In this powerful Op-ed. Storyteller, Art Curator, Artist & Creative Pois-On Contributor Sabrina Wirth reflects on our collective social and business future after the global pandemic emergency.
When we started this quarantine journey together in mid-March, it was like we knew we were settling in for the long ride. We knew it would be temporary, and that it would be an inconvenience, but we approached it as a challenge. And so, we began to get creative and resourceful, thinking of ways to keep us busy, or create new content, because all of a sudden, social media became everyone’s outlet, and our home, the stage. Three months in and this temporary way of life has slowly transformed into the “new normal”. The big questions on everyone’s minds now, are: what will remain from this existence, what will return to how we remembered it, and what will change?
By Sabrina Wirth
There is no question that pre-COVID life will remain in the past, and whatever we had been used to will have to continue in its adapted form- if it is to continue at all. Anyone who had been reluctant to jump on Instagram, or other social media, is now discovering the platform, and realizing that it is the window into a borderless, and virus-free world that does not have to follow social-distancing rules (Yet, at the same time, realizing that it is also a highly visible world, where the impact of what you publish can have far-reaching consequences). In the process of (re)discovering these alternate environments, many individuals and companies came to the awareness that much of what they deemed necessary, like in-person meetings, is in reality more efficient over the phone or on Zoom.
Distance can no longer be considered an acceptable excuse for missing -or being late to- a meeting, because how can you be late to a phone call? It is safe to say that technology has significantly changed our pace of life over the past 30 years. Remember writing and receiving letters? Those shoeboxes once filled with letters from pen-pals are now filled with either bills, invitations, solicitations, and the occasional letters or postcards. In those letter-writing days, immediate gratification was not a thing. We lived our lives off-line and in the physically present moment. Indeed, everything was much more local, and calling someone in another country was a planned event. When texting became more common, it was exciting to be able to reach another person so instantaneously. Now, no one even gives it a second thought. Our pace of adjusting to the opportunities technology provides has been increasing gradually- so gradually that no one has really noticed.
Then, Covid-19 happened. It was as though someone said “now stop whatever you’re doing because if you want to continue, you have to figure out a different way.” They say “necessity is the mother of inventions”, and in a sense, we (by “we” I mean the majority) have had to invent a new way of life. That’s why #creativitywillsaveus keeps growing, because creatives are, by nature, constantly reinventing and reimagining. They are the ones who are leading the path into this new world, and the more people share on this platform, the more people are inspiring others to do the same.
With all these advancements in technology and tools for working remotely, why has the workplace structure remained the same for so long? The traditional 9-5, 8-hour workweek has been around since the 20s when Henry Ford and the labor unions instituted a regulated work schedule. After WWII, when women and African Americans entered the workforce, office layouts were designed in the style of the factory floor rows, which had become common during the war years, and have since barely changed. It’s taken 3 months of quarantine and forced “work-from-home” for people to consider a different way- a more creative way.
During the quarantine, Sabrina got creative producing art, homemade masks, and developing innovative entrepreneurial ideas. She is also giving her voice to the podcast version of the Creative Pois-On #CreativityWillSaveUs Series. Check it here below!
And it’s taken this pandemic for people to finally embrace the changes that technology has made possible. If employees are able to productively work from home from whatever geographic location they are in, it confirms the notion that the traditional work model is outdated. As businesses begin to open up and people are given the option to return to their offices to work, there is a high likelihood that most people will want to maintain their flexibility, since it worked just fine during the quarantine. The one main difficulty, however, will be maintaining a sense of structure and balance between work and life, since the two have been blurred by existing within the same space.
One industry that is discovering a “re-birth” of sorts, is the art business. Auction houses, galleries, museums… the kind of business that relies on in-person viewing. It’s a hand-shake business that capitalizes on the stories behind the object, the mystery of the artist’s process, the stories evoked in the tactility of the paint. The Mona Lisa is not the same on a screen as it is in the Louvre. A picture of a Warhol is not the same as the real thing. So what will this post-Covid transition look like?
For a while, auction houses were merely flirting with the idea of expanding the market online, and -despite the fact that being in the auction room itself is much more exciting- were cautiously making advancements with online bidding. It was never taken completely seriously though until a recent online auction at Sotheby’s brought in $36 million, more than double from the same period last year. Seeing these numbers come in from digital sales seems to be the validation the art world needed in order to forge ahead into more online ventures. To move ahead of the competition, without the advantages of real estate and location, the challenges will then be about storytelling and creating experiences that transcend between the virtual and the physical. In the meantime, however, museums and institutions that rely on membership and visitor fees will need to re-imagine the on-site experiences they provide in order to keep visitor numbers up. Will visits be limited to a certain number of people? What will happen with blockbuster exhibitions?
As the light at the end of this quarantine-tunnel becomes more visible, and our global attention is split between health and civil rights issues, I cannot help but feel a rush of emotions when I consider what our next phase of life will be. While eager to return to a sense of normalcy, I find myself hoping that some elements from this moment of isolation carry through into our future. Solidarity and community, for one.
When we were all forced to individually “shelter-in-place”, we found ways to come together with tools like Zoom, FaceTime, and social media. In fact, many people may have found more community throughout these past several months than they had before. The shared efforts of making masks or designing and producing PPE face shields brought creative people from all industries together in a way they hadn’t previously experienced. The Black Lives Matter movement amplified the feeling of solidarity. Hopefully, this awareness of being able to impact change as a collective can transition into a more permanent state. Together, we can do more: we can be more creative, we can affect change, we can be stronger. Together, we are better. Let’s keep this as our main souvenir from Covid.
Sabrina Wirth is an artist, curator, writer, and storyteller. Her curiosity for people and different cultures has led her down various unusual, but fulfilling paths, such as exploring Iraqi Kurdistan, and working on a film about refugees in France. She believes in the power of creativity, and has learned that the best stories are the real-life, human ones.
For more info on Sabrina please visit: www.sabrinawirth.com