JOE ALTERIO
PROJECT
Pages 178-187
DESIGN NOTES
In the fall of 2009, my wife and I had just moved to Newark for her to attend law school. The winter was cold, the neighborhood was rough, and the nights were lonely. Suddenly, I got an email in my inbox: the unstoppable Geoff Manaugh and Nicola Twilley were hosting a design salon, culminating in a group show in NYC about quarantine, and would I like to be a part of it? Holy Fuck, yes.

The work consisted of 16 weeks of weekly seminars and talks about disease transmission, the architecture of quarantine hospitals and, and the mythology behind what disease means in ancient fables. I tell you, friend, it was about as perfect an indulgent intellectual exercise as you can get. 👨🏻🎨
When it came time to produce a work from our learnings, I knew right away I wanted to explore the fundamental fallacy of humans trying to protect themselves from an outbreak: to mind the beautiful and terrifying thing about planet Earth is that it is a functional cohesive unit of life, and what affects one part in affect the whole. In this gods-eye view, the human has as much a right to live as the virus, and to pretend a virtue of one over the other is to presume an absent value gauge. My work would be about the fundamental and maybe slightly comic futility of fighting an outbreak.

I first wanted to make an impossible game to beat, a kind of penny arcade kinetic "game" made of simple slight bulbs and electric circuits, and put the view in the place of trying to make decisions that fail. But the idea never gelled enough to convince me that I had the right solution, mostly because it didn't guarantee the pathos of making a wrong choice, that which is endlessly fascinating to me. So I pivoted back to telling a story.
I also had another idea: to make a few pages of manuscript from a forgotten time that presumed to tell the story of a disease that visits a town, and the steps the village elders go to protect it. As with most of my best projects, I didn't think too much more and just started putting pencil to paper. What follows is sketches, concept art, and finals, as well as some shots of the huge opening we had at the Storefront for Art and Architecture.
RESULTS
The opening was truly was one of the best nights of my life, a swirl of friends, colleagues, well-wishers, and fellow artists. I ended up selling all but 2 of the pieces, and we got written up by Art Forum as well as other places like Village Voice and Art in America.

10/10, would do again. Thanks, Geoff and Nicky.
All work copyright Joe Alterio © 2019 unless otherwise noted.