People can be productive in the most extreme circumstances


Do we learn from crisis?

Although the peak of the COVID-19 crisis is perhaps still to come for most of us, it is clear that the pandemic will end someday and that humanity will survive, yet it is equally clear that the world will have changed inexorably. What it might look like, how will our value systems have changed as well as our attitude towards things, other people, and art – are questions that has posed over these last days (in the form of an email interview) to many people intrinsically involved in the art world.

The opinion of Sandra Hegedüs, the Paris based art collector & the founder of the SAM Art Projects

How do you feel in this new reality which is neither a book nor a sci-fi film, and is happening to all of us in the here and now?

I'm mostly feeling peaceful and I'm grateful for the time of introspection. Then I have peaks of anguish and a lot of questions about what the "after" will be like.

COVID-19 has achieved in a matter of months what the climate change movement and frequent formal meetings between heads of state have failed to. Everybody talked about the need to ‘get out of the bubble’, but nothing ever really changed. The emergence of the coronavirus has served as a kind of ‘higher power’, showing humans their true place in the planet's ecosystem.

The question is, are people even capable of comprehending this ‘shutting off’ of the world that we are in right now? Can we learn from it, and is it possible to permanently retain what we learn? So far, modern society has responded to the situation by pushing the economic shutdown button (taking into consideration that the virus is not quite as wholly destructive as the plague). Yet the question is much more fundamental than that. Once it is all over, will people realize that we need to change? Will we come out of this better than when we entered? Or perhaps in the future, when we look back on this, it will turn out to only have been ‘a gentle warning’...?

It is my hope that this period will result in a deep change. At least for me, I can guarantee its mind-blowing and has reset everything in place.

But, unfortunately, I'm not so positive about people in general and am afraid that they can be manipulated in the wrong direction. Panic and anguish can lead to wrong decisions. We have seen the results of all this in the XX century, not so long ago.

It is clear that the world will have changed after this crisis. The question is – how will it have changed...and is it even capable of undergoing fundamental change? Since the start of the industrial revolution, the world has largely followed a path of aggressive capitalism. Priorities have been production and technological advancements, work, income, prosperity, and an incessant race for competitive advantage – all of which constitute a self-reinforcing feedback loop. Will this shock to the system be strong enough to cause a paradigm shift in human values?

Again, I truly hope so, but my belief in humanity is not that big right now.

Artists antennas, always ahead of us, trying to make us see what they are already seeing. Let’s open our eyes, lets listen to them!

How long do you think a person can continue to be productive while self-isolating?  Prolonged exposure to internal stress, panic, and fear can also lead to health problems, even quite serious ones, that pose no less of a long-term risk to human health than the coronavirus does.

People can be productive in the most extreme circumstances for long periods of time, as history has proved to us. I have seen around me how people are re-organizing their lives, finding solutions. Compared to what my parents and grandparents went through, this is not so bad. We have been very lucky in Europe for some generations.

If society is able to move in a positive direction, how do you see this future balance between good and evil?

I am still not reassured about how society will move and in what kind of a direction. A lot of the wrong people and extremists are trying to manipulate people and make them believe in the craziest things. Fake news etc. Scary.

Seeing as is an art and culture portal, as our conversation comes to a close, I would like to ask you what your vision is of the forthcoming post-pandemic art scene? Quite likely it will have fundamentally changed; in fact, it already has.

Oh yes, artists antennas, always ahead of us, trying to make us see what they are already seeing. Let’s open our eyes, lets listen to them!

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