Nada Prlja writes on 29.03.202o on her Facebook page “The first week, I was “on and off”; in the second week, a number of symptoms appeared; in the third week, my temperature has been consistently higher, while some of the other symptoms have become reduced. Now, I no longer ask when this condition will be over, I only desire for the symptoms to not get worse. Therefore:
‘I Hate COVID-19 and COVID-19 Hates me’ is the title of artist Nada Prlja’s newest work, consisting of a series of documentary photographs of an artistic performance, depicting the artist’s underlying confusion and the tenacity required towards obtaining relevant information regarding preventative measures and potential cures related to the treatment of COVID 19, while being sich with the same viral infection. The images of the artist’s performative work is a project which reflects on the frenzy of media coverage regarding the current pandemic crisis, influenced by differing interest groups. While certain clinically unproven drugs are being promoted by influential figures (including the ‘leader of the Free World’), some methods of treatment that could perhaps be a ‘gamechanger’ in treating the COVID-19 virus, are being dismissed by the media. This proves the continuing role of the media in maintaining social facts on a large scale – in this instance, within the medical context. Moreover, one could argue that political systems do not endeavour to mitigate (but rather potentially reinforce) the laissez-faire and often contradictory nature of media circulation. The resulting confusion maintains the power of political systems as the ‘bearers of (medical) truths’ and social facts. In a rather Foucauldian fashion, Nada Prlja writes:
‘Our bodies have become govermentalized bodies – how the body is treated, depends on the decisions of individual governments and the times in which those decisions are made. At the present time, the Western world is (therefore) largely engaging in processes of self diagnostics, self support and the potential self healing of the ill body…’
While I find the conspiracies linking the Coronavirus and 5G, or those claiming the Coronavirus to have been ‘manufactured’ to be ridiculous, they do serve as a testament to the oversaturated provision of information in our contemporary world and its potentially harmful effects on democracy. One can look back to a simpler time in media history, where what was published by the media (and usually fabricated by the government and the powerful few) was considered by most, as simply being ‘the truth’. For example, the reasons used to justify the US’ involvement in the Vietnam War in the late 1960’s, were created by the US government under the Lyndon B. Johnson administration and facilitated by media outlets, as discussed by multiple historians and most notably by Naom Chomsky, in his book ‘Manufacturing Consent’. Adults from the time of the Vietnam War, loathe for their children or grandchildren to engage with playing violent video games, yet ‘fail to understand that it is a vicious circle, since the Vietnam War and the uncensored access to media and especially to TV by bringing lethal weapons and the death of other humans to our bedrooms, kitchens or even worse, to the way our children see the world.’
Today, media systems have come a long way, yet the enlightenment of most people to the ‘truth’ and an elaboration of, or deviation from social facts, is not dissimilar to how it was in the late 1970s. Yet those more privileged (in Anglo-Saxon countries, at least), usually have better access to healthcare and the right information. Not only does this reinforce Bourdieu’s discussion of social and symbolic capital, but it also bears comparison to Tom Sendage’s discussion of Roman-era graffiti and its exclusivity at the time to literate, white men, showing how culture was an expression of, or potentially even controlled by, those who were in power or the most privileged in society.
Nada Prlja’s work ‘I Hate COVID-19 and COVID-19 Hates me’ (2020) is inspired by Joseph Beuys work from the 1974 entitled, ‘I Like America and America Likes Me’ which draws a parallel to the topic of antagonism between the individual and the State when it comes to conveying the truth, as opposed to manufactured versions of the truth. If we are to ‘like’ and trust our governments, we should be provided with the truth through the media and the government. While the media will always have its contradictory and partisan nature, efforts must be increased to convey the essence of the issues around sensitive social, economic and socioeconomic matters with more sincerity – and therefore clarity – if people are to be confident in the providers of information and the government’s contribution to, or control of, the media.
Text and all photographs of the performance by Niccolo Serafimovski