Lonely artists find virtual togetherness

Alvhin Adendorff

There is a ghost in one of the isolation cells of Number Four Prison at Constitutional Hill museum.

Or, at least, this is what the tour guides say. 

But a few metres away from the isolation cells, an exhibition of prisoner art is on display. Tightly rolled blankets shaped into vehicles and wild animals are displayed alongside crafted soap statues. 

Amidst the fear, sadness and despair, the prisoners turned to imagination and creativity as a mental escape.

The pandemic has given us all a taste of what isolation from human contact can do to our emotional wellbeing. 

Many have turned to art for relief, whether that involves binge watching TV series or enjoying live streams of music.

But what about the artists themselves? 

Most musicians will attest to finding inspiration from aspects of everyday life and their interactions with the world. 

So, what has happened to that creative process now that lockdowns have robbed us of the outside world?

Online platforms like Discord and Twitch have seen a remarkable increase in users. Musicians from around the globe have flooded to these platforms in search of alternative sources of community and creative inspiration.

Members are able to chat about a variety of subjects and share thoughts, videos, memes and creative tips with one another.

Mainstream artists are also members of these communities, communicating at length with fans and fellow artists. They share ideas, show their creative processes, and even create music with other members. 

Chicago-based hip-hop collective Pivot Gang takes a different approach to dealing with isolation. The members have weekly video sessions where they invite other artists to call in on joint creative sessions. The intent behind these sessions is not necessarily to produce music for release, but to ensure that they stay creative.

There is a perception of the musician as a lone nerd sitting in a studio tinkering away for hours to get a sound right. While there is truth to this, what Covid-19 has shown is how essential a sense of community can be for the creative process.

Without that community in the outside world, artists have gathered in the virtual world. 

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