13 March 2020: I remember standing on a street corner in a neighbourhood of Zurich with Lukas Bärfuss. The day had started off bright and sunny, and we had spent it working out details of a new collaboration. When it was time for me to return home, he accompanied me to the tram stop to make sure I caught the correct connection. We then noticed a never-ending stream of people walking, all in the same down-hill direction, all heading home to begin lockdown.
The sky had turned grey and the birds were surprisingly loud — I realised it was because there were so many people on the street. Their heavy coats were soaking up sound, just as snow does, making the birdsong more resonant than usual. A tram passed, stuffed to the brim. It did not stop. No one got on or off. Lukas and I looked at one another, nonplussed—we had not yet heard the news. Another tram passed, once again, full of people, and it did not stop. “This feels like it might just be the apocalypse…or a revolution?” he whispered. I looked him in the eye and responded: “Either way, if it is, no matter which — we need to write and sing about it.”
What a year it has been. What loss, devastation, fear, anguish, pain, desperation, mourning. What wounds have been laid bare. And throughout it all, despite being pushed to the very margins of society, art has kept us company, warmed our hearts, and kept us connected to one another. Art remains as a way that we understand the world around us, our society, each other, and ourselves.
I have had the urge to stay creative, and with a cornucopia of amazing people, have worked hard to keep important conversations accessible. This has meant a lot of screen time which has meant that there is less time for a polished appearance, a finite interpretation, the perfectly-constructed sentence, the end game. And it occurred to me: this is a good thing!
What I love most about what I do is the process. The road to get there. Beautiful moments that are not and cannot be repeated in quite the same way.
This time away from the stage, audiences, and mainly, collaborators and friends has had me thinking and reassessing where it is that I stand. I see artists now, more than ever, as critical observers of our time. If we have something to say that is valuable and provides impact, then we should say it, act it, write it, play it, dance it, demonstrate it, teach it, direct it, sculpt it, paint it, podcast and perform it, share it and embrace it, give and receive it.
I have decided to begin a blog page in order to share that which I cannot share on stage right now; and, that which I would never be able to share on stage in the future due to its imperfection or its form — moments of art and music, things that inspire me, the people I have the privilege to connect with and create with. I’ll share it with you, to offer more than just the notes on the page, and instead, to show you that which happens in the space in between.
Whether the beginning of COVID-19 and the scene that Lukas and I saw on the street in Zurich a year ago was the beginning of an apocalypse or a revolution, really depends who you ask. Things have not been the same. The situation laid bare problems that are, amongst other things, transforming how art, in its many forms, is presented to the public. Newness breeds discovery, and I am excited to keep going. As serendipity would have it, I recounted the story today, exactly a year later, to none other than Lukas. We have begun again. A new thing. A new adventure. With no clear understanding of where it will go or what it will be. Why? Because we decided that just because no one can hear or see us live, doesn’t mean we can’t continue to create art. We can. And we will.