Reflections on new Corona reality in Two Parts.
PART I. NEEDED: AUTHENTIC CULTURE’ OXYGEN
It all is very personal, you bet. And it gets to you, fountaining into your head, all of the sudden, as if from nowhere. Nowhere which is everywhere. It just has reached a qualifying point, and in no time your subconsciousness has become your gripping reality. The first month of our all’ Corona reality has produced its imprint. I am reading it now.
‘What you will do the first thing after it all is over?’ – Finns conducted the first frisk social study with the only question three weeks into the never applied in the country before a military time law. What Finns of all ages will do the first after normality will return? They will hug. And – they will rush to visit their parents. I always knew that we are lucky to live in a good country, and I am glad to be reassured in my conviction once again.
Missing – Not Missing
People are missing so very various things, and it is as indicative, as it gets. There are definite age, social and professional accents in our all’ missing lists. But there is also something common, or it should be, because we all are kept afloat by the only cement known to keep up the bricks of human beings together, our humanity.
The other day, I heard that one of my acquaintances misses restaurants oh-so-badly . I know , and can imagine too, that many people do miss restaurants. Yet more we are missing a possibility to come to any establishment of any sort, even if for a cup of coffee or a drink with a friend. It all is understandable. But to miss it to the degree that it makes you fantasise about it, at the time when we all every day are seeing yet another image of a nurse in any given country, practically, with those bruises from the masks? It is beyond me. I have no intention of moralising. I just wonder.
I know what I do not miss: news, sport, and political gatherings. I am not original in this, for sure.
All my life, following news was a part of my professional life. Now, I am dreaming, actually am planning to switch off any news in any country and in any language after we’ll get to normal. I intend to be in a switch-off on news mode for an indefinite period of time, until I’ll get an appetite for that again.
I am not missing sport events anymore, I did discover now, to my own surprise. I always loved to follow any good game. Until I have not read the news, with corresponding photos, of some of the football elite personalities’ arrogant response to their own club’s request to agree to diminish their crazy salaries during the time when there are no games, to help the struggling medical sector.
My favourite football player ever, Mr Messi, led the rebuke in Barcelona. It was reported in detail in both Spanish and world media. Probably, he was frightened that he and his folks would starve if his $ 645.000 a week salary would be trimmed temporarily. The bunch of his co-players in Barcelona did react in the same way.
I do know that not everyone in a top-sport world is like that. I know about many sport stars who were responsive and helpful, from direct substantial donations to blood donor-ship much needed in some cases.
But a quick shock I’ve got learning about behaviour of my favourite football player as if electrocuted my interest in him, Barcelona ( I’ve switched to be a Real fan a while ago, anyway, I can confess), and for some reason, to sport in general, currently. There is one thing I know: when it will return to normal, I would never watch Messi and Barcelona again.
In general, my view is that until the time when in our all media world-wide sport section will stop to have a space before the culture section, we are doomed. I am convinced of that.
I also do not miss all these utterly useless, pompous, incredibly expensive international gatherings on nothing, and am terrified on how much money had been wasted on that boring demagoguery with zero practical result. What the UN really did in the wake of the pandemic? They accepted a resolution on global solidarity in the face of the corona pandemic. What did the European Union and European Council in the continent that suffers incredibly in a domino-effect way? They recognised their slowness, and they still cannot form a working mechanism of distributing practically anything even if having such intention. It is utterly pathetic. And I do not miss anything global and political with regard to fighting the corona because nothing of it does exist.
Art: The Magic of Real-Life Perception
My list of what I am missing is far longer, as it happened. I assume that it is the same with all of us living in this new reality of corona-time. Being a culture professional, deprivation of it causes immediate and serious longing effects on me, my husband, and our circle.
I do miss museums and exhibitions and the art that one can see on the wall, not on the computer or other screen. Even in the art books, it is all drastically different, as art experts know. All Renaissance and post-Renaissance masters and Rembrandt are fundamentally better in real life, the same is true for everything Degas and Monet ever did. Any reproduction would not do justice to any single work of van Gogh, Soutine and Modigliani.
So, I do miss exhibitions where I can see original art, the real thing. None of distant excursions would create that unique two-way channel of perception of real art which is formed getting from your visual perception into your intellect and then to your emotions. The teaching of Ari explains the process with academic clarity.
Silenced Art: Side-Effect of Corona Pandemic
Recently, I had a chance to see stunning Degas at the Opera exhibition at the National Gallery in Washington DC, a truly extraordinary art event co-produced by the National Gallery of Art ( Washington DC) and the Musees de Orsay et d’Orangerie, Paris. The exhibition created in commemoration of the 350th anniversary of the Paris Opera’s founding, shows 100 best works of Degas, one of my favourite artists.
Loving Degas from being a schoolgirl, I thought I saw it all and know it by heart. I was smashed by the beauty, sensuality, extraordinary taste, elegance of a detail, that unparalleled fine organic artistic thinking which reveals itself in every little line, turn, or colour change in the treasure displayed on the wall of the National Gallery. I was praising Heaven that I was able to see it, to have that unique experience in my life, and singing hymns to the exhibition’s curators, the leading Degas expert Henri Loyrette and his colleagues, and organisers.
The same was true with regard to another great exhibition I was privileged to see in reality, of 120 paintings of the great Hokusai at the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington DC. Many of these works are never loaned to outside institutions, following the will of Charles Freer who was a great art collector and founder of the current famous part of the Smithsonian Museum. Many of them are light-sensitive and just cannot be on display for a period of time over 6 months a year.
Although Hokusai works are very good in print because many of them were designed as prints, the originals does create entirely different dimension, with tangible presence of Hokusai himself there, who was changing, both personally and artistically so much and so often during his long and productive life that he even took new names for each period of his life, this resulting with eight different names and eight different artists in one classic Hokusai as this incredible exhibition demonstrates powerfully.
The major and gorgeously produced exhibition was the first one in 13 years and supposed to be a major art event celebrating the Summer Olympics-2020 in Tokyo. All this now is shut down, as Degas unbelievable exhibition does, and as virtually everything everywhere world-wide. I do miss this real art on the walls of museums badly.
The one of my Italian friends mentioned melancholically on our all’ lost aspirations: “Well, poor Rafael did wait for his major personal exhibition in Rome ( planned to be opened in Quirinalle there in March 2020) for a whole five hundred years. I suppose he could wait a bit longer now. What to do?..” Poor Rafael supposedly can, I thought, but can we, really?.. We both sighed, deeply. These are our dialogues nowadays, punctuated by these non-stop mutual sighs.
While in Rome, earlier in the year, we visited three unique exhibitions.
The house of Napoleon’s mother known as Palazzo Bonaparte did open its doors to the public for the first time ever, for a stupendous exhibition of 50 works of impressionists from private collections, never before shown in public . Both the exhibition and the palazzo are revelations. Due to huge public demand, it was decided to prolonged the exhibition into the middle of Spring. But corona pandemic aborted these plans depriving masses of people to see the unique works of art that were never shown publicly before at the important historical place which had been opened for the first time ever.
At the same time, a grandiose exhibition of unique Canova was showing 170 works of the great sculptor collected from all over the world and produced spectacularly. The exhibition at the Museum of Rome in Palazzo Braschi, justly named Eternal Beauty, was another unique culture event of great importance bringing an unprecedented amount of originals of unparalleled Master for the first time ever.
No illustration can project what Antonio Canova’s works are. They are miracles, simply. Many times, many people, most sophisticated scholars of art, had the only reaction when seeing them: “Aah!..” – with your head spins on these incomprehensible revelations of harmony and beauty. But because of corona, people cannot see it anymore. Eternal Beauty that makes us better has become unapproachable.
The effect of great art that heals people’s souls is aborted. It is serious damage caused by the pandemic. It should not be underestimated.
The team that brought up a superb C’era Una Volta Sergio Leone exhibition on life and work of great Italian master of cinema, Cineteca a Bologna in partnership with Cinematheque Francese and Instituto Luce Cinecitta, brought to people Leone’s world in very thoroughly researched and superbly produced way. In a way, they also recreated, with talent and devotion, a part of our own life, as his films certainly resonates to so many and in so many ways. The exhibition expectedly brought the great Ennio Morricone to the picture, as a unique composer is justly regarded as an essential co-author of this very special world.
Morricone’s part of the exhibition is done in such an attentive way that the genius of the character of a great composer and wonderful man, and his personality grips and overwhelms you. Maestro Morricone, being an incredibly modest person, has this rare ability to surprise in anything he does: his music, his thoughts, his behaviour. To me, his influence is like a spring rain. It always refreshes, and it gets you younger, stimulating both your brain and your soul.
That great exhibition recreating the world of Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone, was opened just a month or so before it had to be closed due to the corona restrictions of life. How many people were unable to see it, I wonder. What a pity.
Also our own exhibitions, my husband’s and mine, have become the direct victims of Corona. My new Ghetto Waltz series was created and produced specially for the exhibition at the Casa della Memoria Museum in Rome that was planned to open the museum after the renovation in special event in June this year; Michael’s great Divertimento series on classical music and mine world-premiere of MAHLER both were planned as the Finnish National culture event in Luxembourg in April; the new editions of my Shining Souls. Champions of Humanity project supposed to be shown in Krakow, London, and Rome, all this and early next year, before getting on a tour in the USA; our both exhibitions of Biblical art were expected in the USA; conceived, planned and curated by me the new exhibition on Leonard Cohen in Vilnius was planned there for the autumn 2020.
All that is on stand-still now, frozen. And it does freeze your inner-self to a certain degree, too. Forced breaks in the living tissue of art-in-making are felt as wounds, with no much cure for it, as from corona virus itself. Corona-syndrom also reaches to the disruption of life in the plain meaning of it.
Theatre and Music: missing of presence
Music, cinema and photography, as well as ballet and partially opera, are more manageable for our perception in a distant mode, due to the character of these genres. And we are lucky with having it, of course.
There is not without reason that first in Italy, then in Israel and everywhere else, people came to the resort of music-playing and singing, from home concerts of big masters like pianist Yevgeny Kissin and violinist Vadim Gluzman to endless impromptu on balconies and all over the electronic space. We have resorted to existing and new records and DVDs, non-stop streaming of all sorts, we are soaking ourselves in this music therapy daily, days on. It does help a bit.
My husband Michael who paints music more than he paints any other subject in his oeuvre, believes that music is a primary art. In music, our emotional response to anything is elicited in the first. That’s why King David not just composed poetry of his – and ours – Psalms, but sang it. That’s why in the Judaic literature one finds that the Creator praises and values a man who sings to him the most.
Why is that encouragement to sing? Why is the whisper of a prayer which could be regarded as something very personal to share with the Creator is not enough? Because one has to have the courage to appeal to the Creator loudly, one has to overcome the inner barrier of self-restraint to sing.
Music, both created and performed is always a prayer, if it is a good one. That’s why it gets in our hearts so directly and affects us in the way it does.
Music also heals, we all know it. Scientific conferences on the subject annually bring new knowledge on it, with growing evidence on how Mozart, Bach and Vivaldi directly influence certain areas of the human brain and how music helps in therapy of certain diseases. It is the one of the most interesting scientific directions which develops rapidly.
We also know about the cases of multi-layered and far reaching effects of music, as it is the case with very talented singer Melody Gardot who got up from her bed after a year of being incapacitated after a terrible car accident, mostly thanks to music, and whose first critically acclaimed album was a collection based on her own humming as it was the only way diverting her pain and damaged reactions.
Atmosphere: a gift which cannot be replicated
But still, what on earth can replace the live sound of the orchestra? Even the best record cannot because there are other emotions evoked when you are exposed to direct contact with musicians on stage. They bring their energy into their effort, and this is a unique element which cannot be reproduced. You are walking out from a concert hall not only being pleased with hearing another time a melody that you know quite well. You are leaving a concert hall bearing in you a part of live energy of musicians and singers on the stage. That’s what makes the experience of live concerts so special. That’s why we remember some of them for years and decades.
As opera and ballet both are quite watchable and can still impress you from a screen, as theatre certainly does not. Recorded theatrical performances are painful to watch. Theatre loses so much being recorded that should be done for historical archives only. Any theatre professional and savvy theatre goer knows it. Theatre does not live without its public, it loses its very essence being recorded, because theatre is a live dialogue of breaths on the stage and in the audience hall, always, with both parties being perfectly aware of it.
And yes, I do miss theatre halls now, I miss the crowd before beginning of performance, in the intervals, and after the end. I am not a person who likes a hustle around myself. Except in a theatre. It is a special kind of a hustle. I used to work in theatre for many years, and I know it by my skin from the both parts of a curtain. There is nothing like a theatre public, in the shared aspiration between so different people in a given moment of the time of a performance on the stage.
My last visit to the theatre before this new era of corona was Leopoldstadt in London. Here is what I wrote about it, so recently. In a rather unusual for London theatre life move, the line from my review made its way to the Leopoldstadt pubic advertisements all over the place. I knew that I was lucky then, but now I know how incredibly lucky I was, indeed.
Among all the new challenges brought by corona to our all’ lives so suddenly, among so many questions to be concerned about, for some reason, I found myself thinking about Tom Stoppard very early, in the first few days of the global lock-down. ‘Poor Stoppard, – I told my husband – can you imagine? He is 82, this was the last play that he had written, as he decided for himself. And it is not just a play. It is a testament , and it is also the last word from him to us , for good. It is his late, perhaps too late, self-analyses of Jewishness inside and outside oneself, under the most tragic circumstances of the XX century, with its echo reaching to us via him today, in the end of the second decade of XXI century. It is about the pain that Holocaust left in us all forever. It is relevant to thousands of people, both in Britain, in Europe, in the States, and world-wide, too. The play was a grandiose success, to the degree that the producing company had to add many middle-day performances to usual evening ones, due to that colossal demand. And now it all is closed down, after just three weeks of running. It is a drama of its own, and if anyone, Tom Stoppard certainly does not deserve it”, I said.
The worst thing in all those dead-ends that corona reality brought to our life is that you are helpless against it. It is a cut-end reality. And it hurts.
And here is another thing in my rather long missing list: I also miss Ronnie Scott’s in particular and any other good jazz venue badly. It does not matter how many times we are re-starting the recordings of intimate sessions of great jazz people there. Something is acutely missed when you are reduced to a screen-watching. It feels especially like that when you are hopelessly re-watching the videos from the places you know and love. It hurts. It hurts in the same way as when we are seeing those deserted lines of Venice.
I miss the atmosphere of that legendary place in London not because it is famous but because it is that atmosphere that has made it so. Atmosphere is not replicable.
So I guess, I miss the authenticity of culture that was within reach for many of us, and now it is not, for a long time ahead, seemingly. I miss it badly. Corona-time effect? Partially so. A wake-up of corona-effect? Certainly.
Under the circumstances of this ongoing global lock-down, our souls are longing for being warmed up, to be soothed in kindness, to be reassured in ongoing caring. Our souls need these injections of moral support daily. Secondary to daily gestures of kindness and care, big and small ones, provided by thousands of individuals all over the planet, culture and its fruits is the pillar that keeps up afloat. Because it speaks to our hearts, as simple, as that.
We also are missing places, certain places, like many people all over the globe. Isolation has put the place’s deficiency in a crystal clear order.
Spiritual life is a very serious casualty of corona, too, irreplaceably so.
But most of all, we miss people, Zoom or not.
On places, spirituality and people, I ponder in the Part II of my Missing. Not Missing. Missing: Reflections on New Corona Reality essay.