It’s no secret that the art industries have struggled in the past year. This goes for live performances such as music concerts, plays, and comedy shows, to paintings that hang on the walls of art galleries. Since Spring 2020, the pandemic has shut off some of the most loved places for art enthusiasts, hobbyists, and collectors. The artists themselves have lost out on opportunities to showcase their training, their talents, and ultimately the chance to progress their careers. For the audience, we’ve had to omit any in-person experiences from our calendars (no doubt now filled with crossed-out events with hopeful notes of repeated postponements).
Having a globally accepted excuse for being able to stay in pajamas all day without having to go anywhere does have an element of convenience to it. For one, it saves time and money—there’s no need to commute that hour or so to go to a meeting or see a performance that you can now stream online. It feels a bit cheeky—like getting an extra sick day from school when you’re not really feeling sick. But there’s also guilt attached to it. This guilt comes from knowing that if I continue doing this for a prolonged period of time when I look back in the future, my memories will be of experiences limited to what a small screen can offer. I will remember living life through a small rectangular box. And it’s when I think about it that way, that the guilt washes over me.
Now that more and more people are getting vaccinated (and I hope those who haven’t will have the opportunity to do so soon!), it looks like we may be able to return to at least some of the experiences we’ve been missing out on. School’s back in session, and even high schoolers are excited to wake up early to go to class. For us, the art enthusiasts, it means that we’ll finally be writing events into our calendars without having to cross them out.
With the pretext that everyone is able to do so safely, some of the things I’m looking forward to the most include seeing live shows. Witnessing actors, musicians, and comedians perform their craft live is an irreplaceable experience. I like to think of it as something akin to a long-distance relationship never feeling the same as when you’re together in person. The effect of intricate set designs and costumes, the chemistry between actors performing with each other are all some of the vital elements that cannot be replicated on a computer screen. Zoom performances have their charms as well, but to me, it’s “apples to oranges.”
Of course, there are also the films that I’ve been wanting to see in a theater for ages too. I have yet to experience new movies on the big screen, such as Wonder Woman 1984, Promising Young Woman, Nomadland, and many more. Watching something at home on my couch versus sitting in a theater auditorium will always be different for me. The darkness of the auditorium with its surround sound and big screen feels like a machine that transports its viewers to a different world. Once again I become the young child fascinated with everything she sees in front of her. Viewing films at home is comforting, but there are too many distractions. The distance between me and home screen is vast enough that some stories feel irrelevant. I am still me, and the screen is simply showing me someone else’s story.
Going to art galleries definitely makes my list of things to do post lockdown. There is an adventurous sensation that comes with walking down a street, taking a wrong turn, and accidentally falling into a mysterious gallery you’d never seen before, much like Alice in Wonderland. Lured by subconscious curiosity, we find ourselves setting foot into the worlds of painters, sculptors, textile and digital artists. I like to inspect paintings up close and from a distance. I experience the art on my own, but also in relation to the people around me. I enjoy observing which paintings are placed where and analyzing how this affects its popularity amongst the gallery’s visitors. The echoes made by our footsteps that reflect in the high ceilings of big galleries, and the intimacy of smaller ones—these are all things that can only be felt when visiting in person.
Virtual performances and exhibitions have grown throughout 2020 and developed into a new way to consume art that is not only around your corner but also in different states and even countries. But if there’s one big takeaway I’ve had in the past year regarding the consumption of art, it’s that live experiences cannot be replaced and are here to stay. I have come to realize that as humans, we don’t only crave connections with other humans, we also want to connect with the stories we find in various art forms. Once we’re all out of lockdown and it’s safe for everyone to be out and about, I expect to find most people bouncing from one show to another!
© Katusha Jin (5/13/21) – Feature for FF2 Media® LLC
Feature photo: Guests arrive for a NY PopsUp event at the Broadway Theatre on April 10, 2021, in New York City.
Bottom Photo: Frances McDormand, Chloé Zhao, and Stephen Gilula at an event for Nomadland (2020)
Photo credits: ABCNews; Sara Krulwich – The New York Times; Amy Sussman/Getty Images – © 2020 Getty Images – Image courtesy gettyimages.com