Without a doubt, we are moving into another year with a large damper on our hopes and plans. While a large amount of 2021 had hopeful resurgences across artistic mediums, we are now seeing things slide back into high case numbers and tight restrictions. But this doesn’t mean that there still aren’t aspirations to chase and hopes to grow for 2022, and it certainly did not put an end to New Year’s Eve festivities. From a Miley Cyrus hosted party-concert to car burnings in France, and from cancelled live traditions to new digital endeavours, the New Year was rung in as loudly as ever.
Easily the oddest of these happenstances is tangled up with the art world in its own unique ways: the Metaverse, the new name tag for the Facebook company, held their own festivities on their VR forum of Decentraland. To put it bluntly, Decentraland appears to be little more than an elitist, NFT-fuelled rendition of classic digital escapist platform Second Life—but more poorly made. With Paris Hilton the DJ for the night in a Roblox format and this digital world having the aesthetic appeal of an early ‘00s free-to-play game, the event certainly screams of current NFT themes. A recreation of the New York Times Square ball drop lends some interesting integrity to the project, but the entire affair feels like a fever dream from William Gibson’s mind.
On the live side of things, music abounded as always. A flagship performance by the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra along the Victoria Harbour lit up the waterfront in accompaniment with towers of digital light designs and fireworks. New York proper had its New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace—an event originally created by legendary composer Leonard Bernstein. And in a superhumanly endearing turn from a wellspring of classic holiday tracks, the Peanuts crew gave us a rendition of Auld Lang Syne combining that moving melody with a New Orleans groove that can’t help but give some hope.
It’s clear that the returning tides of the pandemic don’t wash away a love and need for celebration and art, especially in times of milestones. No matter the point of the calendar that a culture’s new year falls on, creative celebration is tied to our jubilation. From cultural focuses on colours- like the bright reds of good fortune seen in Chinese festivities- to the raucous and ritual-like actions- Greece’s smashing of pomegranates or Colombia’s carrying of an empty suitcase- to the near-global fascination with lighting the sky up with fireworks. There is an artfulness and theatric quality to the way we choose to step into a new year.
Sadly the New Year’s Eve festivities of 2021 may mark the return of closures as we step into 2022. With the omicron variant so widespread and restrictions mounting once again, it’s likely we will see galleries closing doors and theatres putting the ghost light on again for a while. It’s certainly not the way in which anyone would want to start the new year, and far be it to say that it’s not an exhausting and triggering situation to be in again. But with the familiarity of the last two year’s norms, the ways we’ve seen arts and governments pivots to deal with the context, and the strides we’ve taken in reducing the impact of the virus on populations, there is still a light in the ringing in of this new year. While it may not be as soon as we’ve all hoped, there is still hundreds of days ahead of us to be surprised with inspiring art, profound connections, and just how much good can be crammed into a single year.
And if not, there’s always 2023.