Explanation about changed researched methodology in 2020 and 2021
The basic principle of participant observation – and of anthropological research in general – is “being there”. In purely human terms, this is an obvious necessity, but during the Covid-19 crisis it was impossible to meet and talk with project partners in the same room due to anti-epidemic measures and restrictions. Methodologically, the researchers still tried to be “there” in other ways, for example, with the help of a digital camera and sound and images via contemporary means of information and communication technologies, e.g. by using Zoom, Skype, Teams and other telecommunication tools. From Spring 2020 to Autumn 2021 the research team relied on “remote ethnography”, as we named the approach, to stay in touch with people from the network and in order to study impact the artists tried to make by using the digital tools themselves.
Serbia, Belgrade, United Artist Labour, December 2020, facilitator: Dr Dan Podjed
The online session, supplemented with pre- and post-session email interactions, took place with three representatives of the institution and two representatives of an associate partner. The debate started in a positive mood; the participants stated that the crisis was an opportunity for them to renew their collaboration within their team and with other art institutions. The main theme that emerged during this discussion was a “stalemate” that brought the global flows of people, ideas and capital to a standstill. According to participants of the meeting, even before the crisis art institutions needed new and sustainable solutions that could make a qualitative difference in making art productions in local and global communities – and the Covid-19 situation provided an opportunity to change approaches in making such impact. A curator and head of art gallery who lives in Innsbruck added that making a long-lasting impact on visitors via Instagram and other social media can be problematic, as audiences are not used to longer posts that would provide more details about a particular artwork. On the other hand, however, social media opened up new venues for people and enabled artists to reach a much broader audience, which at the same time can be more locally oriented.
Serbia, Belgrade, Santarcangelo, December 2020, facilitator: Dr Dan Podjed
The two-hour online session, which was again supplemented with online and email correspondence, took place in December 2020 with representatives of Santarcangelo dei Teatri, an Italian institution that organizes the oldest festival of contemporary performing arts in Italy and one of the most important in the European context for theatre and dance. However, for obvious reasons the 2020 summer edition of the festival was not held in physical reality and the winter edition was held in a hybrid way, i.e. online and offline. This was also the main topic of the group discussion with six representatives of the institution, who were stuck in a “strange void”, as one of them said. They explained that the good thing during the crisis was that they were artists, used to improvise on and off the stage, and it was easier for them to quickly reframe the festival. “It was also an opportunity for us to reshape the festival from within, without the people who usually come from abroad. /…/ It was an amazing experience, something unforgettable for us and even for the citizens,” explained one of the organizers, adding that the summer edition of the festival was actually chance to reboot, reset and restart the event.
UK, London, Artsadmin, July 2021, facilitator: Dr Dan Podjed
In July 2021, when the Covid-19 measures were still in action and the research team was unable to travel abroad, a similar meeting was held with two representatives of Artsadmin, an arts institution based in the United Kingdom. They focused more on the administrative aspects of art production and outlined among other things how the British government took care of artists, for example through the so-called Furlough Scheme. An important issue raised in the debate was the size of the organizations that survived the crisis. As one Artsadmin representative explained, their organization appeared to be of a reasonable size. Some smaller organizations had great difficulty surviving, as did the larger organizations with infrastructure to pay for and higher overhead costs. As discussed with Artsadmin representatives, several institutions had to discontinue their activities even though their art programme would be above average due to insufficient funding.