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Art meets life: Can pandemic movies prepare us for the real thing? – Globalnews.ca

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It might seem like we hear more than enough about pandemics from living through the novel coronavirus in reality.

But, a group of scholars argue in a recent paper, fans of horror and pandemic movies and the “morbidly curious” show better psychological resilience in relation to the real pandemic.

“Exposure to frightening fictions allow audiences to practice effective coping strategies that can be beneficial in real-world situations,” they write in ‘Pandemic Practice: Horror Fans and Morbidly Curious Individuals Are More Psychologically Resilient During the COVID-19 Pandemic.’

It is a ‘preprint,’ a term for a scholarly paper published before formal peer review.

“Stories allow the audience to explore the dynamics of an imagined version of the world at very little cost, making stories particularly good vectors for learning about threats. Through stories, people can learn how to escape dangerous predators, navigate novel social situations, and explore methods for surviving a catastrophe.”

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Coltan Scrivner, a PhD candidate at the University of Chicago and an author of the paper, said the study looked at fans of prepper films: “films like apocalyptic films, zombie films, alien invasion, horror films where there’s an end-of-the-world element, where something is invading the world and the world is in chaos.” 

This genre, he argues, has at least some elements of the situation we’re living in.

The study compared the fans to the general population, asking them whether they agreed with statements such as “I have been taking the news about the pandemic in stride.”

“What we found was that fans of, specifically, prepper films were not only experiencing less psychological distress, but also experienced greater feelings of preparedness,” Scrivner explains. “What this means is that if we gave them statements like, ‘I knew how bad things would get before they really took off with coronavirus.’ Or, ‘I knew which supplies I should buy in order to prepare for the pandemic.’”

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Scrivner is an expert on morbid curiosity — a stronger-than-usual interest in themes related to fear and death.

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He argues that in a real-world catastrophe, morbid curiosity can be an advantage, which was another of the study’s findings: morbidly curious people “experienced significantly greater positive resilience during the pandemic.”

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Morbid curiosity is often discouraged, if only because it can make other people uncomfortable, but Scrivner argues that it isn’t a good or bad thing in itself.

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“Traits are either well-suited or ill-suited to certain situations,” he says.

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In mid-March, as Canada started to shut down in response to the pandemic, the 1995 movie Outbreak made the Netflix top 10.

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According to the film’s synopsis, Outbreak follows “army doctors struggling to find a cure for a deadly virus spreading throughout a California town that was brought to America by an African monkey.”

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Scrivner says his favourite pandemic movie is Contagion (2011), in which a devastating pandemic spread by touch arrives in the United States from east Asia.

“I watched it in March or April, and it does such a great job, now that we’re kind of living in it, of really simulating what that looks like. There’s everything from the shortage of supplies to Jude Law propagating this kind of miracle cure — all these things that we’re seeing in the real world.”

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“It’s really interesting, really well-done with regard to how well they predicted what would happen in a true global pandemic breakout.”






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York University professor Steven Hoffman assigns students Contagion as required watching for an international health law class he teaches.

“I have always included Contagion in my … lists, because I felt it so accurately depicted what was likely to happen in a future pandemic,” he says. “And indeed most of what we saw in Contagion has actually happened during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Hoffman points to the breakdown of international health systems under pressure, panic buying by consumers, dubious miracle cures and a disease that “spread very quietly and then very quickly” as common features of both Contagion’s fictional pandemic and the real one.

“It really highlights the power of the arts to bring attention to the way things could be, and to help us be ready for those futures, and ideally craft a better one.”

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Hoffman is open to the idea that exposure to fictional catastrophes could leave us better able to deal with real ones.

“Simulations, and experiences that get people to think about future possibilities, will have a preparatory effect on people. That’s why we often run simulations for organizations and communities in order to make sure that people know what to do when certain events happen.”

“People enter a world, they know it’s fiction, does it actually make them better-prepared? That’s what this study speaks to. It’s a really interesting question.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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High end art stolen In Silver Lady Lane break-in – BayToday.ca

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Not many details yet, but City Police are investigating the theft of several high-end pieces of art from a Silver Lady Lane home this morning.

Items include a 2’x3′ Jan Van Kessel painting, Limoges casket, 6″ blue/gold plate, and 6″ aventurine brush washer.

Silver Lady Lane runs off Trout Lake Road and a number of expensive and exclusive houses sit on the shores of Trout Lake.

Police are asking for the public’s help.

Jan van Kessel was a Flemish painter active in Antwerp in the mid 17th century.

Wikipedia says he was a versatile artist and he practiced in many genres including studies of insects, floral still lifes, marines, river landscapes, paradise landscapes, allegorical compositions, and scenes with animals.

Van Kessel’s works were highly prized by his contemporaries and were collected by skilled artisans, wealthy merchants, nobles, and foreign luminaries throughout Europe.

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Toronto's outdoor museum for street art is a perfect activity for these pandemic times – blogTO

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Dundas West Open Air Museum, a collection of murals clustered in a Toronto neighbourhood, opened about a year ago, but they’ve been very busy during that time.

Around 20 murals have been painted around the Dundas West area from Shaw to Lansdowne by local artists such as Jieun June Kim, Jose Ortega and Pablo Gomez.

All murals can be explored virtually on the museum’s website, which includes info about the works and artists.

The initiative was spearheaded by the artists along with Little Portugal and Dundas West BIAs, Lula Lounge, Toronto Arts Council and Creativo Arts.

It was inspired by similar public space projects in places like The Bronx and Berlin.

One of the new initiatives from the museum is an app that you can download to your phone and use to make your way among the murals, finding out information about each piece and the artists that created it as you go.

As COVID-19 numbers continue to rise, finding safe, outdoor activities in Toronto is on many people’s to-do list and this outdoor museum might just be one that’s perfectly suited to the times.

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Art as reconciliation: Ymir artist hosting BC Culture Days event – Nelson Star

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It took Damian John decades to realize words weren’t always the best way to connect with people.

When John was in his 20s he became woke to the problems of the world and hoped to make a change. In his 30s, having failed to make that change, he struggled with depression and anxiety.

But four years ago the now 43 year old quit his career as a massage therapist to focus on his art. That choice led to an epiphany.

“I think the dialogue that we have with words is limited. You have this understanding of words, I have an understanding of words. Sometimes they don’t match up,” he says.

“We’re really bad at telling each other what we’re feeling and we’re really bad at understanding what the other person is saying to us in general, even with people we know well. So I thought, but what about having art do that for us and being creative with how we speak to each other.”

John, a Ymir-based artist, hopes to meld words and art into a new type of conversation when he hosts a workshop for BC Culture Days on Sept. 26. Jones was the only West Kootenay artist named ambassador to the annual event, which will run Sept. 25 to Oct. 25.

His livestream is titled Exploring Reconciliation Through Creativity, in which John plans to tell the story of how colonization affected his family and people before having participants create art based on the discussion.

A member of Tl’azt’en First Nation near Prince George, John grew up with a family traumatized by the residential school system. His father attended nearby Lejac Residential School, a Catholic-run facility that operated from 1922 to 1976.

The school is partly remembered now for being the place four boys froze to death while trying to escape from in 1937.

“All of my family on that side is directly impacted by colonization, by residential school,” said John, “and that impacts us as his children, that affects nephews and generations that are coming after us. There’s a heavy, heavy impact mentally, health wise, relationally, all of these various components which would take a long time to talk to or speak to in a real strong way.”

First Nations art has always been a part of John’s life. His father brought pieces home, and John was later influenced by artists Robert Sebastian and Roy Henry Vickers.

John’s own art is vibrant, colourful and distinctly modern. In his work he’s found a place to explore his culture and voice concerns while also being in control of the outcome in a way he never felt he could in conversation.

“If I want to have a life that has any feelings of quality to it, I need to shift things,” he says. “So making things that I think are beautiful, and allowing people to engage in that space as well, felt useful.”

That’s how he hopes the people who take his workshop feel after creating their own work. John wants to inspire new ways of discourse about difficult topics despite personal differences, and he thinks art is the key.

“How do we bridge those spaces to come to a place of community and goodwill and conflict resolution?” he says. “In spite of being devastated by all the information out there I still have hope we can do things differently.”

@tyler_harper | tyler.harper@nelsonstar.com

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Damian John holds a painting he recently completed of his grandmother. John will be exploring reconciliation through art during an event for BC Culture Days. Photo: Tyler Harper

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