Airborne Transmission

Prayer Flags for the Pandemic

By: - Sep 30, 2020

Rear of Mass Moca, all photos by: A. Hiemer

This article has been first published in advance of Suzette Martin's project: Airborne Transmission, Prayer Flags for a Pandemic, which are now fastened along a fence of the River Street Park, in North Adams, MA, behind MASS MoCA. The fence protects the Hoosic River and Martin attached 200 individual prayer flags at a 6' distance, using sections of the fence to again proclaim that masks and keeping socially conscious distances are vitally important to defeat this highly infectious virus. 10 photographs have become part of this article and can be viewed by all readers, intended particularly for those who cannot visit this very impressive conceptual art project.

As described in a BFA article: Eclipse Mill Artists, North Adams, MA of August 11, 2020 a proto-project, titled Airborne Transmission, Prayer Flags for the Pandemic, by S. Martin was installed on the grounds of the Eclipse Mill. Martin attached 19 'prayer flags' along the Hoosic River fence. They were connected to each other, 6' apart, which is known as 'socially distant' or 'socially conscious.' The essay addressed museums, galleries, other cultural venues, and artists' reactions to the Covid-19 pandemic in general and featured eight members of the Eclipse Mill in particular. After months in isolation these artists resurfaced with three projects, Impromptu, and Airborne Transmission, among them.

Martin's Airborne Transmission, now grown in size and import, will feature 200 flags, 'socially isolated,' and will remain until end of March 2021. The 'flags,' blue masks on white cotton background, will deteriorate over time. They will be installed October 1st, at the River Street Park in North Adams, MA, behind MASS MoCA. Martin described at great length and with passion her motivation and reasons in the August publication how 'Prayer Flags for the Pandemic' was conceived.

Other members of the mill community were also given voice to express their own reasons, while participating in a virtual exhibition that can still be seen at the Eclipse Mill website.  Then, the initial show in the Eclipse Mill gallery by Catherine Dunning in June, started Mill artists' renewed work in exhibitions. Members of the community are currently also featured in national exhibitions. Please read the entire August 11 article here, which also features selected photographs of their work.

Following now is the September 28 Press Release by Suzette Martin:


Contact: -- -- Airborne Transmission, Prayer Flags for the Pandemic

200,000 American deaths from COVID-19. 200 memorial flags. COVID-19 is primarily transmitted through invisible airborne droplets containing the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Additional “airborne transmissions” move throughout our current atmosphere: Data and research. Conspiracies and opinions. Thoughts and prayers. Airborne Transmission, Prayer Flags for the Pandemic” by North Adams artist Suzette Marie Martin is a public artwork relevant to our distressing times.

Martin’s ephemeral installation consists of two hundred surgical style face masks sewn to white cotton flags that are visually activated by passing airflow. Each flag is “socially isolated” in individual panels of the fence along the Hoosic River at River Street Park in North Adams.The white flags, international symbol of ceasefire, recall the flu pandemic of 1918, when female volunteers hand-sewed stacks of white cotton masks for medical use and personal protection. The commercially available surgical style masks, sourced at a local grocery store, are manufactured in the People’s Republic of China, where the SARS-CoV-2 virus first appeared.

These two items, synthetic masks superimposed on cotton, reflect our interconnected global economy and the evolution of personal protective equipment since the last massive global pandemic.The river and the surrounding historic mill buildings at the installation site stand as symbols of endurance and transformation in the century that has passed between the 1918 pandemic and our present moment. Ms. Martin states “My intention is that this artwork acts as a visual prompt to keep community safety in mind, and compassion in heart, as we endure the long-term effects of this pandemic.”

Airborne Transmission will be on view along the fence at River Street Park (behind MASS MoCA) in North Adams, MA from October 1- March 31, 2021.