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Playing in the pandemic: ‘Loopwave: Tomorrow 2.0’ is collab between U.S., Chinese artists

"Loopwave: Tomorrow 2.0" is on view at the Jepson Center at 207 W. York St. For more information on admissions and safety procedures, visit Follow Finger on Instagram at @plg.rm.

LAST MONTH, Telfair Museums reopened their three sites to visitors after an extensive shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a touch of irony, when you enter the Jepson Center, you’ll be met by coronavirus.

At least, that’s the premise behind “Loopwave: Tomorrow 2.0,” the installation currently on view at the TechSpace Gallery on the second floor.

The project is the second edition of a collaboration between artists Greg Finger and Zhou Fan, who met in an artist collective in China years ago.

Zhou, a talented painter, wanted to bring his paintings to the next level, and Finger was able to help him.

“He had a bunch of ideas that were animated, essentially, so I helped him with that process,” says Finger.

They exhibited “Loopwave: Tomorrow” in China in 2018, and the pandemic prompted an update.

“The coronavirus was the major update to it,” shares Finger. “It follows the person, and the longer you stay in one position, it erodes the tubes behind it. Each of the tubes has their own textures and shapes on it. Each one can, in a sense, represent a culture, a community, a civilization, the world. The longer you stand in front of one of them, there’s going to be viruses circulating around your silhouette. It’ll erode and make that tube disappear in the background.”

Loopwave: Tomorrow 2.0 [Live] from PLGRM on Vimeo.

“Loopwave: Tomorrow 2.0” puts the viewer in a position that shows the spread of coronavirus, as well as a tangible effect of what happens when that spread occurs. It’s a very artistic metaphor for our current state of affairs.

To continue the metaphor, much like the pandemic, “Loopwave: Tomorrow 2.0” will be around for an indeterminate amount of time.

“It’s kind of an indefinite thing,” says Finger.

It’s exciting for an artist’s work to stay on display until further notice, but Finger finds it rewarding to witness people interacting with his work. So far, that hasn’t really happened, as visitors to the museum have been more of a trickle than a stream.

“I love on opening day, or within the first week, being around my piece and seeing how people interact with it, because it’s so hard to account for that when you’re just developing it in your home,” says Finger. “Seeing how they approach it, perhaps they don’t really get it and they try to figure it out. It’s always a process of increasing the intuitive side of it.”

Children, he says, are usually more willing to stand in front of the work and play with it. Adults seem more bashful in their approach to the work.

How does he feel about not having that feedback now? “I hate it,” he confides.

A musician for years, Finger broke away from sound recording to get more of the human element.

“If you’re doing sound recording, you’re sitting in a studio for hours on end,” he explains. “It’s nice working with bands because there’s a human element to it. You can actually talk to them, whereas working solo in front of a computer can be kind of a drag.”

Finger originally ended up in China to work in a studio, but after a few years, he realized that it wasn’t worth for him to continue on that path. Thus, he ended up in Savannah in 2020.

That’s right: Finger has been here for about half a year, and he already has his first museum showing.

“That is crazy to me,” he says. “I had plans in my head, and they kind of came to fruition, even though the pandemic was the reason I got this.”

Harry DeLorme, Telfair’s senior curator of education, approached Finger about showing the work in the TechSpace Gallery.

“We’re proud to present one of the first touchless interactive art installations that addresses the current pandemic,” DeLorme said in a statement. “The fact that this is an international collaboration between an artist in Savannah and an artist in China I think makes it even more relevant. Visually beautiful and poetic, the work reminds us of the ongoing threat that may be either magnified or reduced by our individual actions.”

Now, with a museum exhibition under his belt, Finger is ready to take on the art scene here. The Massachusetts native wanted to trade in New England winters for Lowcountry life. His artist name, PLGRM, is a play on Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts, and he’s ready to start it up again here.

“If people want to collaborate, hit me up,” he urges. “I’m new in town; this is home now for me. I really work well with collaboration. Zhou Fan is a content creator, and I was able to take that content and help him bring it to another medium, like a digital projection or whatever it is. I’m able to really collaborate with artists and help them elevate it to another tier or something.”

For proof of how well Finger works with others, just head to the Jepson Center and experience “Loopwave: Tomorrow 2.0.”

“When people approach it, it is a serious topic—if you take a step back, it is coronavirus. Can this be gamified?” he asks. “It’s kind of morbid as well, but I figure if people approach it, it’s going to be a playful experience. The longer they interact with it, maybe they can get a deeper meaning out of it.”