With its social distancing measures, the COVID-19 pandemic is destroying public space as we know it.
The current crisis creates the necessity – and emergency – to rethink cultural space.
With restricted and highly regulated access to museums and exhibitions, virtual tours become the norm. With theaters, cinemas and performance spaces not fully open to the public, streaming and remote viewing are the only viable options. In-person meetings are moving to virtual formats, pop-up meetings and workshops turn into webinars and schools, academies and universities must rely on online teaching and e-learning. One of the most apparent consequences of the current pandemic is the undeniable acceleration of digital pervasiveness and the related far-reaching transformations of all fields of cultural social activity.
Cultural institutions and practitioners can and should be daring, thinking beyond making physical spaces just safe to navigate, offering a faded and withering caricature of the bustling cultural spaces that are ingrained in our societies. With the increasingly experimental hybridity between the digital and the physical, new scenarios can unfold, as well as new ways of experiencing and participating in cultural and social life.
Since a long time, cultural practices have become hybrid. For instance, cultural programs taking place in physical locations have already been heavily relying on virtual, nonlocal, distributed audiences in front of screens. The physical social distancing measures during the pandemic enhance the already established trend of cultural practices in physical spaces radically transforming due to the ubiquity of the digital.
Digital acceleration is supporting the transformation of cultural-artistic production – in its interaction with the public. Digital technology is reinforcing the merging of creative fields, an ongoing trend since the late 1960s, with the combination of painting and sculpture with performance, video, film and sound and the fusion and mutual enrichment between various media within a single artistic project. Digitalization influences and reshapes artists’ creative practice, as the latter integrates virtual space, digital networks and coding, enhancing the coming together of visual and narrative arts.
Akin to the co-creative processes characterizing other fields, digital networks help artists and creative professionals to actively involve and interact with their public. An example of digital communication technologies enabling the public’s participation, interaction and engagement, is the coming together of film and gaming, with storytelling transforming into ‘story-finding’ as users discover and create their own stories.
Although a most challenging time, the current crisis can be an occasion to pause and rethink, as we grapple with the disruption of our everyday personal lives and professional practices. As digitalization radically redefines how people around the world communicate and connect, the exploration of what the future of cultural spaces holds, requires considering physical spaces together with digital media networks, focusing on the hybrid qualities of spaces in the interaction and fusion of the physical and the digital.
In this critical situation we have the chance to develop a spatial-conceptual approach to support cultural collaborative interactions in order to actively shape these future hybrid (combined digital and physical) explorative spaces. Examining the relationship of physical spaces with digital and media networks, enables us to explore the potential of hybrid space for artistic research and to develop new cultural formats.
Such an investigation of the future of cultural spaces considers them in their socio-political, economic, environmental and climate-related context and focuses on sustainable solutions that contrast and reach beyond recent models of mass (tourism) cultural consumerism, targeting record ticket sales and visitor numbers. The pause caused by the pandemic could work as a break, enabling the reconsidering of choices and priorities and for exploring new models and for developing sustainable perspectives.
Hybrid Staging addresses the challenges posed by these developments and investigates the future of cultural spaces. The program focusses on showcasing practical possibilities and experimental formats, speculating on economic models, making visionary ideas tangible and tackling a broad range of topical questions.
Hybrid Staging is a professional exchange and co-creation program involving a broad range of professionals from the cultural fields, such as museums and exhibitions, stages, events and festivals. The program develops trans-disciplinary perspectives, tapping into the possibility of mutual enrichment and bringing together professionals from the audiovisual sector, creatives with expertise in media, digital technologies, game, sound as well as in production-staging and communication alongside cultural and heritage institutions.The Hybrid Staging program draws on the continuity of Hybrid Space Lab’s engagement in the exploration of the future of cultural space, for example:
Future Narratives and Immersive Experiences Symposium at the Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF (22\05\2019).
INbetweenSTITUTE new concepts for cultural spaces for Beijing’s 798 Art District (2014)
Deep Space, a long-term investigative program dealing with controversial heritage sites in the Digital Age and with as a case study the resignification of the Francoist monument “Valle de los Caídos” close to Madrid (2018-2021).
How does the pandemic force us to radicaly rethink cultural formats and spaces?
How to co-create cultural experiences at the time of the Digital?