As our daily lives have been fundamentally changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, more subtle changes have bled over into the media we consume every day. Packed movie theaters and concert venues sit empty, leaving thousands of creators to take to the internet to share their talents, many creating easily accessible work that reacts in some way to the ceaselessly upsetting and confusing year that is 2020.
With this outpouring of creativity, humor and self-expression online, the CU Independent arts editors chose their top 10 trends in arts and culture this year. Amidst social distancing and the never-ending stream of bad news on social media, we hope these trends will bring you a few moments of joy, laughter and connection.
10. Mysterious Monolith Sightings
On Nov. 18, a huge metal monolith was discovered in the desert of southeastern Utah. 10 days later, it disappeared. To date, no one knows where it came from or the identities of the four men who supposedly removed it.
The monolith (remarkably similar to the one in “2001: A Space Odyssey”) became internationally famous and fueled online conspiracy theories about UFOs and aliens, though officials believe it was man-made and installed by people. Conspiracy theorists have claimed to see in the monolith elsewhere, including Romania and even Boulder. Jason Law of GoNuts Marketing sent this photo-shopped hoax photo to the CU Independent head arts editor, showing the monolith in front of McDevitt Taco Supply in Boulder.
In a year full of the strange, unexpected and improbable, ironically, these mysterious monolith sightings are one of the least surprising developments of this year.
9. Toilet Paper Art
Many artists have been getting creative with toilet paper artwork.
Artists Guillaume Roukhomsky and Blaz Verhnjak from Amsterdam launched Give a Sheet, a platform where artists can sell their artwork created on toilet paper. The aim of the project is to raise funds for WHO’s COVID-19 relief fund and share the joy of art. Other contributing artists include Katy Edelsten, KC Hong and Gregg Clampffer.
Each artwork is priced at $25-50. To date, the project has raised over $4000 with 100 sheets given and 91 taken.
Local Colorado-based artist Robin Cole has also gotten creative with toilet paper as her muse. Her work, “Art in the Time of Corona,” is an oil painting of a roll of toilet paper, which she believes reflects the 2020 experience.
8. 2020 Meme Mood Challenge
The 2020 Meme Mood Challenge, created by Reese Witherspoon, is a hilariously disastrous timeline of 2020.
The challenge features nine portraits that depict the experience of 2020 from January to September, going from carefree to increasingly shocked and distressed as the COVID-19 pandemic worsens. Some of the best celebrity submissions include Naomi Watts, Oprah Winfrey, Kerry Washington and Drew Barrymore. An updated version of the challenge for all 12 months has yet to take over social media, but the results would certainly be even more humorous and dramatic.
See more celebrity meme mood challenges here.
7. “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac
“Dreams,” first performed by Fleetwood Mac in 1977, saw a monumental resurgence in the fall of 2020, turning the 43-year-old song from the album “Rumors” into one of the year’s most streamed songs. The band owes this renewal to TikTok user @420doggface208, also known as Nathan Apodaca, a potato factory worker from Idaho Falls, ID. Apodaca spontaneously recorded himself singing along to “Dreams” one day while traveling to work on a skateboard, his only means of transportation after his car broke down. The unfettered joy in his sing-along, combined with the non-sequitur of the cranberry juice drinking, clearly resonated with the world. The video has spawned thousands of recreations — including one by Mick Fleetwood himself — launching Apodaca to internet celebrity status. Though the trend has since died down, the lesson prevails. Whether it was intentional or not, Apodaca’s final product is the ultimate example of how to find beauty and triumph in life’s mundane setbacks.
6. “Among Us”
“Among Us,” a mobile game launched in 2018, has surged in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the game, users become astronauts, running around a virtual spaceship to complete tasks while they try to identify the murderous “Impostors” (similar to the game “Mafia”).
When released the game found little widespread success, but in 2020, it became a viral go-to game for social distanced fun, kickstarted by Chance “Sodapoppin” Morris, a top Twitch broadcaster, in July. Soon other celebrities and online influencers joined in too. While campaigning before the November election, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez played “Among Us” for a livestream in October, reaching an audience peak of 439,000 viewers and setting a top 10 Livestream record on Twitch.
5. Baby Yoda
Baby Yoda AKA Grogu has taken over the internet in 2020, flooding social media sites with cute photos and memes. You can’t go on Twitter or Tumblr without encountering that adorable, innocent green face at least once. It should be annoying at this point, but the cuteness factor wins out. If you want to procrastinate or giggle for a few minutes, see the rest of the top-voted Baby Yoda memes on Bored Panda here.
4. “Animal Crossing: New Horizons”
“New Horizons,” the latest iteration in Nintendo’s Animal Crossing franchise of video games, inadvertently had the perfect launch week. “New Horizons,” a life-simulation video game, was released March 20, only a week after most communities in the United States experienced the first major COVID-19 shutdown. Hardcore Nintendo fans, critics and casual gamers alike quickly praised “New Horizons” for its robust yet simple gameplay that features everything from fishing to painting to farming. In any other year, “New Horizons” would have been a run-of-the-mill Nintendo project. However, its charming aesthetic and focus on the mundane, ranging from showing off your bamboo farm to learning how to vote, has ensured that the game will be fondly remembered for its ability to bring millions of young people together in a year that kept us apart.
The Getty Museum Challenge that was launched in March encouraged people to submit recreations of famous artwork from home during quarantine.
The challenge took off with thousands of submissions from around the world. The posts range from serious and accurate “Mona Lisa” recreations to cringeworthy but hilarious photos for Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” to absurd creations of Salvatore Dahli’s “Woman with Snail.”
In September, the Getty Museum published a photo book with top picks from the #gettychallenge, entitled “Off the Walls: Re-Creations of Iconic Artworks.” All profits will go to Artist Relief, a COVID-19 relief fund for US artists.
See the top 30 submissions on Bored Panda here.
2. Coronavirus-Inspired Street Art
Street artists around the world are spreading positivity and humor during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dominican artist Jesus Cruz Artiles, known as EME Freethinker, was inspired to depict the world’s obsessive, binge-buying of toilet paper on a wall in Berlin. Instead of the iconic ring, Sméagol-Gollum stares adoringly at a roll of toilet paper, whispering “Mein Schatz (My Precious),” a feeling we all can relate to when we see toilet paper in stock at the store. See other coronavirus-inspired street art from around the world here.
1. Gripless’ Coronavirus-Inspired Comics
Gripless is an anonymous cartoon artist, who creates puns from popular culture and current events. In March, he began producing coronavirus-inspired cartoons, using famous, beloved characters from Disney and Nickelodeon cartoons, including The Simpsons, Spongebob and Hercules. Read more about the project here. See more of Gripless’ work on his website or Instagram page.