Art is essential, now more than ever.
“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Pablo Picasso
Dust. How many tonnes of dust are we currently covered in? Painful, heavy dust accumulated from the prolonged anxiety and uncertainty brought on by the pandemic. Infuriating, ugly dust thrown at us by corrupt and dangerously incompetent politicians day in, day out. Oh, and then there's the surreal, disquieting dust coming from across the pond (despite the good news that change is finally coming, of course). Dust, a thick cloud of dust. And now the government has spoken. Once again, exhibitions, museums, archives, libraries, archaeological areas and monumental complexes must close.
I feel like screaming, but I am overwhelmed by sadness and cannot shake off this feeling of profound unfairness. What this decision does is to effectively downgrade cultural activities as 'non-essential services'. There are many problematic layers to this. This measure dismisses the value that the enjoyment of culture has on people. I don‘t mind stating the obvious: art does bring enlightenment, inspiration and comfort. It also has a big role to play in bringing communities together and promoting openness via the understanding of different perspectives.
Engagement with the arts is essential in order to maintain hope and boost compassion as a way of controlling despair, alienation and fear. Empathy towards others and their experiences, I believe art helps us with that, too. Art is a universal, unifying language in a worryingly divided and angry world, and I for one I am grateful that it touches me so deeply. I know it does many of you, too. This is how we stay afloat, together.
And then of course, there is the economic abyss in which the entire sector and the many thousands of people who work in it are slowly plunging into. Heartbreaking.
Illustration by Dora Pang