The photo has the makings of a symbolic image of the corona crisis in culture. The view falls into the parquet, the red-covered seating with folding seats immediately reveals a theater. But the chairs in the berlin ensemble stand strangely alone on the wooden floor.
Only grids of air shafts are visible, where otherwise more chairs are to be found. The theater has had rows of chairs removed, which were not allowed to be used during virus-related intervals. More publicity is not possible.
Many things are like new after the corona break: going to the movies for the first time again, rediscovering your favorite museum. After an unprecedented collapse, corona now offers the international cultural scene the opportunity for rediscovery and a new beginning. Germany is comparatively far along, but the conditions for artists, providers and culture seekers have changed dramatically.
Instead of a spontaneous visit to the museum, a time slot ticket must now usually be booked online. In the cinema, it’s like in the theater: many seats have to be left empty to ensure distances and hygienic conditions. For private institutions without grants, this means a loss of revenue that can quickly threaten their existence.
Some things remain unimaginable. Close together at the concert? A night of dancing in a club full of people? Without vaccines or drugs, the future is still up in the air. "We were the first to close, and we’ll probably be the last to open again," pamela schobeb predicted at the beginning of the crisis. The head of the "gretchen", a well known club in berlin, immediately follows up with the question "if we will all still exist when we are allowed to open again".
At first glance, rather large sums of money are to be used to prevent small clubs and large theaters, private promoters and state institutions from drowning in the crisis. But the sums seem modest compared to other revenues: in 2018, the cultural and creative industries generated almost 260 million euros in revenues.000 companies and 1.7 million employees nearly 170 billion euros.
After some hesitation, the federal government has launched a billion-euro program just for culture. 250 million euros are available, for example, for hygiene concepts, online ticketing systems or ventilation systems. Up to 480 million euros are to be used to get cultural workers out of short-time work; instead, artistic activities are to be financed. 150 million euros available for digital services. Another 100 million for corona-related revenue shortfalls.
Many countries also have programs that attract millions of people. This ranges from support for analog events in baden-wurttemberg to grants for freelance artists in thuringia or a special program for non-profit cultural institutions in lower saxony to aid packages in hamburg, berlin or bavaria. Apart from concrete help in some countries, solo artists are among the big corona losers. Federal aid largely bypasses them.
"The longer the return to normality takes, the more dramatic the situation becomes for artists," says state minister of culture monika grutters. "Corona has shown how crisis-prone its model of life is." There must be new thinking. "Artists must be able to make a living from their work."
But one consequence of the crisis is also "a new appreciation for culture". "We all feel how much quality of life is lost to us without culture, how much we need art, music and poetry, also to get answers to the dying questions of existence," says the CDU politician. "We need museums, theaters and concert halls not only as cultural venues, but also as social places where we can meet and exchange ideas with other people." It is about systemic relevance. "Culture is fundamental to our democracy."
Many institutions have expanded their online presence as a result of the virus. "The museums have maintained contact with the public with online offers or via social media," said david vuillaume, managing director of the museum association. "This showed a flexibility and agility that many in the cultural field had not expected."Now it must be worked more systematically on infrastructures and competence in the online area. "We must learn from this crisis."
However, a look at the net cannot replace a visit to the arts. "A visit to a museum remains a physical experience, just like a visit to the theater or a concert," says vuillaume. What pleases him: "german museums were the first to be allowed to open again. The museums are in a position to provide a very high level of security."Moreover, what society experiences is already being collected for the future. "It is also about intangible cultural heritage, not only about objects, but about stories, feelings, experiences. Through corona, the collections deal very systematically with this subject."
From the point of view of the video and concept artist hito steyerl, who for years has been one of the most internationally influential players in the scene, the corona crisis has shown that "the live area puts people’s lives in danger. Not only in terms of infection risk, but also in terms of material living and survival conditions". She hopes that event and spectacle culture, which is aimed at profit, will also be pushed back in the long term.
"The challenge is to communicate and produce at a distance," says steyerl. "A virtual public worthy of its name is vital, even beyond the pandemic."The conditions of social distancing are a test run "for an era of sustainability, in which abundant transportation should be replaced by remote communication".
The president of the academy of the arts, jeanine meerapfel, also sees developments. "Artists are currently working through the special experiences of this time in their works ? The experience of isolation, of deceleration, the experience of being part of an international community that is at once separated and held together by a virus."Uncertainty remains. "The self-complacency with which we have always moved in the past will no longer exist."
In the film sector, corona caused the interruption of entire productions, and many things were postponed until next year. "Filming is slowly starting up again," reports kirsten niehuus, managing director of the state film agency medienboard berlin-brandenburg. Sophisticated hygiene concepts or different crews in different shifts should prevent another complete standstill. "The demand is huge, everyone is waiting for supplies," says niehuus. Digitalization in production will help. "I believe the industry will change."