Atlas of Affects

An archival project and exhibition about everyday life during the pandemic


Fields of Knowledge
  • Curatorial practice
  • Memory
  • Philosophy / Theory
  • Public culture

Organizing Institutions



Aaron Levy, Jean-Michel Rabaté, Ella Comberg

Opens to public



4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Slought invites your participation in "Atlas of Affects," an exhibition in the Slought galleries of material traces, media artifacts, artistic projects, written texts, and other representations of the pandemic, opening in late September 2020. Anyone is welcome to contribute to the archive, so long as their submission concerns an affect of this moment. By "affect," we mean a personal experience—such as fear, anger, disgust, shame, desire, joy, or love—that is reflective of societal trends and political realities. Join us in archiving your affective experience of the pandemic by sending us submissions to info@sloughtfoundation.org along with a short contextual description.

Perhaps the most universal response to the experience of confinement, mass death, and state violence is the desire to document it, represent it, and, in so doing, remember the offense. In part, the news media does this for us; we are not in danger of forgetting the global scale and elongation of these crises, at least not yet. But what journalism has largely failed to cover is the space, time, visuality, and feeling of the crisis itself. Events are, of course, unfolding all around us, their occurrence traced in our diaries and correspondences; in the recollection of friends and family members lost to the virus; in the anguish of everyday decisions about risks of exposure; in the financial ruination and desolate downtowns left in its wake. Still, we wonder: who is recording the emotions and affective experiences of this moment in time? The stories of pain, isolation, struggle and solidarity?

By invoking the geography and spatiality of the atlas—rather than the indexical logic of the library or card catalogue—we gesture to the ways in which the pandemic has unleashed global processes of loss and dispossession that are at once non-linear and unending. We also envision this "Atlas of Affects" as a way to resist the delusions that Patricia Lockwood describes as the continuing effects of the virus itself. "Everyone had suffered a falling-out with time," she writes, reflecting on how the virus has profoundly interrupted individual and collective processes of remembering and making meaning. Although this archive will, like all archives, be necessarily incomplete, we hope it will nevertheless provide a sense of clarity and aid in mapping both the banal and the traumatic dimensions of everyday life.

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Lauren Berlant, following Raymond Williams, has suggested that "affective responses may be said significantly to exemplify shared historical time." Although we often perceive our emotional responses to historical events to be at once personal and private, Berlant argues instead that these affects in fact reflect a collective political experience.

The word "pandemic," synonymous today with COVID-19, in fact comes to us from the Greek word pandemos, which translates as "pertaining to all people." Combining the word pan, or "all," with the word dēmos, or "people," the word pandemic thus signifies something that is common, public, and shared. It shares the same root as the word democracy, yet in many ways this most recent pandemic can be read as a crisis of democracy itself.

While the Bubonic plague took forty years to go round the globe, and the Influenza outbreak of 1918 took two years, the COVID-19 virus has upended systems of representative democracy in less than four months. For better or worse, the speed of the virus has become the mark of the modern, much like prior disruptions like world wars, faster transportation, and the internet—potentially giving birth to new forms of social interaction and international politics so novel that nothing will be quite the same after...

Is there a deadline?

We envision this archive as ongoing and open to submissions (multiple from one person, even) over the course of the pandemic. For this reason we did not list a deadline in the original call for submissions. We recognize however that for those creating original works, it can be helpful to have a deadline. For this reason, we ask that the first round of submissions to "Atlas of Affects" be sent by September 20, 2020.

Will all submissions be exhibited?

The pandemic has affected everyone, albeit each in different ways. Our goal is to be as democratic as possible, by archiving every submission we receive. After we have received the first round of submissions by the September 20th deadline, we will begin printing submissions and installing them on the walls of our gallery. Our galleries will be open to the public by reservation with limited capacity during the time the exhibit is on display.

What forms of media can I submit?

We kindly request that all submissions be in digital format (i.e. text, image, film, etc.) We unfortunately do not have the resources to store or return physical artifacts, and want to ensure that everyone is accorded space. If there is a physical object (such as a painting or material artifact) that you are eager to submit, please consider sharing a documentation or a digital version. All submissions should be sent to info@sloughtfoundation.org

How will I be credited?

All submissions will be exhibited accompanied by a label listing your name and description. Please specify if you would like to be anonymous.

"As we see cities shuttered and roads empty, I remain focused on the absence of something else — a representative, visual archive of the staggering human toll of the crisis from which might emerge, in time, our emblematic pictures. For society to respond in ways commensurate with the importance of this pandemic, we have to see it. For us to be transformed by it, it has to penetrate our hearts as well as our minds."

— Sarah Lewis, "Where Are the Photos of People Dying of Covid," The New York Times, 2020


"Some of the delusions I had developed during the most severe phase of illness persisted: that my vision was a picture that had been pasted in front of my eyes, that my floorboards, creaking with the expansive spring humidity, were going to fall through. Hours, days had fallen out of my memory like chunks of plaster. Some of this was the effect of lockdown, I knew; [...] everyone had suffered a falling-out with time. But much of it seemed to be the continuing effects, or after-effects, of the virus itself."

— Patricia Lockwood, "Diary: Insane after coronavirus?" The London Review of Books, 2020