As the entertainment industry closes and the world moves indoors, BBC Culture explains how it will continue to bring readers the best arts stories from around the globe.
What is the point of culture in the time of a pandemic? On the one hand, there is only one, terrible, all-encompassing story. And on the other – we urgently need respite and human connection. The film critic Roger Ebert once described movies as “a machine to generate empathy,” but the same can be said of any art form. A film, book, TV programme or song, apart from its no less essential function to comfort, educate and entertain, helps us to discover – across the lines of age, race, gender or nationality – the human connections between us. That’s more important now than ever.
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So much of culture’s power, however – cinema, theatre, live music – is felt as a shared experience, often enjoyed together with hundreds, thousands of others. The global Coronavirus pandemic makes these kinds of communal experiences no longer possible, for now. The arts and entertainment industry – like so many others – has been devastated by the Covid-19 outbreak: film releases and productions have been halted; festivals cancelled or delayed; museums and galleries have closed their doors and theatrelands gone dark. Millions of artists, creatives and industry workers face an anxious and uncertain future.
But the human instinct to create and communicate is alive and well – just look at Italy, whose now-famous balcony opera singing in lockdown immediately inspired other nations to follow suit with group musical performances – from British sofa singers to serenading Spanish policemen. As the arts and entertainment industry recalibrates, and people adjust to their new, restricted lives, BBC Culture’s coverage is also shifting – film reviews, festival coverage, and features on the latest exhibition openings have ceased in their previous form. But we remain committed, as ever, to producing thought-provoking, uplifting and inspiring stories from around the world that celebrate the resonance and continued importance of creativity.
Much of the world has moved indoors, and in keeping with the BBC’s mission to bring its audiences culture to enjoy at home, BBC Culture has launched our own Culture in Quarantine page, a hub for all our arts and culture stories to help navigate life in isolation. New this week is My Happy Place, a series of essays in which writers reflect on the pieces of culture that bring them joy; Isolation Inspiration, a regular series recommending the best arts and culture to enjoy inside; and coming up, seasons exploring how arts and ideas can help us make sense of challenging times, and how to learn about and discover more from the arts while in isolation, along with plenty more.
We hope that you’ll find that the stories on BBC Culture bring a little comfort and solace in the coming weeks and months. As Olivia Laing, the author of a new book of essays, Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency, wrote recently: “There’s so much that’s frightening, so much that’s wrong. But if this virus shows us anything, it’s that we’re interconnected… We have to keep each other afloat, even when we can’t touch. Art is a place where that can happen, where ideas and people are made welcome. It’s a zone of enchantment as well as resistance, and it’s open even now.”
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