Social Asphyxia

By Yeside Linney | November 2, 2020

People have different ways of looking at the world, and these views influence their perceptions of risks, benefits and costs and shape how they act.

We’ve seen this in alarming degrees with the current pandemic. Historically, we, as global citizens, have woven a spiral of silence over climate and race issues. The term “spiral of silence” was coined by researchers to explain why Germans did not talk about the rise of Hitler and the subsequent atrocities associated with him. They echoed the silence, and indeed denial, around them.

I read an article on climate change recently which referenced wild fires that have occurred globally, here in the UK, Australia and in the US, where there has been a shift in engagement. The shift seems to be driven less by politicians’ positions than the recent disastrous heat fueled fires and the increasing concern of experts about changing climate conditions across the globe. I recalled “Strength in Silence,” which I had painted a few years previously and which encapsulates the apocalyptic danger that the current climate scenario signals. Yet, it evokes the strength needed, in isolation, to work towards a better future and not slip into complicit silence.


Yeside Linney, “Strength in Silence,” acrylic and ink on canvas, 84cm x 58.5cm 2018


During lockdown, like many artists, I had the space and time to reflect on my art practice, and, being without the normal social and time scheduled distractions, I produced more art and experimented more than I had before.

Then came the killing of George Floyd. His death combined with a history of systemic racism and police brutality towards people of colour created a global collective response. The impact on me was Covidian. As a black woman married to a Caucasian man, I found myself revisiting my own relationship with myself and my position in the world. I felt very, very numb and suddenly all the creativity I was enjoying, locked down. It has taken four months of what Michelle Obama describes as a form of PTSD and a visit to the inspiring Toyin Ojin Odutola’s “Countervailing Theory” art exhibition at The Barbican in London to reboot. “What Cometh” is my first springboard in moving on.


Yeside Linney, “What cometh?,” mixed media on cradle panelboard, 80cm x 60 cm 2020


Both paintings convey different traumas: they overlay political and psychological layers on to the physical reality.  As individuals, we have to be persistent and continue these uncomfortable  conversations, open that dialogue and ensure we are doing our part to enforce change and keep highlighting those urgent issues … because they’re not going to go away.

Time will tell.

Copyright©2020 Yeside Linney


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  1. stanley sagov on November 3, 2020 at 12:58 pm

    learning how to manage these critical and uncomfortable conversations while creating policies that really help those from the right and the left with legitimate grievances and histories of marginalization is my next task
    Thanks for sharing with us

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