Ethnographic Explorations of the Impacts of COVID-19 on Sociality and Spatiality in a Swiss Live Music Venue
Keywords:COVID-19 pandemic, live music venues, socially distanced concerts, sociality and spatiality, ethnography, Switzerland
The globally experienced suspension of cultural life brought about by the COVID-19 crisis has been duly acknowledged and discussed in a growing number of publications, reports and online seminars, most often in terms of the impact of COVID-19 on the music/culture industry. Despite the worsening pandemic situation in Switzerland and elsewhere during the autumn of 2020, I happened to be conducting field research in the city of St. Gallen (in north-eastern Switzerland) where the authorities opted for a “liberal” handling of the health crisis. As a result, the city’s live music venue “Palace”, where I was doing my fieldwork observations, remained open to the public as late as mid-December 2020, albeit with shortened opening hours and with a dancing ban. This allowed me to gain first-hand fieldwork experience during the pandemic’s significant constraints on social behaviour. The present article accordingly addresses the ethical dilemmas that I encountered when operating in this “grey zone” of field research, while also documenting the challenges and adjustments that the Palace venue had to undergo during pandemic times from the perspectives of producers, musicians and audiences alike. The article specifically focuses on understanding and analysing changes in the experience of the Palace’s sociality and spatiality under social distancing rules. Ultimately, this work provides a different angle on the existing body of music-cultural research, which largely focuses on the cancellations and transformations of music events into virtual gatherings.
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