“This is the kind of world event that catalyses major art and design movements,” my mother points out at the lunch table.
We’ve been discussing the possible implications of this whole situation (who hasn’t?), and my father, an architect like my mother, nods: “It’s going to be interesting to see the things people create during and after this period.”
My sister and I are quick to point out: “What about the people who don’t have any food to put on the table? I doubt they’re thinking of design. ”
We don’t disagree with them, nor they with us. The truth is that to be talking about art seems privileged, almost frivolous, at a time like this.
Even so, what they’re saying, though painfully long-term, is true. Art and crises are inextricably linked. From Goya to Tagore to the Dada movement, artists always have and always will seek to document times of strife, and to find moments of beauty in very ugly situations. Today, it’s just a matter of numbers – the world is at home and confused, with an unexpected amount of time on our hands. Out of our confusion, we will make music, films, paintings, novels, tik-toks.
As I sit to put brush to paper, my thoughts spiral into ‘at leasts’. At least my stomach is full. At least we don’t depend on a daily wage to make ends meet. At least I have a secure internet connection. At least we live in a place where isolation is relatively easier. However, these thoughts do nothing to placate my anxiety, because every ‘at least’ implies the existence of others on the opposite end of the spectrum of fortune. The last thing I want – à la the millionaire celebrities singing ‘Imagine’ on Instagram – is to proffer art as the solution to very real problems. The truth remains that art cannot take the place of money or food.
Still, what should one do at this moment?
After donating to fundraisers and helping arrange food for as many people as possible, signing petitions, reposting infographics and fact-checking misinformation; there are still an awful number of hours left in the day to read the news. With every mile I scroll, the number of cases rise and the number of hospital beds available fall. How do we save the world from the confines of our homes?
I complain to a friend over WhatsApp. I’m angry, I’m anxious, I’m frustrated. Oceans away, he replies: “Now say that again, in rhyme.”
Tarini is an artist and student from Goa
Featured image credit: Ruvim Noga/ Unsplash