Thursday 16 April 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 16/4/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Chiara Rimella

Home cinema

While stuck indoors, many of us have turned to culture – be it literature, cinema or music, whichever gives us most comfort – for distraction. Up until now, much of the cultural world has focused simply on how to keep things going despite the pandemic: galleries have moved exhibitions online and musicians have taken to video for improvised concerts. But a few weeks into the lockdown, artists and institutions are finally starting to address our new reality more directly.

In Greece the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, which had to cancel its documentary iteration in March, has brought in eight Greek directors and 14 international film-makers to shoot a three-minute film inspired by their experience of the pandemic – from inside their homes. The series, a continuation of a regular feature called Spaces (pictured), is one of the first works to be commissioned as a response to the outbreak. The films by the Greek directors can be viewed already, while seven more from the international directors will be available to watch on the festival’s website from Tuesday. According to artistic director Orestis Andreadakis, they all offer surprises by unpacking a range of emotions and issues.

Many institutions might now be questioning what the future could hold – and whether they can weather the storm. But investing in new commissions now (in this case, with the support of Greece’s culture ministry) is as fundamental as ever. Culture needs to go beyond helping us forget; its greatest power lies in its ability to help us understand – and digest – the times we live in.

Image: Shutterstock

Diplomacy / Taiwan

Ill will

Bearing in mind its proximity to the origins of the coronavirus outbreak, Taiwan’s management of the pandemic, led by president Tsai Ing-wen (pictured), has been exemplary. But its lack of recognition by the World Health Organization (WHO) – Taiwan is excluded because of China’s objections to its membership – has made it difficult for others to follow suit. “Taiwan notified the WHO on 31 December about the possibility of human-to-human transmission but we received no response,” David Lin from the Taipei Representative Office in the UK told Monocle 24’s The Globalist. “We feel that if the WHO had taken action a bit earlier, then the situation probably would be a bit better for the entire world.” The lesson? Using international organisations as geopolitical pawns – whether it’s China doing so or the US, which this week said that it would be halting its funding for the WHO – risks distracting from their core values. “Health is a fundamental human right,” says Lin. “And health for all is the basic goal of the WHO.”

Image: Shutterstock

Society / Switzerland

Open to debate

As countries enter the second phase of combating the pandemic, many governments are planning to take small steps, such as allowing shops to open, before easing other restrictions. But one group in Switzerland thinks that they’ve got it wrong. “We should delegate responsibility to the corporate world,” Peter Grünenfelder, director of pro-free-market think-tank Avenir Suisse, told Monocle 24’s The Briefing.

Grünenfelder believes that every business should be allowed to decide for itself whether to open up or not, as long as it commits to the health and social-distancing guidelines that are likely to remain in place for some time. His argument is not that beating the pandemic doesn’t matter but that we should worry more about secondary health impact too. “When there’s an economic recession, people will fall into depression, [leading to] high suicide rates,” he says. “We should bear that in mind.”

Image: Getty Images

Economy / Canada

Welcome change

All over the world, many shops that remain open display signs stating that they will no longer accept cash. However, according to a study released this month by the Bank for International Settlements, cash actually poses a low risk in the spread of coronavirus, prompting the Bank of Canada to urge retailers to reverse this practice this week. It has warned that the banning of cash impacts on already vulnerable members of society. The central bank’s guidance echoes a move by the city of San Francisco last August – long before the coronavirus outbreak – that prevented shops going cash-free. The ruling noted that those without access to bank accounts or credit cards shouldn’t be discriminated against at the checkout. That sentiment rings true now more than ever, when essential goods should be available to everyone, no matter how they choose to pay for them.

Image: Juho Kuva

Business / Finland

Northern star

The past few weeks have been tough but the lockdown has also offered some of us a chance to spruce up our homes or take another look at that neglected begonia, balcony or even garden. That’s where companies such as Fiskars come into play. The Finnish group is one of the biggest players in northern European design. It boasts a portfolio of 14 heritage brands, including its own line, Finland’s Iittala and Arabia, and others from further afield, such as Wedgwood, Waterford and Royal Doulton. Many of Fiskars’ products are iconic – you might already own those orange-handled kitchen scissors, for example. But CEO Jaana Tuominen (pictured) is also working hard to innovate and keep the company relevant. To find out how, pick up Monocle’s May issue – out today – or order it online from

Image: Ana Hop

M24 / Monocle on Design

The home front

With many of us adjusting to life under lockdown we ask ‘Disegno’ magazine editor Oli Stratford about how the design industry has been affected. Plus: Nolan Giles on Monocle’s home manifesto and Josh Fehnert on why bumps and bruises tell better stories than flush finishes when it comes to turning houses to homes.

Monocle Films / Global

The future of Japanese craftsmanship

For the release of our book about Japan, we produced a film series that dives into the intriguing ecosystem that has preserved Japanese traditional skills over centuries. Meet the people who are future-proofing the age-old know-how.


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