The national lockdown announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on 26 March 2020 has thrown the arts sector and its participants for a loop.
While door-to-door testing and close surveillance provide some statistical analysis, the extended effects of this viral contagion are as yet unquantifiable. In a matter of days, months of planning, work and income have been brought to a standstill.
A privilege number is using this as an opportunity to ask bigger questions about meaning-making and how to respond to a pandemic, the kind of enquiries that are distilled from stillness and silence. However, for many many the questions have become more urgent. More immediate. What will I eat? How will I pay rent? When will I work again?
It is to these anxieties that Johannesburg-based bassist, musician and composer Shane Cooper was responding when he launched his digital series of online collaborations.
"When the pandemic hit, every project of mine for the next 6 months got cancelled within a few days. That 6 months was a year of intense prior planning and work gone down the drain. Needless to say that's a massive blow financially, emotionally and psychologically. I decided to do the collaborations to help myself stay positive and creatively active, and connect with people from other disciplines who have also been affected," explains Cooper.
"Personally, if I stay creative, it helps my mental and physical health, and I need to stay sharp to survive. Hundreds of my friends around the world are in the same situation, so this is a way to reach out over the social distancing and create together. I've played shows with different musicians several nights a week for almost 20 years, now i don't know when next we will be able to. Collaboration is a fundamental part of my DNA."
Learn to Levitate, off the album Small Songs for Big Times dropped two days before the announcement of the lockdown, and is described as a story "about self-isolation, created in self-isolation". Produced in collaboration with filmmaker Julia Ramsey, this video depicts a house-bound Cooper, mindlessly occupying his time whilst dreaming of things to do when this is all over.
Other quarantine collaborations have seen the musician work in interdisciplinary ways.
Cooper has team up with dancers and choreographers who responded to a call made by him on social media.
Since then, the bass player has bassist has published a number of Quarantine Collaborations on youtube, working with everyone from dancers to fellow musicians such Bokani Dyer.