The Uncertainty of an artist - in the Covid world

Months go by and we all begin, regardless of our professions, to see the impact of the Covid on them. What it will change for a totally indefinite period of time.

As an artist (and a freelancer too), I’m used to living a life full of uncertainties, changes and false hopes. As artists and freelancers, we don’t always know what our tomorrows will be made of, even though fortunately, we sometimes know for sure that certain projects will see the light of day.
But the Covid has turned everything upside down,
it has destabilized us even more.
It has brought us even more anxiety and doubts.

Every monday I take some hours to look at the new open calls.
And I’ve been seeing changes for several weeks now.
The first is the incredible number of open calls for online exhibitions.
So maybe I’ll change my mind in the future, but for the moment I’m not interested in online exhibitions.
First of all because it will never replace the pleasure of physically seeing works in the smallest details. Besides, for some of these open calls, you have to pay a registration fee, isn’t it shameful ?
I also think that, as artists, we are looking for visibility and feedback. I love being able to talk to people who come to see my exhibitions, to hear how they perceive my work, to see if it resonates (or not) with them…and at the moment I don’t think that online exhibitions can provide that. People can of course contact us after viewing, but the exchanges will be quite different.
We can definitely see that art is based on social interactions: if these take on different forms or worse, if they can no longer exist, then artists find themselves in very anxious situations. Even if our work depends above all on our own eyes, it also depends on others eyes.
That’s how we move forward.
I know, I’m certainly asking too much at the moment and I understand very well the reasons for making online exhibitions, especially that of continuing to promote art and artists as long as we can’t safely redo physical exhibitions.
But for now…I prefer to wait, send submissions for physical exhibitions and hope that it will go back to normal soon.

The second change deals with the themes of many open calls.
I’ve realised for some years now that the themes I work on are not especially in demand. They are not the most recurrent themes, the most retained.
A few years ago I saw a lot of open calls about the migrant crisis, then more recently it was the turn of global warming and now…I see a lot of open calls about the themes of “isolation during the lockdown”, “living in the covid world”, “waking up in a new world” etc etc.
I understand that these open calls exist: this crisis has inspired many of us and art must not ignore what has just happened, just as it must not ignore the other crises I have mentioned above, but on the other hand, we must not limit oneself to it either.
Other subjects exist and must be talked about.

I’m currently exhibiting one of my photographs at the Rugby Art Gallery and Museum (as part of the exhibition “False Memory”). Due to the situation, this exhibition has been postponed for several months (it started in august instead of march), I was also supposed to exhibit in a contemporary art fair in Lille (France) last march but this exhibition has been postponed to next year.
I’m lucky because at the moment it’s only projects that have been postponed and not cancelled.
But I still have this fear in the back of my mind.
Indeed, now when I send submissions to open calls, a part of me always thinks “even if I’m selected, will the exhibition take place?” By the way, one of my series has just been selected for a screening and I keep my fingers crossed, hoping that it will go ahead.
For non-artists, this may seem futile. But an exhibition, a screening when you’re an artist is crucial in your career. It’s knowing that the work you’ve been working on for a long time, is going to be shown. And that means gaining visibility, returns and sometimes money.
With the financial crisis caused by the covid, the art sector has lost a lot of money and exhibitions may become increasingly scarce. It’s therefore necessary to consider now that there will be even more competition than before.
Besides, one can easily think that with such a major crisis, investing in artists and buying their works will probably be even more difficult…
Similarly, I know that as a freelance photographer, I might have fewer commissions than before, especially portrait commissions for private individuals. Since a lot of people have lost money, jobs and priorities have probably unfortunately changed.
These are the first uncertainties we face as an artist.

In this article, I explained how the lockdown helped me to continue my series. It had plunged me into a state comparable to the state one can feel during an artist’s residency: by being a little cut off from the world, I’d been able to refocus on my work. And therefore I have to admit that coming out of the lockdown was a little disturbing for my personal work because I felt that having “regained freedom” had negatively impacted my creativity.
In fact, I was running out of ideas. Fortunately, in the last few weeks, ideas came back but it has been really weird and upsetting to live this change.

I don’t really know how to conclude this article because it seems to me that the uncertainties will perhaps multiply in the coming months. Usually I like to conclude on a positive note and I would like to do so again in this article.
But the truth is that, like everyone else, I don’t know what lies ahead.
In fact, I think that it will take time for us to get up and get better.
So we have to be patient, which is not an ideal thing when you’re an artist.
But patience is also synonymous with something temporary, don’t forget that.