"I am mourning the moment." - Gregory Maqoma
I have been hesitant to write about mourning, but little by little I am hearing and seeing more people that are eventually coming to a place of acknowledging internal mourning. As an empath I am feeling those around me who are silenced on this matter. Sitting in on some Great Conversations (on-line) these last few weeks I have experienced The Great Ones amongst the creative community who have said outright that "these times are asking us to be more human than virtual", that it is necessary that we "feel the pain to gain knowledge" and that we need to "respond with honesty." Speaking of honesty from a creative's viewpoint there is little to top the article written by artist and theatre maker Nicholas Berger as he questions the positioning of being an artist during the COVID-19 pandemic. Not surprisingly the most quoted passage from this article reads:
"We must lean into this pain. We must feel the grief. We must mourn. Mourn the loss of work, the loss of jobs, the loss of money, the loss of life. Mourn the temporary loss of an art form that demands assembly. Lean into the grief. Lean in. Lean in. Lean in. We must remind ourselves that mourning is a human act, not a digital one. It is only in this acknowledgment that we will survive. The internet isn’t going to save us, we are."
As a previous ICU nurse, mourning it embedded in me. I have cared for a countless number of people as they approached death, moving with them into the finality of the physical letting go, both slowly and abruptly. I understand what mourning is, for what it is. But what exactly is mourning to a creative ..? Is it, as Berger suggests, a stepping back from creating asking "whether we are really making this art for a terrified audience living under circumstances not seen in modern history, or simply for ourselves. Simply to remind ourselves, or prove to ourselves, that we are still artists, that even in a pandemic we can still create, that our art is needed, and that things are still normal." I would like to believe that Berger is only referring to theatre and the assembly of gathering (community), and not creating per se.
I have continued creating, even collaborating. There are times, to be honest, that I wonder what difference my current collaboration with composer Franco Prinsloo #music_for_isolated_musicians offers at this time, other than drawing isolated musicians/ creatives together? Is it enough? Is it respectful to this time filled with anxiety, illness and incredible loss of life? Is it relevant? But then I revert back to what it feels like as a nurse when you have lost a patient that you have journeyed with . . . the mourning, the silent mourning, where you remove the nightgown from the body you have cared-for, fed, washed, comforted and held. You grieve, you mourn, and as you turn away from them your presence almost immediately becomes the holding space for the next patient, because life must got on.
You never forget, logging this person into your heart and body. Decades on, and the recall of every individual remains clearly etched into your soul.
I firmly believe that artists need to respond to this time in a sensitive and relevant way as artists are the holding spaces of culture.
What art are you making ..?