Society as hotspot

Franziska Schmidtke und Alexander Wagner

We have been living with COVID-19 for a year now. We’ve gotten used to hearing things like, “We’re all in this together.” That might be true on the surface, but not everyone has been affected equally. The luckiest among us are simply tired of lockdown. Others are fighting for their very lives – mentally, financially, or in an ICU on the verge of being overwhelmed. Over the past year, the entire world has become an experimental space, with changes in how we live together, learn, work, and consume. Every aspect of our lives has been realigned, turned around, restricted, suspended, or shifted to the digital space. Some things that might have seemed unimaginable at the start of the pandemic are routine by now: eating takeout, working from home, and distance learning for some – and extra shifts, applause from balconies and windows, and a lonely death for others. At the same time, it is impossible to overlook the seething anger felt in many places. And yet, all these are just vague senses. None of us really has a grasp on the full picture.

Like in previous projects, so in “Hot Spot Society” Sebastian Jung has opened up a space as an artistic gesture. The think tank’s texts aim to illuminate this unusual situation from different perspectives, to reflect on the measures that have been put in place, think about alternatives, and engage in dialogue. All the while, this thoughtful retrospective is careful to note that there is still no end in sight to this emergency. Issues of how we deal with each other across society will re-emerge once the virus is under control. With this in mind, our think tank focuses on the social crises faced by millions of people: Single parents, care workers, refugees, family members of those in “high-risk groups,” unhoused people, artists, freelancers, and any others have been especially hard hit by the loss of earning opportunities, social contacts, physical and emotional closeness, the risk of infection and death, but also the closure of spaces that have potentially equalizing effects (public spaces, educational institutions, clubs). The pandemic and the necessary steps taken to guard against it have acted like an accelerant, fanning the flames of social problems. That’s our topic.

Experts from various disciplines have outlined their views on this situation, which is new to all of us. They were free to decide how much or how little their remarks should tie in with Jung’s drawings. Their texts enter into a dialogue with the images directly or indirectly, forging links with them or setting themselves apart, bridging some gaps while creating others, offering explanations or doing their own thing. All of them share a view of society as a hotspot, a place of challenge as we navigate how we live together and deal with one another, especially as a task for policymakers and an arena for new things, bad or good.