Ever since the start of the pandemic, the discussion on “post-pandemic” has been ongoing.
The yearning for post-pandemic is actually a yearning for a sense of return to “normalcy”. Human beings subconsciously believe that “normal” is better than “abnormal”. However, do the concepts of “post-pandemic” and “new normal” really exist?
In this global public health crisis, the “abnormal” strategy of performing arts and cultural exchange is to virtualize live performances and move cultural exchange and international collaboration online. In the past three years, although live performing art has not yet reached a state of collapse, its nature of real-liveness and sense of collectivity have been subversively impacted. Cultural exchange has been suspended, so a more flexible way is to turn cultural exchange into video conversations. For example, Danny Yung and I had a series of online conversations last year called The Decameron, which is our new experiment on virtual exchange. Although I can meet him face-to-face in Hong Kong, the audience with us in real-time cannot exist in real space. The original public communication in the form of forums, performances, and workshops has been transformed into private communication through the camera lens. The physical field in cultural exchange is also forced to be redefined.
Can these “abnormalities” become “new normals”?
Live performances have been restored to varying degrees in places around the world, but face-to-face international exchange is still being treated with extreme caution and progress is very slow. Virtualization does not seem to function as a true replacement. Conversely it has made the impacts and challenges of the pandemic stand out even more. I summarize these challenges as Chronic Stress, Tech Anxiety and Exchange Illusion.