Art in the time of Coronavirus

29 April 2020

It has been 47 days since we started self isolation due to a persistent cough and fever. We never managed to end the isolation as the country went into national lockdown just as we were approaching the end of our quarantine period. Like many, I experienced shock and anxiety in the beginning, and had my fair share of teary outbursts and hiding in car for solace.

When the lockdown first started, there was a slew of articles on how people could use this time to create art, or meditate or pursue some new hobby or self improvement. That made me angry. I had less time and energy now than ever, now that I had to juggle homeschooling, working from home, and all that crazy grocery shopping (virtual) queues as well. Not to mention all that crippling anxiety to do with the procurement of bread, yeast, children's paints and pants.

The anxiety turned me into someone who could only consume, and not produce. I spent hours just reading, listening, and watching instead of making, staring into one screen or other like a rabbit in the headlights. I was drained at the end of the day. All I could do was watch TV.

My anxiety also manifested in art supplies hoarding. I was afraid to use existing materials, worried that "they don't make them anymore". I spent hours and hours shopping online to stockpile more art supplies instead of spending the time making art. I have always had this tendency before, but the crisis had exacerbated it.

Finally after 3 Jackson's orders costing an embarrassing amount (rather imprudent in these days of imminent recession), I admitted to myself that the art supplies shortage is not going to be devastating. They are still making paper, and they are still making paint, they are probably still making lino blocks too. Also, I have recently tried drypoint etching on various recycled materials such as Tetrapak with success. So there will be something I can do even if they should run out of art supplies in stores.

And you know what? We are an amazing species. We adapt, we get used to things, we settle into new routines. I have finally gotten used to this new way of life, and got bored of the ineffectual anxiety. And so the creative juices have started trickling in again. And the kids? They seem happier than ever, running wild in the garden, no school, and no helicopter parents (we're too busy working), and all those cardboard boxes from online deliveries to play houses with.

They're probably not making new TV shows and movies anymore. So there'll be plenty of time to catch up on those.