Introducing: international cultural exchange in times of a world wide lockdown - The Social Distancing Festival
In times of the COVID-19 virus, international cultural cooperation seems stuck. But is it? Coming period in In the spotlight: examples of quite the contrary. Initiatives of international artistic and cultural exchange, without travel or indeed leaving the house. Cooperation and exchange of art and culture across borders actually seems to be more important, more needed, than ever.
Nick Green is a performing arts professional from Toronto, Canada who had to cancel the production of his latest musical In My Life due to the coronavirus. Even though he and his co-creators knew that it was the right decision to make, they felt devastatingly disappointed. “We didn’t just lose a chance to develop the work, but also to share it, celebrate it, and potentially connect with further opportunities,” Nick writes. Knowing that around the world performing art creators, cultural makers and artists were feeling the same way – and having suddenly a lot of free time on his hands – he decided to create a platform: the Social Distancing Festival, where he invites the artist's community to connect and share, be it in a different way, all their cancelled creative processes.
There are two ways that cancelled work can be featured and shared on the website. Performances that take place over livestream will be added to the calendar, and visitors from all over the world can tune in. The second option is to submit material of the cancelled project, like clips of rehearsals, pictures, stories or digital registrations. This way, visitors of the website can at least get acquainted with the artists and their work.
For example with Tadhi Alawi, a performing artist/dancer from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, who was supposed to present new work at the Laois Dance Platform festival in Ireland. On the Social Distancing Festival you can watch his beautiful dance video BODY vs MOUTH and read about his process.
And if you feel like tuning into a live performance, Friday March 20th for example you can choose from the Kings of Comedy’s Live Internet Show from Melbourne or the piano concert and album release of Al Gillion’s amazingly named The Light in Dark Spaces. If you feel like dancing it out, there is the psych-garage livestream by the band Sleeve Cannon from Austin, Texas. For a classic Friday night out, I mean in, you might want to choose the livestream of Donizett’s La Fille du Régiment from the Metropolitan Opera.
Over the weekend, the production Otherness: Togetherness addresses the growing xenophobia and racism that accompanies the COVID-19 crisis in many parts of the world. The Unit Souzou Taiko ensemble from Portland, USA collaborates with visual installation artist Horatio Law and violinist-looper Joe Kye to share stories grappling with ideas of identity, home and otherness. The musical project showcases the commonalities amongst their experiences and the diverse perspectives of what it means to be Asian in America, both embracing 'Asian American' as space for culture and community, and also pushing boundaries of stereotype, labels, and expectations.
Make sure to check the correct time in your country, as The Social Distancing Festival is a North American initiative, all the times are in EDT (GMT-4). Nick Green is also compiling a list of initiatives for supporting the arts in these financially difficult times for specific countries, and is encouraging donations to the arts.