While lockdowns are implemented to flatten the curve of COVID-19, artist Goran Kostovski and The Macedonian Creative Activism Team (MCAT) are reminding citizens to follow the health department’s recommendations with their latest project.

‘Keep Away’ was created by the Centre For Artistic Activism alumni in the North Macedonian capital, Skopje, and depicts two hands – one infected with the coronavirus – set to shake, accompanied by recommendations from the North Macedonian Ministry of Health.

The project aims to “explicitly remind citizens to keep a distance and reduce handling, minimising their contacts with others”, according to art director, Goran Kostovski who is speaking with The Stoic Journal over Skype. These actions come after a number of citizens were charged for breaking new rules on protection from infectious diseases.

Alongside Kostovski, MCAT is comprised of Slaviza Indzevska, Nikola Pisarev, Gjorgje Jovanovik, Adrijana Lavcinska and Andrej Mitevski, and though the six have been working together for three years, COVID-19 has forced the team into new methods of creating.

“We had discussions in our group on how to send our message and finally came up with this idea. Once the idea was finalized, we started to work on it, making it in-line with the recommendations of the Ministry of Health.” In announcing the installation, Kostovski says that no direct contact was made between members of the group, as they “worked in phases and sequentially.”

North Macedonia has had 599 confirmed cases of the virus so far – with its first being a 50 year-old woman who had returned from a month in Italy. The initial case led to no further infections, but authorities have announced that subsequent cases, including the controversial case of Nina Caca Biljanovska seemed to have originated in Italy – where 70,000 North Macedonians live.

A state of emergency was declared for the first time in the country’s history last month, and a range of measures to curb the spread of the virus have already been implemented, including bans on public gatherings, mandatory 14-day isolation for all travellers entering the country, and closure of most border crossings.

Two children show solidarity with Italy – where some 70,000 North Macedonians live. | Photo: AMiloshoski, Twitter.

Health authorities now also have the rights to order those who they suspect have been in contact with infected people to self-isolate. Many people have breached self-isolation regimes however, despite having made written statements to follow them. This is putting immense pressure on the ill-equipped health services of the country, where over 10 percent of COVID-19 cases are medical workers.

“‘Keep a Distance’ is an action we dedicate and give to medical professionals and health care workers who are struggling day and night to protect public health.” Kostovski wants this project to ease the pressure on those treating the virus: “We believe that in this situation prevention is the most important thing and that is why through the language of art we try to communicate this.”

He added: “as artists and activists, we cannot remain silent in such situations and I believe that in these difficult days everyone should contribute and influence to inform the population.

Usually, artists at MCAT would be “helping local communities to identify their urgent needs, mobilize people and raise voice to advocate for change in their communities.” Whilst the ducks swimming in a pothole in front of a primary school, or the superhero Thor advising citizens and local authorities to take care of the roads and waste management (both former projects of the group) may not have a suitable place in warning citizens to follow health recommendations, the new methods of Goran Kostovski and MCAT in this installation have perhaps created their most important work to date.

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