Art Without Place: Artistic Research About the Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Global Cultural Sector

Only a few weeks into the first wave of Corona, Zagreb-based artist Ana Kužmanić launched to collect testimonies of cultural workers around the world. One year and 45 testimonies later, the contents of the website were bundled and published as a book by Oaza Books. You can order your copy here:

P.s. readers will encounter a testimony by yours truly, a time capsule dated April 2020. It reads:

‘Critical theorists have been shouting ‘PRECARITY!’ in the faces of anyone who would hear them for years. We know the story by now. Or, so we thought. It is only now, in the Corona-lockdown, that many of us really feel what precarity is, beyond an ever-looming feeling of being on the edge: once crisis sets in, the precarious are the first to be hit. Structures of social security are shaken and dissolve. What follows is economic free-fall.
In the Netherlands, the government provides freelancers, including those in the cultural sector, with something of a basic income during these months. This is, however, not enough for most artists to live off, let alone to pay for studio rent and material costs. And even if it is, the long-term effects are unclear. What happens to the young artists, whose precious exhibitions and other jobs are canceled? What about the freelance teachers, whose lessons at academies have been canceled once of a sudden? What will happen when artists can’t afford their studio rent anymore, and studio complexes go bankrupt? One thing is clear: the infrastructures and social property we will lose now, won’t come back when we go back to ‘normal’.
On top of it all, it’s hardly allowed to ask these questions. According to public discourse, there are only two types of legitimate artistic production in this time: 1. bringing solace, and 2. making face masks. It is, apparently, the task of artists to veil (crises, faces, themselves), rather than to unveil.
I see artists around me struggling with this situation. They are so used to be confronted with their superfluidity in society, that they started to believe in it. How to ‘just’ continue to make work, as if nothing happened? It’s interesting how artists should ask themselves these questions, while banks, airlines, and oil companies receive government bail-outs.’