A coronal reflection.
In search of the COVID-19 disease, I first see an explosion of the nanoscopic SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, now sprinkled across the continents. This novel species, although it lacks both metabolism and cellular structure, is making its voice heard by killing (so far) thousands of people, disrupting billions.
Where can I find this new being? I feel like we need to have a talk!
As I approach the gooey ball of spikes, I see a minuscule snippet of genetic coding folded in a protein envelope, with loose footing balancing on the boundary between life and nonlife – on its own a passive speck of invisible dust, in me an active unruly force.
It's as if it’s taunting me to discover that this distinction between living beings and inanimate matter was just my own doing all along. A mind tool that now feels remarkably blunt as I try to understand and communicate with the virus.
But only for a second, before corona turns my own tool against me, throwing my own body into a similarly unsteady balancing act between life and death. I fear that my perceived state of being could fall into an irreversible state of non-being.
Should I trust my fear? Or are you just welcoming me into your world, corona? A world seemingly free of categories and dualistic thinking, beyond ideas of us and them, good and evil, individual and collective, inside and outside, body and environment, pure and impure. You relentlessly infect all carriers of the ACE2-receptor, no matter what their nationality or social status.
Confusion as my calendar empties… the future has been canceled, was it ever even there?
I investigate your roots and realize that if it wasn’t for the bat pangolin wet markets, the global travel patterns, the unfathomable scale of animal exploitation, we never would have met. But also, these “viral support factors” in turn rely upon other factors – food cultures, forest habitats, fiscal policies – in an endless list of human-nonhuman entanglements.
To my great surprise, if I imagine removing a single one of these dependence factors, the body of corona that felt so intrinsically real, suddenly pops out of existence! It’s as if the COVID-19 pandemic consists entirely of the causes and conditions that have allowed it to arise. In a dizzying dolly zoom, the virus morphs into a mirror where I see the whole world reflected at once.
What are you trying to tell me corona?
In an unforeseen loss of illusions, I realize I was never in control.
Maybe it’s too early for me to fully understand your message. For now, I can think only of limiting your immediate impact, caring for those around me and mourning our loved ones lost.
But once the fog lifts, when this too has passed, I hope that we will be able to keep our ear to the ground and listen attentively, as non-human forces and actants speak – telling us what forms of presence and absence are supported and constructed by human activities.
I will keep you in mind corona, even when you are not screaming at the top of my lungs.
About Nonhuman Nonsense
"They seek the contradictory and the paradoxical to tell stories that open the public imaginary to futures that currently seem impossible"
Leo Fidjeland and Linnea Våglund are Nonhuman Nonsense. Driven by research, the design duo explores the boundaries between art, science, technology and philosophy. They create fairy-tale-like scenarios from the near future that lies somewhere between utopia and dystopia. By naming and testing political and ethical issues, the duo challenges the existing structures of power and creates space in our field of experience for other entities alongside humans.