COVID-19 has slowed down the entire art world. However, many cultural stakeholders crawl their way up by going digital. Wondering what it means? Are our Indian artists ready for it? Or is it a change long overdue? What would be the future?
Rules of the art industry change every day. However, during this COVID pandemic, the industry faces an unprecedented crisis. The new normal is cancellation, postponement, temporary closure or even complete shutdown of arts events and arts spaces.
Australia in the same dilemma is facing a huge problem, where galleries and museums have been temporarily closed. The National Gallery of Victoria is temporarily closed until 30 June. The Melbourne Theatre Company has cancelled all events until September 2020. Following these footsteps, all small arts companies are also putting measures in place to curtail COVID-19 impact.
On a different note we see a change in the wind, where many companies and artists are going online. Starting with the enormous number of raw videos of artists performing in their balconies, to many fancy recordings, ‘art is speaking’. Many artists have uploaded their past recordings as watch parties on social media and many are creating new stuff around the COVID-19 issue, engaging with audiences online and letting art flow non-stop.
While it has given hope to a few in this unprecedented time, the recent overflooding of social media with arts and artists’ home videos has made audiences exhausted as well. Too much flaunting of arts is also creating noise. The ‘arts for a purpose’ moto has changed to ‘arts to flaunt’, where the therapeutic foci of arts is diminishing.
In a classroom, Indian classical dancers are also letting lose their strict regime of Guru- Shishya Parampara to be connected to their students in this unchartered time. Drifting apart from the classic model of Gurukul and accepting the new normal model of ‘Digital Gurukul’, we see a change.
Gurus who never liked the idea of a digital classroom for dance and music are also exploring the strength in this digital connectivity. Artists have gone online to keep their art and sanity alive. But is it a temporary drift or a permanent path changer?
For students, it is beneficial that they can continue learning in their comfort of time and space. Selecting a Guru by the limitation of the travel-time, by keeping the search limited to the nearest suburb can also be surpassed. Now the entrée for arts comes with wider choices. We wonder, if it means that classical arts are open to everyone now.
However, this new way comes with its challenges. Maintaining a proper class environment on digital platforms is always difficult. Teaching little kids or even teaching adults a new choreography can be hard considering that the exchange of bodily information is always easier face to face.
Nonetheless, in the current global social distancing environment, the art world seems to favour such digital iterations.
Arts participation while sipping the Dalgona coffee, or posting impromptu videos engaging with art lovers, means overall arts participation whether active or passive has increased enormously, creating fear to the usual funding issue in arts?
There is a risk in the reduction of the budget for creating physical arts spaces. Not to forget, one of the primary focus of art is community building, so can it be done only through online platforms? Are artists trying to prove their survival skills in this uncharted water, by challenging their future? Or is it a step closer to the arts purpose? This is what we need to unmask.
Therefore, conscious steps would help moving forward. Success of online learning platforms has always had two sides. Where this love in the time of Corona for arts and artists will take us remains a concern for many cultural stakeholders.
The overall experience incites mixed responses. We acknowledge however, the current situation is causing significant disruption to every facet of our lives, placing unexpected demands on our artistic pursuits. Therefore, we sway in the wind.