Niloo Sharifi

Artist. Recorded on 22 April 2020

I have always wondered if I would be good in a crisis. Would it be the fight or flight reflex that kicks in? Would I stand up and help those in need because I have the resilience and ability to do so?

Or would I be paralysed in that moment, unable to draw upon any internal reserve? Would I run?

Of course I am not referring to a crisis like Covid-19 in its entirety because no one person can solve this no matter how resilient. But rather, it was something Niloo said in her conversation that made me stop and think.

That in that moment of lockdown, when crisis hits and ‘normal’ aspects of life are suspended and identity is stripped away, nothing we do in that moment really matters. That in some ways our creative practice is redundant or even unnecessary.

 Of course it is not the case that creativity or creative practice doesn’t have a place in this time of crisis. Quite the opposite is true, with many people engaging with art to get them through on a da-to-day basis.

But rather, what Niloo is referring too is the fact that our immediate, knee-jerk reaction in that moment to push out content or plough on anyway is not what matters.

What matters is that we return to the very reason we started our practice or organisation in the first place, namely as a means of survival.

That aspect of survival was the driving force for our very existence and if it has truly been a guiding principle in all that we have done, as an artist or an organisation, then our journey would mean that at the point of crisis we would know exactly what to do.

We would have the resilience, the trust and relationships and the humanity to do the right thing.

It is not what we do in that very moment of crisis that really matters, but everything we have done before. If we have genuinely created, presented or facilitated arts and culture to support the survival of others, then the decision to be made in a crisis is simple, we continue to do that.

We continue to undertake our work for the benefit of individuals and communities, to support and enhance their lives in every and all circumstances.

Perhaps this is obvious to some and perhaps for others the fog has encroached over the years and we have drifted off course, forgetting our core purpose and the people we should be serving.

There is probably a moment needed for some to, without judgement, realign their thinking and get back on course. Equally I think there is a moment when we need to draw a line and agree that if organisations do not chart this course they have no place to continue to receive public funding.

We have all been given an opportunity by this crisis to hold up a mirror, accept the challenges and make the changes.

For anyone who does not do this they have fundamentally chosen to run from crisis and, in short, we need a sector comprised only of people and organisations who have fought, are fighting and will take up the fight for a better future for all.

Now there’s a thought.

Hannah Harris
Plymouth Culture