Firefly Burnout

The inspiration for this sketch comes from a number of sources. Artist Amelia Winger-Bearskin created a banner for the #2020 Awakening Project in the US that states “What is made bright by the loss of your light?” This statement, made in solidarity with mothers and femme caretakers, encapsulates the ongoing grind of this pandemic, the disruption of care networks, and isolation of the family during this period so well. I have spent much of the past year persistently trying to balance familial responsibilities with my job, research, and creative work, though now in August 2021, I find myself in an persistent state of lethargy, digging deep within my being to draw up the energy to keep going. Angst gives away to exhaustion.

The image of the fireflies is taken from the book Survival of the Fireflies by Georges Didi-Huberman. He appropriates this metaphor from filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini, who describes the how luminosity of creativity is being lost to the night. However, Didi-Huberman shifts the metaphor:

It’s not actually into the night that the fireflies have disappeared. When the night is darkest, we’re capable of seizing on the faintest glimmer, and even the expiration of light remains visible to us in its trace, however tenuous. No, the fireflies disappeared in the blinding glare of the “fierce” spotlights: spotlights from watchtowers, on political talk shows, in sports stadiums, on television screens (12).

These metaphors are merged in this sketch. While I am not fully satisfied with the aesthetic quality of this sketch — the timing and shifts are not quite right — it conceptually captures this particular type of pandemic fatigue.