A.The whole world is plagued by epidemics, and the performing arts have been one of the worst affected. However, methods and means have been devised to make this situation a virtue that has existed for more than a year now.
In Europe, major festivals and concerts are on the digital mat: the Glastonbury Festival and the Eurovision Music Contest. The Glastonbury Festival is perhaps best known for the pleasant breeze that blows through it. The crowd gathers in the open air and faces the elements. Reviving the ways of the Dionysian environment has been reborn. The crowd pays little attention to their appearance and clothing, only sinks into the mud and makes the wet and the rain brave so that the cheerful mood can be recreated as in the past. They all have music and dance rituals, such as the basic expressions of going and giving up.
In addition to the massive failures and glitches of streaming services and other technical glitches that are becoming a regular feature, the digital version may have been greatly reduced as the core function and role of the festival has been undermined. The main role is for people to come together and enjoy the environment of nature as it existed at a time when the relationship between the two was still inseparable and not so divided as to stand against each other.
I wonder what people would have felt sitting at home or watching it all on their screen whatever digital difference was available. The set and, above all, the environment are man-made shelters, a haven against the uncertainty of the elements, and people have been forced to evade them. It is no longer a display of weather uncertainty, mud and silt and coexistence with trees, grasses and plants, but a virtual survival of all in the hygiene and safety of homes. The brief opening that allowed people to rebel against the assurances of the man-made world was taken away from them in this virtual entertainment.
Virtual relevance may be just a reminder that the world and the natural world and its needs have been taken away. Even if one had to live, it had to be a virtual life. Even for a short time, this opportunity has been missed. Escaped in the way of the basic desires of escape from the built, manicured existence is stolen from the civilization that wants to go back and experience the basic significance of existence.
The Eurovision Music Concert was also a complete competition without an audience. It has been primarily interaction with the audience that creates the enthusiasm and necessary feedback to lay eggs for the performance. Performing an empty man-made environment such as a set is to fulfill the human presence to meet the lack of essential accessories. The competition was like artists performing each other. They were yearning for human preference and no one was found, they turned to fellow actors for satisfaction.
As it is, Eurovision is a collection of high-tech digital glamor that blends with the musical vibrancy and the two may work together in the presence of an audience, but without a crowd competition it becomes just a digital glow. ۔ An essential component, it presented a parade of achievements without compromising the flow of human expression through the display of any kind of offensive technology and art. As it is, the digital or technological dimension is so vast that it always seeks to override the basic human expression, which, by contrast, is no more stable than the race for relatively more stable and technological inputs.
It was more like a spectacle than a human spectacle. People sitting in their homes only experienced its misery. Fighting streaming services all the time and its flawed connections and flaws reminds us of the weakness of humanity rather than the perfection of the scientific world.
Perhaps, a year will soon come with an alternative or the second best option for large-scale human activities. Many people think that this is not the second best option now but the mainstream, human or live performances and the gathering of the audience which will be the second best thing or a very special place in the future.
The concert in Barcelona was another way to get the audience vaccinated and they came up with evidence that they had not tested positive for the virus. To enter, no one could enter St. Jordi Stadium a few minutes before the start and pick up a ticket at the door. Fans had to download an app, input their contact details, and book a quick quad test on the day of the concert.
Those who tested negative received a code to enter the building, while those who tested positive were offered a refund. Inside, masks were mandatory and the public was divided into three areas, each with about 1,600 people. Five thousand electronic fans sang, jumped and danced on the indie pop hit. It could be any Saturday night event in 2019, if it weren’t for the masks, the sanitizer piece and the tickets that proved the Negative Cove 19 Test.
Are we close to presenting our big festivals in any limited digital format? It may have happened with conferences and seminars, but not with large gatherings, and one wonders when it will happen and what its quality will be, the consequences and impressions that follow.
The author is a Lahore-based culture critic.