“If it wasn’t for the pandemic, would I have visited you? Could I have gone to your funeral?” “You haunt my dreams. Every time I wake up, there are five seconds where I think it's real, and then I remember it's not. I miss you.” These are two of the grief-filled messages that Bay Area artist Oliver Blank has received during his live call-in show on Twitch, The One Who Got Away.
Amid the pandemic, we’re all experiencing collective sorrow. Millions of people have lost loved ones to the novel coronavirus, and millions of Americans remain unemployed. And even though the holidays are upon us, COVID cases continue to surge, which makes celebrating with friends and family members in-person ill advised.
Blank hopes his show helps people weather this bleak time. “As the lockdown came into effect, people confronted the loss of their futures. The show is a place where we can reflect and feel our grief together,” says the artist.
The live show is Blank’s latest version of the project he started in 2014 for the PBS show The Art Assignment. Blank set up a phone number and voicemail for people to call and leave an anonymous message with their answer to this question: “What would you say to the one who got away?”
Since the phone line opened, thousands of callers have left messages for “their one who got away.” In 2018, Blank adapted the project into a podcast, and not long after the pandemic began, he started the live show.