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What did you spend lockdown doing? If it was anything like my lockdown, it involved live-streaming DJs, bands and theatre and live, intimate performances by solo musicians from their bedrooms. I’ve caught up on a lot of books I might otherwise have claimed I was too busy to read.
So it’s thanks to art and artists that I’ve found more reason for hope and excitement the past few months than I have found reasons for grief. The very nature of artists is to investigate, question and express something essential of the mood of the world – or just their world. And through this period, musicians, artists, dancers, choreographers, writers, games developers and everyone with a creative outlet has continuing to work, to create, to innovate and to share their creative talents under immense financial and emotional pressure.
Take singer-songwriter and violinist Xani Kolac, who lost months of work on a stage production when shutdown kicked off in Australia in March. Since then she’s has been performing on Twitch TV and Instagram Live, her sequinned costumes and the unpredictable, joyful nature of her social media streams a glistening bubble of hope on days when I felt like I was existing in a vacuum. Will she be dancing wildly today, or riffing on the loops her fans have sent in for an improv jazz session? Playing violin or singing? She’s been a pandemic panacea for me.
In lockdown, I walked a lot. From Collingwood, my dog and I walked through Fitzroy Gardens to the city. Normally, I’d never try to manoeuvre a small, excitable, furry creature through streets that would ordinarily still resemble John Brack’s famous painting, Collins St, 5p.m. But in the quiet, we walked to the NGV and admired its formidable water wall and empty forecourt. We walked through Federation Square and past the Australian Centre for Moving Image, Birrarung Marr, the Arts Centre and the Forum theatre, too. All these beautiful Melbourne places of performance, noise, talent, unity and the sacred act of making and sharing our stories … empty.
Later, I watched a performance by the Australian Ballet, who screened some of their most beloved classical works online for free, including my favourite, Giselle.
Giselle is the story of a peasant maid who falls in love with a philandering count. She goes mad at the end of the first act, appearing to her lover as a wili – a ghostly apparition – during the second. The ghostly Giselle dances with her lover throughout the night, still in love with him despite his betrayal, before vanishing at dawn.
Watching the ballet under lockdown, I felt an unexpected sympathy with Giselle – not for the love of another person but for the city, and that sense of being banished to some ghostly, half-realm. Giselle, in its bittersweet romantic loveliness, at that moment echoed for me the melancholic air of longing for the outdoors, the bustle, the noise, the safety of the life we knew only yesterday.
I had enjoyed visiting theatres, galleries, cinemas and music performances up until the doors closed in March, but not as much as I could have. I suspect I’m far from alone in taking Melbourne’s arts venues and artists for granted.
I imagined, like Giselle’s ghostly apparition dancing tirelessly in the dark, silent hours, that those buildings in the centre of Melbourne were not really silent, the energy of storytellers past and future keeping them abuzz beyond our human senses.
So even in the darkest of times during lockdown, I found hope. Even as their incomes dwindled and freedoms were curtailed, so many artists have sought unlikely collaborations or outlets for their work. They have been vulnerable and candid and provided their audiences with the licence to admit to their own mental health battles. What they have not done is ceased to create, to share their work and themselves.
Let’s not forget how much our mental and spiritual health was buoyed by books, music, design, podcasts, dance and online theatre during lockdown, and channel our gratitude into ticket sales and funding support to keep the arts dancing infinitely.
• Cat Woods is a Melbourne-based writer
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Thanks to music and art, I found more hope than grief in lockdown | Culture