New Normal for The Arts amid the Pandemic
Translator: Cedric Leung
Illustrator: Hung Po Design Lab
The day the earth stood still is not because of aliens, but an invader of another persuasion—COVID19.
In the first half of 2020, cities and countries started to barricade themselves while social distancing became the new normal. All group activities have come to a pause with the once-bustling arts venues now closed. Hong Kong is not immune from these measures, prompting the cancellations of arts programmes. The performing arts sector may become harsher than a Siberian winter, but art is known for its will to survive and thrive. In fact, as we try to stay sane while confined at home, arts and culture becomes an indispensible channel to stay connected with the world. Opportunities do arise from crisis, and the new normal for life during the epidemic may not be as insufferable as imagined.
Having live performances online is nothing new, and helps some theatres expand their reach. In fact, this may be the sole viable platform for theatres as they remain closed. The assortment of replay, limited and live broadcasts for programmes previously too expensive or difficult to attend suddenly became available. The format appeals to viewers who rarely went to ticketed performances. However, the comfort of one’s own home could be a detriment. We pause or stop programmes at will, gloss over them while multitasking with work/chores/internet surfing. In the long run, will this approach work for artistic creations that demand full concentration and invite reflections from the audience?
Will People Accustomed to free performances pay for tickets in the future?
In the days of social distancing, the notion of a full-house audience may become philosophical. As some venues are closed, or have seats either blocked or removed, artists and arts groups may need to consider changing venues, moving the performance outdoor, or even abandon the traditional venues.
Will there be more survival space for small performance?
Performing arts is all about what’s happening right there. A live performance is organic in its relevance to the present. With no retakes, every gasp and giggle from the audience become part of a performance, making each performance unique…and special. This makes live performances irreplaceable in the age of live or recorded broadcasts. Therefore, the real question for creative is how technology could be used to connect with the audience.
Technology changes how we appreciate arts and how artists present their works?
As long as travel bans or isolation measures are in place, travelling is out of bounds for the average audience.
The same holds true for artists and their teams with plans for touring performances or exhibitions. Before the audience can enjoy overseas works, it may be high time for local artists to be introduced if not reconnected to the local audience promotion of local artistic works?
Focus on local original works instead of overseas performances?
A simple ticket still matters the world to any programme, whether during or after the epidemic. Even with a paid online programme, the performance becomes inconsequential without an audience.
No ticket income means the end for the cast and crew. Performing arts must rely on teamwork of those in front and behind the scenes. Rest assured that they cherish the opportunity of each performance. Hopefully, the audience will feel the same for the performances, too, whether online or on stage.
Focus on local original works instead of overseas performances? When we all meet again, you may find that would still breathe the same sir even under our own masks. Arts will always find a way and show us new possibilities.