When time would have pushed the pandemic far enough into the past and when its recollection will bring up no new instances of discomfort from personal history or loss, we would have finally gone on to the other side of the pandemic. Art galleries and museums will have to organise, curate and present this history of ours to ourselves and those who will come after us. Should it be about blissful families living the lockdown in togetherness having stocked plenty of all that they need? Or of people stress-baking through the lockdown and busy photographing their banal discoveries and unremarkable achievements that arise from living a blinkered life. And, should we be keeping some space for our second hand vocalisations of distress and tragedy that struck the weak and the poor among us? We will have to decide if we dedicate a hall of fame to businesses who used their power to snatch away last of the basic rights of workers – a right to go home to their families. Surely, we can have an annex space for a special show on leaders of the world and their delusions.
I am imagining a walk through such a museum. I am standing in front of these photographs and sitting on that usual soft bench in the middle of the hall watching a looped collection of instagram videos of people showing their lockdown lives and creations. What will this curation convey? What, as a fifty year old man will I see in these pictures of us as a collective, as a society? On another morning I will join a group of high school students who will not know what this pandemic thing is all about. They were born after it. They have these galleries to walk through and make their own impressions. How might they understand those endless rows of photographs of exquisitely laid out food and gushing faces with another wall full of people walking absolutely dead highways with their shoulders carrying what they own and whom they love. Will we have those photographs of able-bodied and strong willed men breaking down when they were served food for the first time in four days? I am lining up my explanation of these two walls of the gallery, of how they were all pictures from the same country, same group of people. I am thinking of explanations for stocks of food, shelter and this country’s extensive transport that could not be made available to them. I will also have to make a special mention of how this country’s brilliant, dedicated and committed teachers thought nothing of helping with lessons only those children who had an ipad or a laptop or a smart phone with a broadband connection and a room to themselves. In pandemic, education for children was truly a gift.
I will have to, by then, find the opportunity to rewrite school textbooks on sociology, political science, literature and similar subjects. Perhaps rewrite science books too. All that rewriting will be required to help them get a fairer understanding of how our world actually works. We must prevent them from internalising the ideal versions, and waste time on similar needless ideas, like we did. I must get to those books before they read that liberty, equality and fraternity are our core values.