Netflix, online theatre and Tik Tok...we really do turn to art in a crisis
‘Staying indoors and washing our hands will help us survive. Protecting the arts will help us live.’ - Benjamin Law (The Guardian, 2020)
People who aren’t key workers or can’t work from home have found themselves with an unusually excessive amount of free time on their hands. For some, working a 40 hour week means that weekends are usually laid out with plans of ready made fun; but with no work, no pubs, no clubs, no luxury shops, no regular life as the fast paced 21st century human knows, what’s left?
Everyone might be on the verge of an identity crisis, but what a time to have one! When outside influences are all stripped back, people seem to be questioning what to do with themselves. This doesn’t necessarily mean everyone should be having epiphanies that they will quit their day job and become a circus trapeze artist, or learn the accordion and join a folk band, but I think it’s important to take a step back and take a look at these structures we build around us and question: what is remaining once it’s all taken away?
Naturally, as humans, we seek stories. Right back to when our ancestors sat around fire and threw rocks at each other, we yearn to connect through the art of reflecting on our own experiences through engaging with others, and to simply escape reality. Escapism is something we all need right now, the majority of us will binge a new Netflix series, or perhaps return to an old favourite to seek comfort; we will listen to podcasts, music, and we may get around to reading that book we just never quite had the time for in the working week. Regardless of what you turn to, it usually has its roots embedded in art of some form, some traditional and some more on the modern side, more specifically, social media challenges.
‘Challenges’ on social media have been around for years, this is where someone somewhere creates a ‘thing’ and tags three or more friends, the friends do the ‘thing’ and then they tag friends and before you know it, your timeline is filled with people pouring ice over their heads or eating tablespoons of cinnamon. Since official ‘lockdown’ these challenges are more popular than ever, with half the Instagram population downing pints and half running 5Ks (I got tagged in that yesterday by my ‘friend’ Emily) - even some (strong) people are putting on a shirt whilst doing a handstand against a wall. As daft as these may be, they are putting the creator in a position where they are creating content to entertain followers with each post having a personal interpretation each time. The majority of the social media generation are creators in some way, and most don’t even realise what they are doing is fundamentally a form of art - especially those on the new band wagon Tik Tok.
Tik Tok is a video sharing app where people post short clips of sketches, dances or witty takes on popular cultural references, it was one of the most downloaded apps since the outbreak of Coronavirus at the start of 2020. The most popular trend seems to be learning specific choreography to a song, but with people staying home for the time being, this has resulted in young people getting their parents, grandparents and pets involved in these videos and learning a dance together and doing an activity they probably wouldn’t normally do. I’m not sure what point I’m attempting to make here, and I’m still baffled to the fact I’m describing Tik Tok as ‘art’ but I suppose this is more of an observation that as hilariously awkward as some of these videos may seem, it’s nice to see the whole family getting involved in creating something together. It’s also amusing to think that future generations can look back on their ancestors dancing to ‘Blinding Lights’ in their kitchen during the pandemic of 2020...
In our darkest times during a crisis like COVID, everyone seeks art in some form without even consciously realising, it’s innate to who we are. In a recent evaluation by the charity ‘Arts and Minds’ It has been proven that interacting with or producing art everyday can result in a 71% decrease in anxiety and an overall of 76% improvement to well being, which doesn’t come as a surprise at all. Art undoubtedly helps with mental health which naturally, feeds into all other aspects of life. I just hope that once this is all over, and life returns to its fast paced turbulent manner, people don’t forget where they turned when everything else was taken away.
Now, please go watch TV, watch a broadcast of a play, play a video game or paint a picture or do whatever that keeps your mind off the outside world. And if you must, go download Tik Tok and ‘see what all the fuss is about’.
Stay safe and we’ll see you next Friday!
How we can protect the arts:
Arts and Minds charity:
Bristol theatre donation pages: