Lessons from Covid-19 – making art digitally accessible (3)

Based on the experiences of the first lockdown, the subsequent (partial) reopening and the last days in the near-lockdown, clear recommendations can be formulated for the stakeholders of the arts. It is important to take the crisis seriously. Financially stable institutions should do something for their audiences and for those arts professionals who have lost their sources of income in the arts and in non-arts side jobs. This also benefits them, because the health crisis is a chance to gain sympathy. Our recommendations are:

For opera houses, theatres and concert halls

  • Open your digital archives to the public as a consolation for the lonely days of home office, quarantine and isolation. The Vienna Opera has already done it!
  • Stream performances or even rehearsals into people’s homes so that audiences don’t forget you and can enjoy sophisticated entertainment.

Beyond that, continue playing is still an option where it is safely possible and allowed. Fifty spectators are more than zero. The Schauspielhaus Zurich demonstrates this. Continuing to play is a sign of not giving up – and not a sign of protest – just as the symbolic act of pushing a tram once saved democracy in Vienna.

For museums and exhibition venues

  • Expand your online access offer and add synchronous events. What seemed to be too much of an event circus for some in recent years, we are now missing. It’s time to get into the home delivery business like the Ars Electronica Center Linz.
  • Offer the possibility of organising virtual workshops, just as in “normal” times many museums (e.g. the ZPK in Bern) offer on-site workshops for team building or the development of creative content.

For artists

Bring joy into the lives of audiences cut off from you, and bring joy to yourself by occasionally streaming performances or presentations of your work via digital social media or other channels.

For lecturers, researchers, mediators, curators and experimental artists

  • Take the opportunity to share your knowledge with an international audience through online courses – even more so if you already have a digital social media network through which you can promote your courses efficiently and effectively.
  • Use the opportunity of online collaboration to break out of the corsets of schedules and travel. Some projects only came about in the spring because you could arrange to meet online at unusual times.
  • Invent – together with engineers – new formats of performing and exhibiting art that use the internet as a channel and better exploit the huge potential of digital technologies.

In addition, there are many exciting possibilities to play with the limitations and artificial intelligence of presence technologies (video conferencing, collaboration tools, etc.), to experiment and create new aesthetic experiences from them.

For art schools and research centres

  • Offer international colloquia with speakers and audiences from all over the world to enable your students and lecturers to engage in international exchange.
  • Strengthen your international network. Make the internet your village and collaborate with the most exciting people in the world in both online teaching and artistic research.

Already in early summer, art colleges have also shown that the limitations offer new formats for exams and other tasks for students. Those who have to present digitally in virtual space come up with different ideas and break out of conventions more easily.

For technical colleges

Help reinvent stages and exhibition spaces virtually. Use the cooperation with artists to show your skills to a broad audience. In this way, you can attract more attention and inspire young people to study computer science.

The opportunity of the new context

The president of the Swiss Science Council, Prof. Gerd Folkers, once said in an interview that he sometimes had the feeling that it was not we who were standing on the shoulders of giants, but giants standing on our shoulders. In art, this is often demonstrated by imitating the ideas of great artists of the past without young art students being aware of it. In the digital context, it is nevertheless very easy to turn it into something originally new, because it has hardly been used for art-making so far. William Forsythe created a performance installation on human rights for the Schiffbau in Zurich in 2005, which was based on restrictions on writing. We should recognise a similar setting in the daily and often tedious video conferences – not least to reflect on what the purpose of our performance is beyond good storytelling.

The Series

Part 1 “The Digital Arts” was published on 23 October. Part 2 “How theatre reaches its audience digitally” was published on 30 October.


Special thanks go to the colleagues at the BUA with whom the author has already been able to carry out exciting projects or have interesting discussions, especially the head of BUA research, Thomas Gartmann, and the head of the Music Mediation Cluster at the BFH Centre Arts in Contexts, Barbara Balba Weber.

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AUTHOR: Reinhard Riedl

Prof. Dr Reinhard Riedl is a lecturer at the Institute of Digital Technology Management at BFH Wirtschaft. He is involved in many organisations and is, among other things, Vice-President of the Swiss E-Government Symposium and a member of the steering committee of TA-Swiss. He is also a board member of eJustice.ch, Praevenire - Verein zur Optimierung der solidarischen Gesundheitsversorgung (Austria) and All-acad.com, among others.

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