These are strange days, still.
The pandemic surrounds us, even though little visible (I don't see any sick people in my daily life), but its consequences permeate all layers of life like a heavy, oily rain that won't stop and won't stop.
At the same time the real rain is missing in nature and this spring is bright and beautiful, but very dry. In the neighbourhood we are thinking about how we can protect and support the flora and fauna of our immediate surroundings. The problems of climate change are emerging and flashing through the gruelling veils of the pandemic. It is uncomfortable in no man's land between the tides.
In the courtyard of my neighbourhood we still play music every evening except Sundays and holidays. It's become an institution. People stand at the windows and balconies, or in the park, at a distance - and yet they have shed much of their anonymity, as if it were a piece of clothing that one had consciously decided to wear beforehand.
Five weeks ago, there was nothing to suspect. That alone is an experience: how profoundly and close to the private sphere a rapid redefinition has begun! One cannot discuss with an earthquake, not even with the social and societal consequences of Covid19. Things simply happen that have to be accepted. Whether one suffers from them or not.
One of these things is that we are being driven (faster than it seemed before) out of reality and into the virtual worlds. Home office, video conferencing, e-learning, chat groups, etc.. Musicians and artists put their content online or produce it right there as streaming events, as virtually synchronized rehearsals or recordings. Restaurants and all kinds of shops join the already existing trend towards online trading with delivery service or postal delivery. Expensive rental space still causes costs, but no more income. For the time being, at least, nobody knows for sure what comes next.
In the forced enclosure we are confronted with ourselves. There is little space to avoid. Suddenly it is clear: social networks are no substitute for what is missing, neither are YouTube and Netflix. The family anyway, but also the immediate neighbourhood suddenly takes on a new urgency - in general the remaining interaction with real people.
In the virtual world we are not yet used to be ourselves, we have fun there, or get excited. We distract ourselves there, celebrate parallel existences as avatars in games or opinion bubbles - but we do not live there.
I don't think that this can continue. The space of the joint video conference, even if it is not actual, is still real. So is the place of e-learning. But we cannot simply transfer our real behaviour and expectations there. These places (real, but not actual) demand something new, a new social behaviour. A new code that has just begun to grow. I imagine this to be like the emergence of the cities in ancient times. "City" is very different from "village" - and the "virtual place of living" is something different again.
I would like to build on such a place in my artistic virtual world. I would like to try to create it and make it available as a host for myself and others. For my neighbourhood in the Covid19 crisis. Even if I could only realize a hunch of it, I would be curious about it.
That is what my Visegrad4 project is transforming into, at least for the moment. I cannot travel to Bratislava, or to Poland. But I can (and "must" as an artist) take this historical moment, which connects and changes the world of people, as my motif.
Stefan Budian, Mainz on April 30, 2020