I Hate COVID-19 and COVID-19 Hates me

corona 18
‘I Hate COVID-19 and COVID-19 Hates me’, Nada Prlja, 2020. Documentation of a performance, 18 photographs, colour. Courtesy © Nada Prlja. Photographs © Niccolo Serafimovski (same caption applies to all images)

This 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…’

corona 5
D3, Z, S… I am counting and calculating the dose of my daily intake of recommended vitamins.
corona 4
I use artbags for shopping. After each use I wash and iron them.
corona 3
Whenever and wherever I find the sun, I try to expose myself to it.
corona 2
I iron every single item of fabric with a steam iron.
corona 1
Every morning, I take 1000mg of Vitamin C.

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.’

corona 8
The separation of clean gloves for all indoor actions, while dirty gloves are related to the handling of all items that come from outside.
corona 7
I cannot count the number of teas with fresh ginger that I am consuming. 

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.

corona 17
I eat and dress white.
corona 15
Black is for everything related to objects moving between the outside and the inside. Every day I repeat to myself: place alcohol on your hands when you come inside, hang your outside clothes on a hanger (air it out); place all washable clothes in an artbag (washing it out), place all unnecessary items into a rubbish bag (placed next to the outside door).
corona 14
Consumption of large amounts of liquidin is advisable and necessary.
corona 13
Prepare food whenever you have the strength, freeze it for consumption at moments when you do not have strength to walk or cook.
corona 12
Use water and sodium bicarbonate to wash and disinfect all fruits and vegetables with a strong skin.
corona 11
Colour code your toiletry.
corona 10
Throw away all outside packaging of any purchased items,  placing all products into new and clean bags.
corona 9
For night sweats, have water, drying fan and dry t-shirts nearby you.

Nada Prlja’s work I Hate COVID-19 and COVID-19 Hates me’ 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 by Niccolo Serafimovski

josephbeuys1974
Joseph Beuys, I Like America and America Likes Me, 1974. © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst Bonn, Germany. Courtesy of SFMoMA.