The bird song that wakes me up every day, is new normal. The breeze softly rolling through the maturing decorative palms and tall ferns are acoustic complements to the fine singer perched on my balcony rails. The picture is perfect to capture on a canvas. Alas, I am not a painter, or singer or an actor. Or, should I thank God for such mercy!
The packaged music playing in my ears is the cumulative hard work of hundreds of artists. Artists whose biggest sustenance is encore, the rave adulation of hundreds of connoisseurs, the live energy of thousands of hands clapping, waving, motivating! The arenas are quiet now. The encore has diluted to digital thumbs ups and claps. And, perhaps the physical distance between the artist and the audience, the new normal.
Artists now perform live on our personal devices streaming through a host of social platforms. These are brave attempts to bridge the physical divide with digital means. But we all understand it is the distant cousin standing in for the real experience. Staring at a screen, with our favorite performs murmuring in our ears, “personalized” though this is, it is no match to a live and throbbing concert or theatre performance.
The lit fests have gone virtual. The authors now speak “live”. But the fun of queuing up for an autograph and sharing the experience of an invigorating discussion with hundred others under makeshift tents, is, simply put, lost. How can a digital portfolio of art match the aesthetics of an art gallery! How do I touch, feel and experience art in digital form?
No, the new normal is not convincing. Art and artist are flesh and blood experience. And, with the world calling curtains on all performing arts, 160 countries worldwide shutting down concert halls and galleries, the silence is palpable. This silence is also reverberated with the sighs of artists and performers losing their muse and sustenance. They are struggling to make the ends meet. The so-called live performances on social platforms are mostly unpaid or very meagerly compensated. The short- and long-term impact of these sullen times are immense.
Our cultural and heritage sites, museums, performance arena and artists need support. UNESCO has set in motion a global movement named ResiliArt. Discussions and deliberations are on to protect and encourage art and art forms. But it takes much more than an institutional debate to keep arts alive. Big decisions, tall plans, systemic reforms – these will unfold in due time (or not). But as individuals, don’t we owe something to those who have brightened our days, all this time?
We the consumers of art, fans of artists now move beyond freebies and discounted tickets. Time to elevate ourselves from being the fans to be the support system sustaining the artist community. That, in my opinion, will be the next normal. Are we ready for it?