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COVIV 20: An art project to highlight Australia’s temporary migrants during the pandemic

Artist Daniel Connell (right) who is working on the exhibition COVIV 20. Seen here with Gurinderjit Singh and his portraits made by Mr Connell Source: Monica Sharma

‘Art talks without words and can cross many boundaries, including boundaries of language’, says Adelaide-based artist Daniel Connell, who has launched a new art project titled COVIV 20 with an aim to make all Australians more sensitive towards struggles and circumstances of migrants during the current coronavirus pandemic.

“Art is a way of making people stop and pause and reflect and think about who we are living with”,  artist Daniel Connell tells SBS Punjabi.

Having worked extensively with the Indian - especially the Sikh - community on projects like Stand Up and Stand Out and Transportraits, Mr Connell has recently embarked on a new art project titled COVIV 20.

“COVIV is obviously a play on the word COVID, and adapts the Latin words ‘co' and 'viv’, which means ‘living with’. I’ve always been concerned that people in Australia don’t understand the circumstances of the people we live with. We may be living next door to somebody, sitting on a bus next to someone or going to work with someone, without knowing the circumstances they’re living with.” 


  • Artist Daniel Connell is working on an audio-visual art exhibition to highlight problems being faced by temporary migrants during the COVID pandemic
  • 14 participants are receiving $200 to be part of the current project titled COVIV 20
  • 'People in Australia on temporary visas don’t have the same access and support that permanent residents and citizens get', says Mr Connell    

He wants to use art as a medium to tell the stories of people who are an integral part of Australian society and yet cannot access any financial support from the government during the coronavirus pandemic. 

“So I want to talk about the diversity of the people living here – not just their culture, but their life and circumstances. People in Australia on temporary visas don’t have the same access and support that permanent residents and citizens get.” 

A recent portrait by Daniel Connell
A recent portrait by Daniel Connell

With support from the government of South Australia, Mr Connell has reached out to temporary visa holders and international students to share their stories about how they are negotiating the COVID 19 pandemic, as part of this audio-visual exhibition. 

This will help build a more united community for people to understand each other a bit more.

Pointing to portraits he’s made of his friend Gurinderjit Singh, fondly called Lally, Mr Connell says, “Unlike a photograph, a portrait takes many many many hours to make. So when a person looks at the portrait knowing that it’s taken all that time, they know that this person is important to me (the artist), is important to the world and wonder what their story is.” 

COVIV 20 will result in 14 paintings depicting stories of individuals who are not yet permanent residents. The prospective participants were asked to send three to four selfies to the artist, and the selected participants will share their stories in an audio file of up to four minutes. 

Portrait by artist Daniel Connell
Portrait by artist Daniel Connell

The 14 audio clips will be exhibited online along with the portraits as separate shareable files.

The selected participants will also be paid a modeling fee of $35 per hour for three hours and another $100 as 'exhibitors fees'. 

The paintings and audio tracks will be showcased in an exhibition named COVIV 20 after the current lockdown restrictions are lifted.

Gurinderjit Singh (Lally) who has been closely associated with Daniel Connell in previous projects, helped the artist meet students and temporary visa holders. 

“Actually since March 1, I’ve been involved with relief work provided by Khalsa Aid to international students and migrants affected by the pandemic, especially those who don’t have jobs. Daniel said this project would assist those students or migrants who weren’t getting any aid from the university or government. So I helped in making a list of such youngsters, who filled a form and sent it to Daniel and he has now shortlisted 14 people for this project. They will receive $200 from the government as well."

A subject and his picture made by Daniel Connell
A subject and his picture made by Daniel Connell

He adds, “With such projects, the true stories come out and the students also feel that there is someone who is concerned for them in the foreign land. This builds their confidence and they feel wanted.” 

Mr Singh says the artist has been active in highlighting the stories of the Indian community for many years now.

“I really appreciate the fact that although he is a part of the wider Australian community, yet he thinks about people of multicultural backgrounds. This is a very big thing and he’s doing some fantastic work. I have worked with him on four projects and it’s been a really good experience.” 

Portraits of migrants made by Daniel Connell
Portraits of migrants made by Daniel Connell

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