Savannah Feeke-Fortune, Head of Marketing at Business and Arts South Africa (BASA), discusses why it is important for artists and art organisations to embrace the virtual space and find ways to earn from it during this time.
Can you remember the first time you went to a concert and sang along to your favourite song with a bunch of strangers or that time you saw a Donovan Goliath show and laughed out loud in real life? What about the first time you cried during a play? – I held the hand of a complete stranger and cried while watching Koleka Putuma’s No Easter Sunday for Queers at the Market Theatre last year. This is our desire to collectively connect as humans. Proximity is crucial to closeness. Isolation defies intimacy. The arts have always been about forging connections, primarily through physical contact. And for most of us, digital engagement can often serve to exacerbate feelings of distance, and for creatives certainly not the means of coherence.
We’ve all casually debated about the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’, but almost entirely from a removed position. Today, with sufficient funds and medical access, your physical fitness is irrelevant, and you can live your life to the fullest.
That has all changed. And while Darwin’s assertion has endured, so have a number of other clichés, including ‘expect the unexpected’. No one could have expected the current global crisis and the butterfly effects that it will cause. The world was drawn up short, and every aspect of the life we knew and loved came to an abrupt halt. Should we return to it, it is clear that it will not be in the precise version from before? This is a deep disruption.
Artists, and the arts organisations that support them, cannot be complacent. We literally cannot afford to remain content to wait out the current status quo. And we’d be inattentive in our responsibility if we did so. Who better to delve into the unexplored, the untapped, than the artists who live and breathe inspiration, and pilot new paths to the unknown? We need to set the bar on artistic agility, and show that our dexterity is not limited to the boards we tread or the world we once knew.
Artists need to be seen, heard, appreciated and applauded. If the method to do that only exists between two screens, then we adjust our approach and carry on. If there’s no adaptation, I’m concerned that livelihoods will die.
What I’ve observed over the past 100 and odd days is that that dexterity and resilience endures in our creative sector. I’ve watched as artists continued to support one another on online platforms in front of audiences and keeping each other accountable to their crafts. I’ve seen playwrights engage around new stories that have yet to be performed and we have all seen how the National Arts Festival was able to reinvent itself in the space of a few weeks. – this is clear evidence that creativity is evolving in front of our eyes. We just need to continue to have the courage to welcome change like an old friend.