I am writing from self-isolation in my apartment, listening solely to the occasional chitchat of birds that softly pierces the almost continuous silence: such is the new soundtrack of life in the city. Like them, I am slowly adjusting to a reality that was unthinkable a few weeks ago.
By then I was in Sydney, rushing through the traffic in busy streets to attend the multivenue preview of NIRIN, the 22nd edition of the Biennale of Sydney, which was promptly closed ten days after opening to the public on 14 March as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Given the circumstances, more than ever before I feel privileged to have attended the preview and to be part of the exceptional gathering of artists and thinkers assembled by NIRIN. Hence, the enforcement of self-isolation for travellers seemed a fair price to pay despite adding extra time to the New Zealand government four-week lockdown that is still keeping me at home.
If anything, self-isolation forces us to slow down, offering a longer timespan for reflection.
I wonder whether this was the kind of pause that scientists, artists and philosophers alike were envisioning as a possible remedy to the environmental devastation of our suffering planet. The truth is that before this hit us, we knew too well that the incessant craving for productivity imposed by the global economy’s unremitting greed was to blame for the extinction of many species and the alarming pollution levels. And of course, the comparisons that arise with other historical pandemics don’t measure up to this one: thanks to our globe trotters’ compulsion this pandemic has reached a mind-blowing amount of people in a very short time.
So, as we pause, nature starts restoring and taking over while the target of extinction shifts to us humans. Could we read the pandemic as a balancing act that unquestionably interrupts our highly toxic habits with more efficiency than any theory? What do you need now, when consumerism is no longer an option? Franco Bifo Berardi states: Now, in the immediate now, we need a vaccine against the malady, we need protective masks, and we need intensive care equipment. And in the long run, we need food, we need affection and pleasure. And a new culture of tenderness, solidarity, and frugality.