Emerging new rituals at STBY

In times of uncertainty people have a greater need for rituals, anthropologists have long observed. Covid-19 drastically changed the way we live and work around the world, and obviously also at STBY. The way we collaborate and communicate has entirely shifted online. Like many others, we experience that this can be tough and challenging at times, but found new ways of coping with this new reality: by creating  new rituals for the STBY team. 

Watching short films every Wednesday morning  

An advantage of having two studios in two different countries is that we already had an online  infrastructure and routine for online communication. The team in London and Amsterdam did have online calls to discuss project work and catching up on a regular basis, but since Covid-19 we found a new routine of informally checking in with each other each morning. A new ritual that emerged out of this routine is watching short movies and documentaries together on Wednesday morning and discussing them. 

Our short film collection 

This new ritual of watching short films together is for us a creative strategy for punctuating the monotony of quarantine time and remote work. By showing these videos to each other we get inspired and surprised by the choices for videos of colleagues. At the same time these short films inspire our own filmmaking. This new ritual that we all enjoy, enriches our conversations and could even be beneficial to future work when we are able to go on fieldwork trips again and produce our own design research documentaries once more. We started a Slack channel that is called STBY short film collection where we collect the videos that we watch over time to support this potential. 

People around the world are responding to the Covid-19 crisis by creating new rituals 

Anthropologist Dimitris Xygalatas writes that in stressful events such as warfare, environmental threat and material insecurity are often linked with spikes in ritual activity. He states that under conditions of stress people’s behavior tends to become more rigid and repetitive – in other words, more ritualized. Even if they have no direct influence over the physical world, rituals provide a sense of control by imposing order on the chaos of everyday life. He says that it is not surprising then that people around the world are responding to the coronavirus crisis by creating new rituals. He even calls these new rituals tools for resilience. 

A tool for resilience and a marker for the passage of time 

Watching videos together on Wednesday morning might be one of the STBY tools for resilience. The short film collection as a whole might show us something else once the Covid-19 crisis has passed: the passage of time. Anthropologist Rebecca J. Lester writes that one of the most important features of rituals is that they do not only mark time; they create time. By defining beginnings and ends to developmental or social phases, rituals structure our social worlds and how we understand time, relationships, and change. She says that for many of us, quarantine is itself a state of prolonged liminality. Life “as normal” is distinctly over. Yet we have not yet returned to whatever our “new normal” will be. By looking at the expanding short film collection we will soon be able to see how much time has passed before we return to our studios again. 

To give you a glimpse into our short film collection, we share three short films that inspired us most and are very relevant for our work:

Tungrus & his chicken from hell by Rishi Chandna

Our Iranian lockdown by Sara and Mohammad Reza

Clip about Maria Joao Pires expecting another Mozart concerto during a lunchconcert

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