Now that an entire year has passed since most of us went into lockdown in response to the spread of COVID-19, there’s enough distance from the beginning of the pandemic to look back with some kind of remove and see how it’s affected the normal patterns of our lives. In an effort to allow readers “into the life of a creative mind in quarantine,” The New York Times posed seven questions to 75 different artists about how a year of wildly different living has shaped themselves and their work.
The list of responses is huge, but a few of the responses stick out. When asked what they’d created over the past year, The National’s Aaron Dessner mentions working with Taylor Swift; Aidy Bryant says she and her colleagues on Shrill produced an entire third season; and novelist Ali Smith simply replies, “A compost heap.” A question about what art they’ve found themselves enjoying this year sees Phoebe Bridgers talking about getting “very deep into” Gabriel García Márquez, and Trent Reznor saying he’s “stumbled into the world of YouTube tutorials for various bits of musical gear.”
On “particularly bad ideas” from the past year, Bridgers cites a decision to “write the word ‘quarantine’ into a song,” Reznor says he thought he could write a huge, monumental work before realizing lockdown wasn’t giving him much “inspiration or motivation,” and Smith returns to acknowledge it probably wasn’t smart to put the compost heap “so close to the kitchen windows.”
The impression created after reading over the rest of the questions and answers is that the subjects have spent the year like pretty much everyone else: figuring out how to keep going while living through frightening, uncertain times. In the introduction to these interviews, The Times states that “great art will be made from this time, about this time, inspired by this time,” but it’s going to be a bit before it arrives. While we wait, we can at least be grateful that things are finally looking up, one year later—and that Ali Smith learned useful composting lessons during quarantine.
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