Welcome friends in these unsettling times.
The artist, usually living in a state of uncertainty, is now further perched on a slippery edge. While many people across the world have lost their jobs, artists continue to create where they can, but income streams have ceased. We have now been in lock-down for a number of weeks, and as things “open up”, exhibitions and creative projects are still cancelled or postponed until … further notice. Secondary supporting jobs on short term contracts have ended. Larger cultural buildings have been closed and many artists cannot even access their studios and equipment. But there are still rents to pay at home and in workspaces, and families to support.
Many governments are proving fragile beyond measure. There has been a scramble for support systems to be put into place, but in many situations, as we already knew, the artist does not necessarily fit into the mainstream workforce, and therefore in many cases immediate assistance is missing. We are still awaiting answers as to how many artists can survive through this difficult period. As we have often advocated in the past, solutions will come from the combined voices of the artist community demanding change, seeking parity and collaborating in new ways of thinking.
During the lock-down, we were reminded of how strange time is, how it can repeat and return our experiences. Let us use this knowledge and our time constructively. Maybe the accelerating news cycle of repeated losses requires a series of accelerated positive creative responses.
There has been much talk of the artist and the gallery/museum sector now sharing the same issues – but in reality, this is not so. The support systems dramatically differ. Institutions have responded by starting to change mindsets and reconsider makers, collections and access. We all need to think differently by assessing how we initially reacted and think about how we could adapt. We need to look at and understand the bigger picture.
The artist community is fragile for both individual freelance artists and small artist-led collectives. This is a complex and dependent creative ecosystem, sitting on the edge of sustainability, relying on cross-over activity and support. Many artists have spent years establishing a base and network. It has to be made clear this is not just about the economics of a number of small businesses that may go under, to later be replaced by new small businesses supplying the same services. This is about the possibility of permanently losing certain key cultural activities (and artists) in regions that may never function again in the same way. Art has political capacities of resistance and repair, and we need to harness these qualities and take this opportunity to reorientate our position. We need to find new partners in solidarity. It is not a time for the artist community to just ‘seek a return to the old normal’.
All these attached links indicate there should be better support during and immediately after the pandemic era – the cultural sector in particular will be the last to kick back into normal activity and therefore artists will need that extra ‘post crisis’ support along with other similarly vulnerable sectors.
Artist Daniel Buren wrote in 1968: “Art is the system’s distracting mask. And a system has nothing to fear as long as reality is masked, as long as its contradictions are hidden”.
This moment of panic and freefall has further exposed inequalities and contradictions within the system.
We hope the compendium of reminders to the current crisis is useful and will encourage you to share with us activity that is happening in your creative region. We intend to continue to collect active news to map how opinions maybe grow and change from these initial responses. We feel it is useful and important to gather information and place ideas alongside each other, so as to better understand the bigger picture being drawn.
At this difficult and challenging time, we wish you and your families well – and to say that we more than welcome your thoughts.
Chris & Guðrún