In April of 2020, I posted an article with a look at the history of pandemics and how the community of artists reacted to them. I wanted to understand and convey the effect these tragic events had on the arts. Now, almost two years later, there’s been enough new art produced to get some perspective. I’d like to share what I’ve found.
There’s a website out there whose URL address is covid19streetart.omeka.net and their name is Urban Art Mapping. A quote from their home page pays immediate homage to street art. ” Artists and writers producing work in the streets – including tags, graffiti, murals, stickers, and other installations on walls, pavement, and signs – are in a unique position to respond quickly and effectively in a moment of crisis. Street art’s ephemeral nature serves to reveal very immediate and sometimes fleeting responses, often in a manner that can be raw and direct. At the same time, in the context of a crisis, street art also has the potential to transform urban space and foster a sustained political dialogue, reaching a wide audience, particularly when museums and galleries are shuttered. For all of these reasons, it is not surprising to see an explosion of street art around the world created in response to the Covid-19 global pandemic, even as our movement in public spaces is limited due to public health concerns.” Urban Art Mapping displays an archive of Covid-19 street art from around the world that conveys deeply touching images.
Songs in the Key of Covid
Aarp.org published an article titled, Pandemic Songs: The New Music Genre. An excerpt gives us an idea of how the pandemic has given painful birth to lots of music.
“COVID-19 pulled the plug on live music. If there’s a silver lining, it’s how musicians have responded to the pandemic through songs of pain, frustration, anger and hope.
Spotify data analyst Glenn McDonald maintains a playlist, The Sound of the Virus, that tracks tunes about the pandemic. The tally, updated daily and ranked by popularity, exceeds 8,300 songs and is currently topped by “Stuck With U” by Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber. Every genre, mood and point of view crops up in COVID songs. You’ll find hope and inspiration in “Sing for Life,” a passionate ballad from U2’s Bono and Jennifer Hudson, will.i.am and Yoshiki. Optimism radiates from Beach Boy Mike Love’s “This Too Shall Pass,” featuring John Stamos. Queen + Adam Lambert retooled the uplifting “You Are the Champions.”
Our Kindred Spirits band leader has composed a few songs while in “retreat,” as he likes to refer to it. I’ve written a couple as well.
Films and TV
It was inevitable for the pandemic to show up in movies and television dramas. It reflects our altered culture and to ignore it would have been impossible. One area of fertile ground had to be the plethora of medical shows. We watch a couple of these in our home. The Good Doctor brought the virus front and center for a while upon their return from hiatus. New Amsterdam gave us a close view of possible ramifications for a leading physician to be stricken with Covid-19.
Early on, I found that every tribute I saw to front line medical workers brought on a wave of emotion within me, often resulting in tears.
From what I can tell in my limited research, there have been approximately 55 films released which center around the Covid-19 pandemic. All genres are represented, including drama, comedy, romance, science fiction, horror, thriller, documentary and short. They’re domestic and international, live action and animated. Of them all, I’ve seen two and both were streaming at home. One was Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, a hilarious satire in the inimitable style of Sasha Baron Cohen. The other was a French dramedy about seven families who have stayed in their apartment building while many have fled Paris during lockdown. The film is titled Stuck Together. Many stories of this historic time have been told and apparently everyone has a unique way of telling them. There will be ample opportunity for future generations to witness how it was to endure this pandemic.
The final artistic category I will cover is stand-up comedy. I’ve seen one sample, Jim Gaffigan’s Netflix special, Comedy Monster. Gaffigan spends much of the time joking about the circumstances of the pandemic. His insights are astute and they’re delivered with his usual brilliant blend of deadpan absurdity and timing. It was an entertaining way to have the pestilence put into perspective.
Of course, there have been numerous other comedy specials that have provided commentary about the pandemic. A few that have made a “15 Best Stand-up Specials” list compiled by the e-zine Paste include Live From the Pandemic by Mary Lynn Rajskub, Inside by Bo Burnham, and # Hashtag by Josh Johnson.
Let this strange time be a time for growth, for learning to live and love in the face of disease and fear. So, yes, write on and paint on and dance on until you lie your head on your pillow in creative exhaustion. Show the world your talent against all odds.