Virtual is the new playground, and for the near future the only playground accessible to all of us
By Ranjit Raina
Cats in Quarantine
No, not the one you have at home. I am talking about Andrew Lloyd Webber’s feline Broadway spectacle. Cats veteran actor, Harry Francis has assembled 333 alums of the show from around the world; France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Australia, South Korea, South Africa, the Netherlands, Canada, Russia, UK and USA and re-create six minutes of Gillian Lynne’s original choreography in a live virtual celebration.
Closer home, Kommune, the artist collective produced Lockdown Love an adaptation of Jonathan Rand’s “Check Please”. The live virtual theatrical performance substituted the video conference app Zoom for its stage. The virtual play was born during a particularly dull Zoom call that forced producer and technical director Roshan Abbas to reimagine the uses for a video conferencing tool! Tess Joseph cast the play with some exceptional talent and Sheena Khalid directed it, and all this within a week and during the lockdown.
They say art always finds its audience. One can also say the same for commerce.
After their annual show in Hong Kong had to be cancelled because of the pandemic Art Basel launched online viewing rooms to help dealers and art collectors connect. Since the first viewing room in March, Art Basel has launched two more editions as galleries and collectors continue to show in interest in the virtual platfrom.
If it’s viewing rooms for art, then the virtual showroom is soon to arrive for the fashion industry in India. Going beyond the glamour of fashion to the business of fashion, Lakme Fashion Week has announced virtual showrooms to help designers connect with the buyers during its fall 2020 edition.
Virtual it seems is the new real.
It is no surprise that the screen on which you are reading this article is now the most prized and indispensable medium to connect during the current pandemic.
Bob Shanks described television as The Cool Fire , in his 1977 book by the same name. He drew a comparison on how television had replaced the bonfire around which tribes, communities and families used to congregate. This reference may be lost to some of the younger readers, but there was a time when most homes had just one screen. Shanks made the point to convey the power of the television in shaping society.
Today we gather around individual screens. The Cool Fire is now more than 4 billion bonfires that come alive in the virtual world, and each time they do, they have power to create communities, tribes and human connections.
With the pandemic restricting mobility in the real world, the screen has become more than just real estate to consume content. Even in isolation it allows us to stay connected. We can curate, create or consume and sometimes all at the same time. Content creators are experimenting with forms and formats to understand the nuance of content creation and producing digital experiences. Brands are trying to understand the difference between being present and participation and the very concept of commerce has dramatically altered.
Virtual is the new playground, and for the near future the only playground accessible to all of us. We will return to the physical world but the new normal will most certainly be a lot more phygital.
For now, our screen is the new Cool Fire, where we all congregate to make connections and share our stories.
The author is a CEO at Geometry Encompass