A trip to quarantine Friday, April 17, 2020

Here in Germany they are now saying that the worst of the Covid19 pandemic is probably over. The rate of spread of the virus has fallen and is now such that the bottom line is that there are fewer acute cases every day. Right here, right now.

At the same time, the descriptions of conditions in the world in the news are full of superlatives and war metaphors. An old order seems to be coming to an end. This feeling had already become tangible after the financial crisis 10 years ago. Step by step it became clearer, with the many unimagined things that have happened since then. Who and what does the European Union want to be? Which rules should apply to the globalising world and who decides?

Twenty years ago, the beacon of the collapsing towers of the Word-Trade-Center was like the first sharp crack in the fragile skin of the old millennium. And now it feels as if the triad of destruction and change is now complete. The new millennium appears and the world cries out in the squeezing pains of a laborious birth. Where will this lead to? I don't know and I don't want to write about it now - but I want to tell about the journey of this moment. Because this presence, let's call it "quarantine", feels strange, like a foreign culture after a long journey.

Nothing is decided yet, neither in Germany nor on the globe. But the past has already become history, too far away to be continued directly. A month ago... we were living in a different era. Since then, with a peculiar leisureliness and here in Germany almost without aggression, a new epoch is breaking through into reality.

But this new epoch still has no property rights, no power of definition over the world. Not yet. At the moment there is an unobtrusive anarchy, at least here in the magic mountain of our neighbourhood. A perplexity, but not despair. A resolute arming of self with an open visor. We prepare ourselves for the new epoch and know that we will probably soon be swamped and torn away by it.

Our dreams and life plans will undergo a sharp revision and we do not know whether we will be able to preserve any of it. Perhaps we, or many of us, will soon be far too busy with a new life struggle. Too much involved to be able to take a look at the big picture.

But now ... not yet. Now the tide of the old times has receded and we look out for a long moment of low tide at the strangely foreign and familiar plain between the tides.

It is a pause. A deceleration. A few days ago I saw a deer grazing on the highway. Peaceful. I've never seen it like this before, it's an astonishing sight. The media reported that dolphins had been seen in the canals of Venice. The birds are loud and the bees. Louder than the cars and the air traffic, here in the neighbourhood, under the approach path of one of the big world airports (Frankfurt Airport).

The loudest are the children - and the music we make together every evening in the courtyard. I wonder if it's like that everywhere? I don't know, at first I thought so. You don't get to know much from outside the direct neighbourhood. Sometimes, while shopping a little. On the phone with relatives and friends. In the media, with their strange, exaggerated bluster, trying to turn banalities into good-humoured sensations - and not getting hold of the actual sensation. Despite good will. Or yet: when the newscaster* suddenly mentions her own children in a subordinate clause. Or when the weather forecaster in the home office is cuddling her dog in front of the green screen in her garden or living room.

The common professional place shifts into the virtual, very fast and probably irreversible. This is actually one of my themes, one of the things I have been observing for a long time. But not now. Now I see - stunned, again - how the private people around me appear, exposed like flotsam and jetsam at low tide. But precious - and finding each other precious too. It is a moment that will not survive the coming tide - but the shared memory of this moment will. A little garden of paradise, where we are now, but of which something will remain, like a picture of the hiding place from childhood. There, where we will have been ourselves together.

Because of all this I want to integrate this moment into the virtual landscape of my art. To record. Somehow I am always concerned with preserving what is important ... or showing it. Many of these important things are very clearly visible right now. Surrounded by massive and all-encompassing threats, of which we should also speak - but not here and now.

Stefan Budian, in Mainz, on the 18th April 2020

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Stefan Budian