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In this publication, on the occasion of the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath, the MacKenzie Art Gallery looks back at The Candahar, a sculpture by Winnipeg-based artist Theo Sims, that was exhibited over the summer of 2016, and subsequently acquired for the MacKenzie’s permanent collection.

Some may recall The Candahar, a facsimile of a Belfast pub, that was the site for numerous gatherings hosted by a range of individuals. The social intimacy and unpredictability of that space seems ever-more sweet now in relation to the enforced isolation of a public health emergency lock-down.

To reflect on this significant work of art, and these times, we invited theorist, writer and filmmaker Daniel Jewesbury to write this essay published here for the first time. Re-located from Belfast to Gothenburg, Sweden, where the government took a laissez-faire or « herd » approach to the crisis, Jewesbury is uniquely situated to connect The Candahar to issues of public space, expanded cinema, relational aesthetics, and (be)longing. By turns factual, poetic, theoretical and personal, Jewesbury writes :

« As I revise this text, publicness is again under threat, in a far more blunt and pervasive way, as cities around the world ‘lock down’ in response to a pandemic. The city in which I’m writing, Gothenburg, experiences no such lockdown, but the more or less free movement of people around it is somehow made more bizarre as a result of being so exceptional. Even here the threat to forms of collectivity and being-public is overt. I feel that this quality of the temporality of The Candahar, that question it poses of what we must do afterwards, what work we have in store, is now clearer than it ever has been, precisely because we are now able to see what we have to lose. »