Asad Lalljee is the senior VP, Essar Learning, CEO of Avid Learning, a public programming initiative and creative platform under the Essar Group, and Curator, Royal Opera House, Mumbai. Asad brings several years of advertising, publishing, marketing, and business development experience in international and domestic markets. For 14 years, Before relocating to India, he worked as one of the ‘Mad Men’ advertising executives on New York's Madison Avenue.
Ninad Karpe interviewed Asad Lalljee from 100X.VC to discuss the future of arts and culture after this pandemic. Let us have a look at the questions answered by Asad.
In this time of global pandemic where health is the main concern, what is the scope of art and culture?
Talking about art and culture, Asad likes to use statistics to set the stage. According to the 2018 PWD report, the arts and culture have become one of the fastest-growing sectors in the world, generating a total revenue of 2250 billion dollars. It has also employed approximately 30 million people. Needless to say, post-COVID-19, that is going to change.
Culture brings resilience, consciousness, and compassion. It brings together different societies. It provides comfort, inspiration, and hope in this time of enormous anxiety and uncertainty. Moreover, art can be used as a tool for expression and an outlet to grapple with this new world order.
There has always been a necessity of culture for people and communities. When billions of people are physically separated from one another, culture brings them together. In this time of crisis and isolation, art becomes more essential to our lives than we realize or acknowledge.
It is a fact that there has been an explosion of arts and culture activities online during this crisis. The reason behind this is that people are having time and they are utilising it by watching cultural activities or programs online. These are being presented by the custodians of the art and culture world. They are producing it because people are interested in it. Solely and steadily, brands and sponsors are becoming more interested in art and culture.
There are very interesting projects happening in the world of art and culture. For example, CAM (The COVID-19 Art Museum) which is the world’s first museum of art born in the COVID-19 quarantine. It is the birth of a new artistic movement.
Adding further, at Avid Learning, an online learning campaign was launched, which was in direct response to COVID-19. The objective was to enable the stakeholders to engage with the arts’ depth and encourage this dialogue between the creative communities. It has been very successful. Subsequently, a similar campaign was launched for the performing arts for the Royal Opera House.
These are times of heightened emotions. Does it lead to a phase of creativity in art and culture?
The pandemic environment will and has heightened the need for more creativity. Connections are being made across the world. There is a collaborative system and spirit that is emerging. People are trying to revive the spirit of intimacy within the cultural ecosystem. Artists and art makers will take time. They need to reflect and respond to this chain.
For example, Avid has serious artists behind the art in which the artist introspects how their legacy, practice, and work is going to change because of this behavior.
Following the online trend, many artists have started to interact and showcase digitally. This is their new way of working, thinking, and producing. This would be more evident in the post-pandemic world.
But if we see in the pre-COVID-19 time, countries that suffered from political turmoil, human and civil rights wars, and atrocities, channel their emotions through creativity and creative production. The work produced by those countries is amazing.
As it is said, the show must go on. People are going to create work. This will possibly be treated as an archive because historically, we know that this was not so. For instance, organizations like The Smithsonian are collecting coronavirus artifacts to document the pandemic. Moreover, if we look historically at the city of Bombay, the architecture and the urban planning of Bombay were shaped by the Bubonic Plague in the late 1800s, this, in turn, affected the arts of cinema. Adding further, the Tribeca Film Festival in New York was in direct response to 9/11.
In India, the migrant crisis that has occurred due to the pandemic is arguably a reality to be made into history through some great and rich art production.
Will artists collaborate across platforms?
Collaboration is an important part of an artist’s journey through their trajectory of growth.
It is not new. Artists are already collaborating. It has been around for a long time across industries, especially in art. Artists enrich themselves with each other. That is why they are just like residencies.
Collaborations are happening, and digital collaborations are rampant at this time. Concerts are being done online. Collaborative films are being made. With technology, some of it is edited in the post, but most of it is done in real-time. These days, Zoom has become like a local phone call.
How will artists survive in the next couple of months?
There is a lot of help out there. What is very encouraging is the artist community is coming together to lobby and helping each other. There is a lot of crowdfunding happening. There are a lot of platforms coming together.
However, it is going to be difficult. There are a lot of artists who are day laborers and paid by each day. There is no work for them right now. The fraternity is jumping in to help.
Will the adoption of technology be a must for artists, and is this the Netflix moment?
Presenting the performing arts through technology is not best. Technology has been around for many years. Some people have adopted early, while others have not. Some people could afford to get technology into their lives, and some could not. But now everyone is forced to embrace technology at their best capacity. Streaming platforms like Netflix have been a part of our daily lives. Like that, art and culture platforms are being built. The best institutions, museums, and opera houses of the world are opening up their paywalls and giving you the best for free. So now, we have a plethora of choices. All we have to do is tune in.
The digital space has allowed arts and culture the opportunity to stay relevant and connected. With these online explosions, there has been a technological revolution. People will make it a part of their consumption slowly and steadily.
But there is a flip side. Technology will never replace the USP of going and sitting in a live performance and seeing the artists with your own eyes. From the artists’ point of view, they need to look at their audience.
So, online is wonderful, but it is not the only solution. If ever we could monetize and market the art and culture as we do a sports event, that will be the time when it will become financially viable and engaging. If that happens with technology, it will put arts and culture into that segment.
What will be the shape of concerts and live events in times to come?
In 2019, the live event market in India was 8300 crores, and it was estimated that by 2022, it would be around 12000 crores. In January and February of 2020, the industry had made a loss of 40,000 crores.
It is a large industry. They are going to do whatever they have to make it come back. Imagine having to watch arts and culture on your devices for the rest of your lives.
However, there is one thing that going online has done. It has given arts and culture the respect and adoption it deserves online. People and the businesses are trying to figure out the right models, formats, and sustainability that no one has figured out. It has given awareness and access to a wider audience.
But live art is going to come. There might be some differences in the way they are organized,
but they will be back.
Advice for young artists
People who are in the field of art and culture are driven by passion. They are not driven by livelihood. You have to believe in yourself and have to stick to it. Everything will pan out in the end. At this point, the situation is quite bleak in many cases. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Hence, we can all survive. So artists should keep working, producing, and reaching out to people. You should put out with stuff, and things will come back to the way they were.