"Art is a crisis expert" On art and corona

2021-01-19 Does art still exist? Galleries and art halls have been closed for months. Posters for exhibition openings were optimistically covered with "Postponed! New date soon!" banners, but from summer 2020 this was abandoned. Yet it would be particularly interesting now to see what works of art the crisis produces. What to do? Pierangelo Maset, professor of art and its mediation, diagnoses art in pandemic times in an interview.

[Translate to Englisch:] Pierangelo Maset, Copyright: BM ©BM
Pierangelo Maset, Professor of Fine Arts and Education at the IKMV
Artists are one of the professions hit hardest financially by the pandemic. There are no commissions, no competitions and certainly no state support. Is that it for art in Germany?
The situation for most artists is very dramatic. From my circle of friends I hear frightening reports, such as months of preparation for exhibitions that then can't take place and also missing or delayed subsidies. I see a clear lack of political imagination when, for example, supermarkets are open but exhibition venues, galleries and museums have had to close. Art and culture are also vital! That's why art goes on, no matter where, and no matter under what conditions.
What can artists do now to survive and not go down completely?
Artists usually have some talents and skills, but in the current situation it is very difficult to move into other areas in the short term. Many have massively increased their activities on the internet, I get emails almost daily pointing to web-based exhibitions or other artistic events.
Art-of-the-disaster often comes into being only after the disaster has already occurred. Will the paintings, sculptures, performances that deal with the pandemic only be created after the pandemic?
The preoccupation with the pandemic has been going on in contemporary art for a long time, in many different ways and in all disciplines. Some is perhaps too bold, such as Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg's project "In America", a "growing" memorial in which a small flag is erected for each Corona death. Perhaps the most compelling works are yet to come, in the much-quoted "After the Pandemic".
Could one say disasters are hard cuts in cultural and human existence?
I don't see it that way. Disasters are part of the planetary conditio of our existence. They remind us that we are dependent on the weather, volcanism and many other things that the prose of our party programmes must ignore. As a rule, they affect us personally - fortunately! - not incessantly.
What would be an appropriate way to respond to the crisis artistically?
The intensive observation of how forms and shapes change, e.g. how inner cities now look and how human figures now behave and change. This should be done in as autonomous a perspective as possible. For example, the hope of a quick redemption from the crisis by inoculating the masses could turn out to be deceptive.
But this hope is understandable?
Sure, it is all too understandable, precisely insofar as it is a hope for health. Also with regard to artistic developments, one's own immune system should definitely be strengthened - physically and mentally - for which the occupation with art - be it productive or receptive - is also a factor.
Please give an example.
Joseph Beuys, who would have been 100 years old this year, conceived his art in this context; his "social sculpture" essentially also contains moments of healing, as can be seen, for example, in his reforestation of the city of Kassel with 7,000 oak trees, a city that was devastatingly destroyed in the Second World War and now has significantly more urban greenery again thanks to this project.
Will the pandemic in art be more conducive to innovation (perhaps even triggering it), for example completely new visual languages, or will it rather set development back (because people are currently longing for orientation and stability), for example through a return of the figurative?
The figurative has been present in art again for a long time, but you don't necessarily have to depict the "girl with the pearl earring" in a mask, as Banksy did. I don't think that art has been decisively set back by the pandemic. On the contrary, there is almost a bundle of crises that art can contribute to solving: Wars, overpopulation, climate change, etc.
In what way?
Well, a few days ago, for example, I received a volume from the Bauhaus University in Weimar that deals with the "design of the present". There are some innovative ideas in it, for example on the pulverisation of foodstuffs, which could then also serve as a means of payment in test tubes. And the idea of a post-growth society is taken further there from an artistic perspective. Such themes should definitely be the focus during the pandemic.
Do you see historical parallels in art history to the current situation?
Yes, certainly. When terrible plague outbreaks occurred in Europe in the mid-14th century, art moved towards new heights, keyword Renaissance. Hieronymus Bosch's dark visions and, a little later, Albrecht Dürer's "Apocalyptic Horsemen" were also created under the terrible effects of the pandemic, which raged into the 19th century, see, for example, Arnold Böcklin's work "The Plague". There are countless examples; the Spanish flu after the First World War also occurred at a time when art was flourishing, which often thrives under the most difficult circumstances. Art is the purest expert on crises.
What role does art education play at the moment?
I think art education has clearly established itself as an approach that is not just a service to art, and internationally too. This newer paradigm was essentially developed by our unit at the IKMV. Art education is not only aimed at children and young people, but at all people and other beings - definitely in the sense of an expanded concept of art. That is quite a relevant role.
Thank you very much!

Together with Prof. Dr. Rahel Puffert from the University of Fine Arts in Braunschweig, Prof. Dr. Pierangelo Maset was elected in January 2021 by the professional association "Bund Deutscher Kunsterzieher" (Association of German Art Educators) as the spokesperson for the Lower Saxony State Section for Art Education. This dual leadership makes it its task to highlight the importance of the subject of art - especially in times of the Corona crisis - to politics, the media and educational institutions and to advocate for the necessity of aesthetic-cultural education.