By Rebecca McInerney
August 2020. Dynamite by BTS was trending. COVID-19 was ravaging the world. And VAINE had just been born…
On the second anniversary of VAINE, we wanted to explore what was happening in the world and the impact that had on the creation of our magazine.
It’s strange to think that two years ago, the majority of us around the globe were just beginning to tentatively re-emerge from our houses after being locked in since the spring.
Many of us, working from home or furloughed, watched on as key workers kept the world turning. But as much as key workers kept essential services running, what about those that (rightly or wrongly) were deemed ‘non-essential’?
“Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life”.
- Oscar Wilde
For centuries, art has been a medium used to communicate. Stone-age cavemen used art to inform and connect - not too dissimilar from its use in the 21st century.
Art is one of the most historical and instinctive forms of human communication. No wonder it’s constantly growing, moving and changing with us. It’s something that we can lean on in times of hardship and there to capture the very best moments of our lives. So how did the arts get left behind during a pandemic, a time when we needed it most?
Creative industries as we knew them ceased to exist for a period of time as on March 23rd 2020, they were shut down. But that didn’t mean creativity didn’t exist. With mental health difficulties increasing, the population were in need of arts and entertainment as our day-to-day lives became so mundane.
If you cast your minds back to 2020, your memory should remind you of the three tedious months where it became illegal to leave the house for more than one walk a day. The only optimistic view was that lockdown had given us time.
We weren’t required to work in the same way as before, therefore, we were free to create, albeit in the confines of our homes. This sparked a change in most of us: we resorted to online exercise classes, at home baking (when the flour hadn’t run out) and even knitting!
One of the most interesting results of the pandemic was the art that was created. It was reported in April 2020 that despite not being able to access the studio, Harry Styles was working on new music, an album that since being released, spent 6 weeks at number 1.
As well as more well-known creatives, there were emerging creatives that used the lockdown to their advantage. One of the most popular creative projects to come from lockdown was Hoxton Mini Press’ release of London in Lockdown. A combination of 24 photographers captured the city at its quietest, most dystopian moments. And thanks to the pandemic, those photographers were able to share their art.
But it wasn’t always easy to share creativity. A report into the impact of the pandemic on the arts by University College London outlines the daunting realization that the physical experience of art was not deemed as ‘essential’ and was therefore stripped from our lives.
“The sudden closure of venues and cancellation of events in March 2020 effectively halted arts and cultural engagement across the UK as we knew it.”
Music venues, pop-up exhibitions and galleries had all been closed for the last time in March, and by August, usually festival season, even Glastonbury was virtual.
Creative industries rely on the engagement of thousands to bring it to life. Each song, painting and book means something different to each and every person who breathes it. So when art was stripped from its lungs, it moved from being a thriving industry to one in serious need of support.
But UCL’s report goes on to further remind us that regardless of the rules, art always finds a way:
“Yet viral videos at the start of the first lockdown showed the public turning to home-based arts activities, such as singing and painting, to spread solidarity and hope.”
Even with almost every avenue prohibited, artists still found a way forward. It’s important to remember that in our darkest times as a society, art was there to provide respite.
During the lockdowns, the global population turned to online applications and social media to connect and share their creations. From skits, to comedy, to dances, music, art, baking, gardening - you name it, it was there.
Despite the fact that we may not have had face-to-face contact in months, we were able to inspire and be inspired through art from our homes. By October 2020, TikTok, one of the main platforms for sharing at-home creations, surpassed 2 billion worldwide mobile downloads and became the third fastest growing brand of 2020.
This is when VAINE, which started life on Instagram, comes in. Born out of the disillusionment of two emerging creatives who had been struggling to find a platform for their own work, VAINE’s ethos was to bring together and promote the work of emerging artists on a new artist-centered magazine platform.
Dominic Thomas & Siria Ferrer, Founders of VAINE
The first issue was published in the Summer of 2020, exactly two years ago. It allowed creatives a space to speak about the trauma that was tied to COVID-19 as well other global issues such as the Black Lives Matter protests, taking place in the wake of police brutality and murder of George Floyd.
With features, fiction, poetry and art to choose from, Issue 1 was a glorious combination of everything that we had been missing since the start of the pandemic: love, frustration, anger and joy. Our innate need to communicate through art had finally been released.
Now onto our sixth issue, VAINE continues to be a platform for emerging artists to share their craft publicly through a media publication.
Over its first two years, we have tackled important and timely issues such as the environment, mental health, digital life as well as the fascinating world of dreams.
Issue 6 is a collaboration of emerging young creatives who want to share their experience of place and identity. Covering a vast range of issues surrounding belonging, nationhood and the effects of colonialism and globalization, Issue 6 is about celebrating those amongst us who have experienced new cultures, new beginnings and new locations.
It’s so important to give a platform to those who have something to say, which is why we at VAINE are so excited to be encouraging others to explore the issues they’re most passionate about and we can’t wait for you to join us on the journey!
In celebration of our second anniversary, we’re giving you access to the first ever issue of VAINE Magazine for free! Click here to read it in full.