As we head into week three of lockdown, at the same time Taos Pueblo observes their annual “quiet time,” I continue to take my early morning walks, which eventually lead me to a clearing where I have an unobstructed view of the mountain.
It is my habit to give thanks at that moment, for the blessing of having arrived here once more. This attitude of gratitude carries through the remainder of my day, and these days, more profoundly than ever before.
Lately, I’ve noticed something else during these walks at daybreak; the Earth itself seems quiet as if she has sunk deeply into a calm repose. In the Jewish tradition, the sabbath that precedes Passover is known as the Great Shabbat – a time outside of time, where we can all find that sense of deep comfort and repose before we observe the remembrance of the Angel of Death passing over and the 10 plagues which stopped Egypt in its tracks while the followers of Moses accomplished the first successful democratic uprising in Western history.
With Easter and Passover upon us, it occurred to me, as I walked home, that while this coronavirus has literally stopped us all in our tracks, it has also offered us a unique opportunity – we have an unprecedented moment in which to turn this ship around.
Scientists tell us that the “quieter” Earth during self-quarantine has reduced ambient seismic noise. Human activity generates vibrations that distort measurements from finely tuned seismic instruments. In Belgium, scientists report a 30 percent reduction in the amount of ambient human noise since the COVID-19 lockdown began there. The resulting quiet means surface seismic readings are as clear as the ones scientists usually get from the same instruments buried 100 meters beneath the Earth’s surface, making measurements more specific and easier to use and understand.
Seismology isn’t the only scientific field experiencing a temporary sea change due to COVID-19 – climate and weather science are experiencing fluke readings, too. Much has been made of how China’s amount of pollution has fallen during the lockdown, while Los Angeles reports less smog.
The cost of human life is clearly worth far more than scientific data, and the sooner this global self-quarantine safely ends, the better, but in this relative stillness, all manner of new discoveries are bound to be made, in the arts as well as in the sciences.
As an art colony, Taos’ economy is driven not only by our gorgeous backyard that attracts thousands of tourists year-round but also by our museums and galleries that show the work of Taos artists, past and present. Closed to the public, many are going digital to find their footing in this brave new world.
Art Basel Hong Kong, Asia’s biggest contemporary art fair, was canceled, but anyone who had planned to visit last week could enjoy an experimental alternative: the viewing room. At the click of a keyboard, you could enter a panoramic but private visual salon, without having to venture into the airless Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Many museums are livestreaming and galleries are taking to Instagram like never before. The cost of city living was already driving artists out of the cities and now that commerce reinvents itself in an online model, many more will move to places like Taos.
Other artists may change the kind of work they do. Perhaps they will draw more and we will see a return to more classic forms in both painting and sculpture. One thing is for certain, the landscape of art will be completely transformed once we emerge from this period of quarantine.
Three months into my position as editor of Tempo, I find myself here, and thankfully I’m no stranger to the web and plan to include more online content, especially since COVID-19 has shrunk the print edition of the magazine.
No calendar means no advertisers, which in turn leads to less content, but online there’s plenty of room to move and here at Tempo, we plan to keep moving in tune with the changing times.
But just because we are web savvy, doesn’t mean everyone out there who reads the paper knows how to get around online. With that in mind, we’ll be including a few simple tutorials on our site next week, to assist the tech-impaired to download Zoom, get into chat rooms and visit your favorite museums and galleries without leaving the comfort (and safety) of your homes.
And for those of you who already surf the web like pros, we’ll be uploading interesting articles to our site besides what you’ll find between our pages every Thursday.
We’ve partnered with Twirl for the duration of the school year to provide information for parents finding themselves at home with their kids. We’ll continue to bring you news about the creative community we live in, the people who make the art, write the books and, thanks to the ongoing photo series by Zoe Zimmerman, the people on the front lines – chopping your wood and delivering your Amazon orders to your doorstep.
And let’s not forget our dedicated health care workers and first responders, as author Allegra Huston eloquently reminds us. Clap your hands, for them, for their tireless dedication and service, for saving lives. They are truly the heroes and heroines in this battle.
Stay with us for news you can use. Be safe, be well and help your neighbors. We are all in this together.
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