doors: Isolation and Art

About Closed Doors: Isolation and Art

By Caleb Burke

UNSW Library Exhibition: June—August T2 2021

Stuck Again With COVID 

There is no doubt that COVID-19 was a massively confusing time for us all, having to isolate ourselves from society for the first time in forever. Even again, in 2021, we are living through another lockdown, and university is resuming online once more. In times like these, we are left alone to reflect on ourselves. We lose perception of time, our social world shifts, and we examine the world from inside the house.

The complexities of the isolation last year takes centre stage in this term's newest UNSW Library Exhibition, About Closed Doors: Isolation and Art.

About Closed Doors: Isolation and Art brings together artworks made by 11 UNSW students during the 2020 lockdown. Curated by Master of Curating and Cultural Leadership students, Lor Awwad and Fábio Marques Ferreira, the exhibition explores the resilience, criticality and hope captured by artists during isolation.

The exhibition features work by: 

Ally Baston, Cindy Wenceslao, Emma Harbridge, Eriel Jeremiah, Ethan Cutler, Evelyn Yeoh, James Delaney, Joshua Chek, Mark Denny, Monika C. Zaper, Scott Liu.

Initiated by Dr Rebecca Shanahan. 

About Closed Doors is on display in the Main Library Exhibition Space, Level 5 until August 06.



By Evelyn Yeoh

About Closed Doors: Isolation and Art 

This project is the brainchild of UNSW Art & Design lecturer, Dr. Rebecca Shanahan, who took an interest in the way many of her undergraduate students “rapidly made the pandemic the subject of their artworks”.

“Many had no access to art materials or facilities, and they had varying access to their peers depending on internet connection quality,”

“The students quickly invented new art materials for themselves; for example, one used food, and one used phone conversations with her mother.”

Rebecca is absolutely right. We often tended to focus on the worst parts of the pandemic. However, it also gave us the opportunity to renew ourselves. It gave us the opportunity to reflect on the habits we make and the routines we take. Isolation also forced us to become more creative with the way we learn and make entertainment. Largely, it forced us to think outside our general approach to life.

“The student artworks I was seeing were an immediate reflection of the lockdown experience... functioning like a snapshot of what we were all going through." - says Rebecca

“What does time feel like without external markers? 

What happens to relationships when they become virtual? 

How do you define ‘home’ when your public life is conducted from your bedroom?”

Behind the Scenes of the Genius 

About Closed Doors was curated by Master of Curating and Cultural Leadership students, Lor Awwad and Fábio Marques Ferreira. This meant countless hours of research, liaising with artists, and displaying objects. In short, Lor and Fábio are running the About Closed Doors exhibition.

We were able to get a few words from Fábio on his experience with the curation process.

Fábio Marques Ferreira

Master of Curating and Cultural Leadership Student

“Last year during term 3, I received an email from one of my course lecturers at the MCCL asking for expressions of interest from the program students to curate an art exhibition for undergrads, and I put my hand up not knowing exactly what to expect.

My lecturer connected me with Rebecca, and from then on, we started working on this project together with Lor Awwad, who had also expressed interest in curating the exhibition. I knew Lor from the course and was happy to learn she was going to be working with me on this.

The process of curating was all done remotely as our whole program was being delivered online. This format ended up being suitable for the exhibition theme.

It was a show that, although done in some grade of isolation, was built very collaboratively between all its participants, and I think that if there's one lesson that we all could take from this is that, even remotely, we can build something together. Much more than competition, collaboration is what brought us here and is what will bring us out of any challenges we have to face.”

By Monika C. Zaper

Our Thoughts and Opinions 

Jackson Mann 

Curator, Special Collections and Exhibitions, UNSW Library

“I think this exhibition is particularly important because students throughout the university might see their own experiences of isolation during lockdown reflected in the artworks in this show. Some of the students deal with issues I think everyone will find familiar such as losing our perception of time, while others reveal how everyone is experiencing the pandemic differently. Regardless of what the artists are exploring, many of the artworks show a real ingenuity in how these artists pivoted to making work with what they had access to, and I think that highlights a resilience that will resonate with all of our students at UNSW.”

Caleb Burke

UNSW 2nd Year Student, Physics/English

“It was incredible to explore the variety of creative expressions that come out of the experience of isolation. There’s no doubt that doing uni alongside COVID-19 was a confusing time last year. Like, there were way too many feelings, good and bad, associated with the lockdowns. But, when exploring the artworks, I felt like every experience I had was placed right in front of my eyes, but more organised and clearer this time.”


More Details 

Every year, UNSW’s Main Library hosts a collection of various artworks which each touch on diverse social and cultural experiences. 

As brilliantly put by UNSW’s Library Exhibition Curator himself, Jackson Mann, “the Library’s Exhibitions Program gives visibility to the ideas that are important to the UNSW community in a space that is visited by students from every faculty.”

We would love to give a massive shout out to Jackson Mann and Chantel Henwood, who have been incredible in providing us with the many quotes and images in the article, and for inviting us to the event. 

For more information on UNSW’s Library Exhibition program, you can visit their website HERE.

Writer's Bio: Caleb Burke is a second-year student studying Physics and English at UNSW. Why? He doesn't know either. Caleb enjoys reading articles on Nintendo games, philosophy, or anything utterly absurd. In his spare time, you'll find him drafting spreadsheets for fun or indulging in a sneaky bowl of nacho fries from GYG.

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