Blog: Vince Virr on lockdown

24 March 2020

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Vince Virr is a dance artist based in Scotland who has performed at the Children's Festival many times including with Poggle, Little Red, Tiger Tale and Playful Tiger with Barrowland Ballet. He performed his own work, Pop, as part of Family Day 2019 and is a PUSH+ Home Lab artist. Here he reflects on his experience being in lockdown in two countries, China and now Scotland, and what he has learned from that.

Having returned from the lockdown in China two weeks ago, I was looking forward to getting back to normality and getting re-fit for my next job I had dreamed about for two years in Canada. But alas, we all know what happened then! So, this is week 8 of my encouraged/imposed self-quarantine /physical distancing (6 in China and 2 here), and the second time of living it in two different countries. In China I had the added protection of not understanding the language or social media platforms and I had what looked like job security for most of the year freelancing.

It was as sudden and unexpected as it has been here. Daily developments, constant numbers rising and when BA was the first airline to stop flights to/from China I felt the earth shake underneath me. A feeling that has become more common than I ever could have imagined.

However, maybe because I was in a different country, culture, and I had work security at that time, it was scary yet fascinating. The ingenuity and adaptability to create solutions to the situation. The need to connect to others socially, artistically and business wise was astounding. Something I only thought possible in China, but I was wrong. Here, as well as elsewhere, we are seeing that surge of energy to make things possible in the face of such destruction. Communities coming together, social media groups being created to support each other and many creative solutions for this unprecedented time. We need to keep this going in the coming weeks as for me, week four was a milestone of losing motivation in the groundhog day scenario and something I am still struggling with in week 8.

What did become strange was the more days and weeks that I stayed within the flat in China (thankfully with my friend and colleague Abel), the more alien and scary the outside world became. The same kind of feeling I have had when those duvet days multiply and it becomes harder to motivate, connect with others and reach out for help.

In China we only left the apartment to pick up deliveries, empty the bins and go to the supermarket. The physical practicalities of venturing out involved having specific outside clothes, putting on facial masks and armed with sanitisor and tissues. Pressing the elevator buttons and opening doors with anything but our hands.

Suddenly thrown into a scene from a movie where every other human becomes your potential enemy with your shield of 2 metres very clearly assessed and enacted by everyone around you. The sight of the very few individuals without a mask on was met with horror of someone being so careless to themselves and everyone around them. On re-entry to your apartment block you were screened with a gun-like thermometer pointed at your forehead, throat or wrist. Then on our hopefully safe return into our flat a routine of washing our hands, changing clothes and cleaning the delivery boxes and packaging with antibacterial wipes ensued.

The effect of this on my emotional and psychological state is still being processed as I enter this a second time. The speed of immediate and continual distrust of strangers that I felt by physically staying 2 metres away at all times, has shocked me. We humans need each other, need social contact, need face to face encounters. These are things we need to work around for a while but we must remain ingenious in finding solutions for these times.

China gives us hope in that they now only wear masks in transport hubs, schools and factories are re-opening slowly and people are enjoying being outside again. We will emerge from this changed as humans, as a world and changed together. We need each other now more than ever to get through this and to heal. The arts are and always have been essential for this. A country in crisis is when you really get a true glimpse into a culture and Scotland has a world leading culture that will thrive once more.

Keep reaching out in the coming weeks and months. Sending you all virtual hugs.