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The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic is undoubtedly a historical event – unprecedented on such a large scale in the modern world. It is not even about the disease itself, which is a real threat to people with reduced immunity for various reasons, a huge challenge for medical infrastructure and a test for the responsibility of national governments and their citizens.

The economy has come to a halt. World’s stock markets recorded such a huge drop that it surpassed even the famous drop in the days before the economic crisis in 2008 (which completely transformed the global balance of market forces, in turn giving developmental kick to accelerating China’s economy). The recommendation to be in a home quarantine is not something that – despite the pitiful cries of some – hurts large companies, but above all the “ordinary” people who do not have financial security. Those working on the so called junk’ contracts, the freelancers, the entire culture and education sector, the seasonal workers, the huge number of people who rent flats and live from pay to pay, the small entrepreneurs, the one-man companies, etc. What’s more, those who have to work are at risk: because of the stupidity of their bosses, the lack of appropriate rules, the lack of protection when it comes to hygiene.

How are the poorest to find themselves in this situation? What if the prices of basic products increase – chased by large capital of food companies that cry when are even slightly cut? Will a state that is able to declare aid to large entities also will take care of individuals? Can the balloon of the currency economy withstand the pressure of hot air from a rapidly spreading disease?

One can feel the atmosphere of a changing world in all this. Regardless of whether the world will manage to reduce the effects of the virus relatively quickly and one will be able to return to a fairly normal life, or whether the problem will last much longer than we all anticipate, the world will look different when the pandemic ends.

Coronavirus and the Climate

As the experience of the previous economic crisis shows, the temporary suspension of production and closing of factories causes a real decrease in greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere. Although China – dealing better and better with the epidemic – is slowly resuming production, the effects of the economic slowdown may last months or even years. Perhaps there will be a yo-yo effect and a need for consumption that will start to frustrate Europe will make the market move with doubled strength (or perhaps countries experiencing communication stagnation will return to the formula of claustrophobic national production?).

Either way, the situation may take a long time, and the moment of respite that the climate unexpectedly received may – if turned to good account by the authorities – be a valuable shift of the climate catastrophe deadline for later, giving the world the much needed time to develop green energy.

The Digital Life

Withdrawing people to their houses leads to the fact that public life, willing or not, moves to the virtual world. Education and culture are in a critical situation. Questions arise – will this sector shift to the Internet (which will undoubtedly continue if the pandemic lasts longer) entail the collapse and closure of the cultural institutions? How are the artists to cope (I would like to point out: those young, developing people, not the stars who have something to live for anyway) whose activities have suddenly lost demand?

Another thing is that the current situation raises half-buried doubt: why should we pay for online piece of art if so many works are available for free? How to recognize this “valuable art” at all? How to support those artists who really need our help? Moreover, many institutions provide art in this situation for free. How do you get people to support you when most of them are in crisis?

What would happen if the transfer of the sector to the Internet turned out to be permanent? Thousands of cultural workers would have to make some sort of re-arrangement, hopping into the same bag that holds both patostreamers[1], all kinds of coaches, and the colorful world of conspiracy theorists – and, in addition, culture would have to find a key that could break through this cauldron of curiosities.

The image is exceptionally wide and everyone whose life has turned upside down deserves its place in this text. Although I would like to devote some space to everyone, the cinema is closest to my heart[2]. Multiplexes will record a huge drop in revenues and this year’s festival season is in question. Cinema distribution has lost its meaning – the only solution remains in the online offer. Small cinemas, however, face the biggest challenge. Where should they earn their income from? Is there any way to transfer those cinemas to the comfort of our homes?

We Are Living in Slow Cinema

We have more questions than answers. Quite suddenly we found ourselves in a world where general uncertainty can be felt tangibly[3]. All of a sudden we have to face a life that has slowed down dramatically. This experience is surprisingly similar to slow cinema, to neomodernism.

We live in the atmosphere of constant anxiety, in isolation. We are being pushed to a financial margin. We are feeling the crisis coming, but all we can do is to wait. The feeling of being in a herd, in a group, changes. At the same time, we found ourselves further apart, but we have communication tools (can we still use them?) that allow us to be close to each other. Do we still remember how to function in small social cells, in small spaces? Will we be able to give up the transformed, always rushing world for this short moment – in the scale of our lives?

So either we will slow down, allowing ourselves to be hypnotized by the world as if it was frozen in some sort of inertness, or we will go crazy, forced to dance the Satan’s tango.

[1] Streaming extreme, brutal content, often illegal.

[2] Apart from streaming platforms for which the virus is like a vein of gold – they are functioning in the virtual world anyway.

[3] Economic crises, wars in the Middle East, and the real threat of a climate catastrophe have not had such a global effect. Only the threat of a sudden illness combined with anxiety caused by the lack of the basic gains of capitalism – toilet paper, hygiene products, in a word: indicators of prosperity.

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Mateusz Tarwacki

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Laura Przybylska
Laura Przybylska