Activities to stop or to reappear and to be born after (or as a result of) the health crisis
April 8, 2020
Bruno Latour proposes to reflect on the current pandemic situation as the possibility to refuse poisoning and damaging activities we had before it as well as emancipating and liberating ones to appear after we learn to live with the consequences of the pandemic. I may for now conclude that we’ll be totally missing our pre-pandemic brains as we used to miss our pre-internet ones.
Nostalgia as a safe space element now defines our daily life practices in quarantine: artists, curators, researchers of all kinds return to their unfinished projects, rethink on their previous background and dive into an inner archeology and inner watching. Diaries will return as a tool of everyday notes and individual archiving and dreams will replace physical travelling in space so people will write down and draw their dreams’ narratives as one of the only unpredictable and not controlled by the state adventures spaces in quarantine times. Past time begins to matter and the concept of the future feels to be reduced. The planning horizon is as narrow as one week maximum. Offline meetings with group activities became extremely precious practices of the past and the concept of collectivity moved from the concept itself to the real people groups quarantine put us in – whether it’s our family we locked in with or our neighbors we rent the space with. At the same time family as a social institution will be reconsidered and people will practice single status much more often after all.
All human life spheres will be emphasized with the nationality aspect. The concept of a national state already comes back as geographical borders are now more obvious than ever in past decades. The tools of pandemia fight varies from one country to another. Bio, body management and health maintenance is especially politicized now and have all means of control described once by Foucault. Perhaps control over death will return and replace neoliberal control over life as the medical system isn’t able to sustain so many people suffering from diseases. People will be allowed to die as it was in the Middle Ages. One gets medical help depending on the health system status their country has reached due to inner political decisions of the past. The perverse imbalance of medical help reveals total social injustice in all countries. Vulnerable people became even more vulnerable, precarious cultural workers – even more precarious than earlier. Incest, home violence, suicides will grow. There will become more homeless people as a consequence of the economic crisis and physical distance. Capital, be it financial or symbolic, is the key currency nowadays. Institutionally protected artists and curators will for some time rest in their safe spaces whereas total freelancers and the rest of emerging art makers will show more agility and maybe even invent new means of art production. More and more artists will practice work offline and make crafts and art with palpable materials which will remain after the crisis. Barter as an alternative to money exchange for the service will reappear as a practice of surviving and mutually beneficial cooperation.
Home agricultural rituals will reappear and people will live with the vegetables and fruits they planted in their houses which will cause the appearance of the new organic forms of life in a human habitat (worms, insects, etc). Searching for vitamin D people will start moving to the south, and so will the building industry. People will reduce consuming food from the supermarkets, clothes (they may use each other’s protecting costumes when going outside now) and the entertaining experience will remain individual as in quarantine times. Invisible labour done by women in families such as housekeeping and childcare will be equated to the paid work and become more regulated and protected.
Office work and going to school will cause a lot of debates after the pandemic and will split society into those who put real interactions at the forefront and others who don’t trust people after all biological battles.
Vernissages, public art discussions and symposiums will be held less often than before being replaced by individual tours and consultations for those who can afford it. Art infrastructure will be represented by two polar agents: very strong state art institutions with national old art collections and low horizontal self-organised initiatives. No ‘middle class’ private cultural institutions will survive the crisis. Artwork logistics will become chaotic, works will be bought directly from artists studios, there will become more private collections as collectors will support living artists on a barter basis, making collections of the future look subjective. More and more international council boards will appear to decide on the future of art producing today. Big art institutions will combine their collections for mutual survival and reduce exhibition spaces which no one may maintain anymore. National cultural memory of third world countries will since upcoming times be owned by big players among capitalist countries, bringing us to the new era of informational colonisation.
Some practices which will most likely be back but not wished:
• Elite individual original artworks experience (will make capitalistic gaps even bigger)
• Rewriting history and informational colonisation (oblivion and propaganda will lead to irrevocable consequences)
• Alt-right and nationalistic tendencies will grow
• Control over death replacing control over life (ethical crisis)
Some practices which will most likely be back and are wished to:
• Barter and exchange economy (will strengthen horizontal connections)
• Self-sufficiency with nature materials, sewing clothes, planting food, crafts (will reduce consumerism)
• Diary notes, archiving, inner archeology, mail art (will reduce visual overproduction)
Vladivostok as a relatively young Russian city (est. in 1860) has always been aside from major empire or state disasters and used to be “a state in the state”. As a voluntary and adventurous place it was discovered by those who were ready to start their life from scratch and had nothing to lose or were forced to settle these lands from the west. This entrepreneurial vein comes to the fore every time the region is in crisis. So nowadays, pandemic unfortunately doesn’t deter people from going to work because otherwise they won’t survive the economic crisis. Extremely remote position from the place of state decision making will leave my region to survive on its own as it has already been doing during the 1990s. Poaching seafood and wild animals will intensify, that’s the way people will become closer to nature here. Vladivostok used to be a closed city until the 1990s, therefore solely as a speculation we may assume that the pandemic of 2020 will just make this isolated city as remote and independent as it already used to be thirty years ago and before it as well (exactly one hundred years ago when the Far Eastern Republic was proclaimed here for a couple of years).
Yana Gaponenko (born 1988) – curator, lives and works in Vladivostok, Russia.