Ria Andrews: Our 2020 reality check

Earlier this year, COVID-19 shifted the world to a surreal state of physical distancing. Right from galleries, theatres, museums and nightclubs - all the culture spots have turned dark. And just as posters were being printed for all the openings in the warm spring, they’ve been hit. Some events have the means to postpone, some don’t and the others go online. And while a whole new wave of art is beingborn in this time of crisis, a whole world of already existing art is still suffering and adjusting to this new world.

URB has had its own challenges during this time. The festival has a history of enabling experiment and connecting communities, artists and actors. The true nature of urban culture is everything but physical distance. The festival spreads out to various urban spaces, asking to whom and in what terms can urban art exist. Keeping this in mind, we face the fact that our urban spaces have now been changed. It has now become the time of coming together in the luxury of the world online. So now we ask, what is art in isolation? How do you find art in the capitalist-curated, vast internet content? How do artists who depend on live audience work now? We’re still trying to address as many of these questions as we can. Like the rest of the world, we are adjusting.

All of our events were to take place in various physical locations in a (perhaps) sunny week in June full of art, magic and more. The whole team, along with the artists were excited to say the least. With curatorial meetings shifting to an online platform, it started with the team letting the pandemic do a little reality check to the already existing plans. The festival team was determined to stay true to the spirit of the festival even in these strange times. And that’s exactly what has happened during the working process.

We started back at the drawing board, keeping as much of our initial plans as possible, shifting them to our online platform of course while trying to keep them as engaging as possible. The team wanted to work with the artists they had already been working with and to expand their online platform to include content curated specifically for the web.

In these times, URB hopes to create a version of the festival to remind our audience that the heart of urban life, wherever the space may be, will always be its people.

Ria Andrews is a curatorial and exhibition studies student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki. She’s currently working on her thesis with URB festival. Ria is a curator, artist, writer and she works as a librarian with the Human Library Organisation. Her curatorial practice focuses on community engagement and development and in activism within the art field.