ONE AND A HALF LIFE

Life at the time of coronavirus. A subjective diary of confinement 

Biology of 1.5m

An invisible agglomeration of protein, fat and nucleic acid that needs a host to reveal any living traits. It transmits from host to host through small droplets that are in a way the interface between two hosts. Similarly, in order to reveal its existence and measure it you need first to create a negative mould of its nucleic acid; RNA. RNA cannot be detected with the methodology currently used. First you need to turn it into DNA by using an enzyme called Reverse Transcriptase. Once DNA is created, it needs to be amplified through a method called PCR which is similar to repeated cycles of copying and pasting that molecule of DNA until you have enough to be visualised. One can find analogies in the way we detect the virus and the photographic practice. Something undetectable (a moment in time) is passed on a film, therefore creating a negative mould and the image on that film is amplified by use of light and a photosensitive paper in order to be clearly visible. Just like PCR is revealing the existence of the virus, photography is revealing existence of hidden moments in our lives. Therefore a fleeing moment is RNA, the negative film is DNA, the camera is the Reverse Transcriptase and the photographic image is the result of the PCR. 

I have read also how countries are closing down borders to prevent spreading of our boredom. All of a sudden, this starts to sound acceptable. Do not build a wall to prevent the lesser people to come in, block a virus to come in and everyone will be happy with that. But the wall will still be there, no matter what and all it will block is our humanity. Stigma is allowed when it is branded a biological raison d' etre.

Coronavirus, or any virus for what it is worth, is not here to block nor to exclude but to pause and evaluate. But I am afraid that this will not be the case. Same as HIV, it was a moment to re-think connection vs hedonism, mutualism vs segregation, commitment vs individual pleasure, effort in connecting vs frivolous interaction (cannot help making the analogy of human vs virtual interaction, although I know it is a leap further). The moment we think that the biological barrier is not there (look at PreP) we fall back to our instinctive needs and imperfect atomic perception of the world around us. Testing for the virus can be an opportunity for a cure or stigma.

Curves of 1.5m

One can look at the pandemic and its background through many numbers and the statistics they form. 

By using a thread of 1.5m long, I formed and photographed the shape that would come out of such statistics. By studying these shapes one can get an idea of the nature and the cause of the pandemic.

Currency of 1.5m

The pandemic has changed our perception of the world. Apart from obvious temporary results on the environment, all of a sudden different things gained value in a coronavirus world. Protective masks became the new gold, supermarkets were empty of toilet paper, then eggs, then pasta and rice, then flower. Week after week something simple took the place of the new currency, the coronavirus gold. At the same time black gold was losing its worth by the day, as it was useless when any means of transportation was reduced drastically. A new currency system was emerging

Home of 1.5m

Under the current conditions, the idea of home is changing for each and everyone of us. What does it mean, how does it feel and what has it replaced? For some it turns from a shelter, a place of comfort and introspect into a virus sanctuary, a prison, a confinement. For me, my home became the only space where we interact with the whole world. It gained a multidimensional nature; office, home, space of interaction with friends and society; all spaces in one. All of a sudden, light coming in was a messenger from the world outside, transforming by forming shadows the physicality of the space I am existing in. Shadows and light were the translation of the interplay between the outside world and the indoors. Windows were the physical borders between the two and reflections on those shaped and mingled the two spaces . Window reflections are creating juxtapositions of the outside world inside and bring the two together. They are shifting from being borders to the interface between the two spaces, creating a new dimension. But also the interiors I photographed seem to be stuck in a point in time, life in suspension, like nothing moved on any further.

I tried to depict the idea of home as shadows, reflections, working and living space, all in one.

Degrees of Freedom

“Degrees of freedom” in statistics is the number of values that can vary after certain restrictions have been imposed on all values(data). One degree of freedom is lost with each additional restriction. Every measure taken was reducing the number of values that can affect the spreading of virus, therefore reducing social degrees of freedom and interactions of the elements within the system studied. I photographed elements around me depicting such degrees of freedom during the pandemic.

Relationships of 1.5m

I was missing my friends, even though we could call, use live video calls to connect with each other, it was not the same. Human contact could not be replaced by technology. How funny you have those  tiny biological entities that have no social consciousness, controlling us, teaching us the value of mutualism vs individualism and the need to come together as humans and not as technological terminals of networks.

Pandemics are primarily of social nature, and reveal not the weakness of our biology but our social existence. I photographed friends of mine outside their houses from a distance of 1.5m to visualise how it felt to be apart in times like this. 

Do you get the bigger picture?

Another aspect that is of importance is privacy. By end of March 10 countries are applying  surveillance methods in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. First question then that arises here is to what extend would you allow access to your private data to the government and eventually to the whole country? 

Let's consider another situation where something similar happened to actually protect citizens from an eminent danger, namely terrorism. Increased safety measures were put in airports after 9-11 and extensive data control to tackle a possible worse attack. Once the threat was ameliorated, the measures were still in force. It is easy therefore for a political power to enforce such measures in face of a public danger and by propagating fear for that danger to keep enforcing measures that can be against civil rights. 

Second question then is for how long are we willing to give access to our privacy and complete surveillance in order to tackle coronavirus spread that is "mentioned" that it will not go away in the foreseeable future?

How much are we willing to sacrifice in order to feel "safe"? How much responsibility and power do we throw on our governments in order to protect us if by ourselves don't feel the need to be responsible citizens?

Home confinement is a way to control the pandemic but also the free citizen. Let's reconsider our attitude in times of panic and the consequence of what we give away to recover from panic. Let's behave as thinking citizens and exercise responsibly our empathy towards our fellow citizens without panic and extremities (expressed in mountains of toilet paper or complete surveillance of public life). Because in the long run what makes us human and social beings is not our biology but how we respond to our biology in times like this. And my fear in the current crisis is not how we walk out of it as a biological entity but as a social one.

What went unnoticed

While everything was revolving around the pandemic, nature around us was transforming. While everyone was in a state of panic and angst, something beautiful was happening right next to us that went unnoticed. Life was going on normally right under our eyes. I photographed small flowers that I picked up around my house in Amsterdam.

At the same time, while front pages were dealing only with coronavirus, other news were hidden under a cloak of curves and death numbers. All of a sudden, refugees, war and famine were not issues of human life, not as important as the pandemic (photos form newspapers)

1,5 self

In biology the term mutualism means symbiosis which is beneficial to both organisms involved. And in social terms what we experience now is the commence of a new mutualism; to learn to live with the virus and with each other anew. Every radical beginning seems turbulent but it brings forth necessary changes. 

It is anything but big that made us rethink and face up to our vulnerabilities and state of seemingly prosperity. Social distancing; we think that in a time of social media explosion, of facebook, instagram, twitter, blogs, you name it, that the lack of sheer human contact is isolation. People are getting bored staying at home, surrounded by technologies of interaction, but not the humanity of interaction. We understand now how redundant those technologies are for the purposes we thought they were more than sufficient for. People overall heads bent towards screen and when the time comes that this is all you can do, then you want to raise your head and see a human face. I think the virus made us reassess the value of sheer human contact. Those few micrometers of protein-nucleic acid agglomeration, managed eventually to infect much more our perspective of the world than our body. It showed us much more how dead our minds have become before our bodies even decline. Death rates of our consciousness revealed by the coronavirus are much higher than any mortality measured in hospitals.

Home confinement is a way to control the pandemic but also the free citizen. Let's reconsider our attitude in times of panic and the consequence of what we give away to recover from panic. Let's behave as thinking citizens and exercise responsibly our empathy towards our fellow citizens without panic and extremities (expressed in mountains of toilet paper or complete surveillance of public life). Because in the long run what makes us human and social beings is not our biology but how we respond to our biology in times like this. And my fear in the current crisis is not how we walk out of it as a biological entity but as a social one.

Inverse Isolation

In biology the term mutualism means symbiosis which is beneficial to both organisms involved. And in social terms what we experience now is the commence of a new mutualism; to learn to live with the virus and with each other anew. Every radical beginning seems turbulent but it brings forth necessary changes. 

It is anything but big that made us rethink and face up to our vulnerabilities and state of seemingly prosperity. Social distancing; we think that in a time of social media explosion, of facebook, instagram, twitter, blogs, you name it, that the lack of sheer human contact is isolation. People are getting bored staying at home, surrounded by technologies of interaction, but not the humanity of interaction. We understand now how redundant those technologies are for the purposes we thought they were more than sufficient for. People overall heads bent towards screen and when the time comes that this is all you can do, then you want to raise your head and see a human face. I think the virus made us reassess the value of sheer human contact. Those few micrometers of protein-nucleic acid agglomeration, managed eventually to infect much more our perspective of the world than our body. It showed us much more how dead our minds have become before our bodies even decline. Death rates of our consciousness revealed by the coronavirus are much higher than any mortality measured in hospitals.

Home confinement is a way to control the pandemic but also the free citizen. Let's reconsider our attitude in times of panic and the consequence of what we give away to recover from panic. Let's behave as thinking citizens and exercise responsibly our empathy towards our fellow citizens without panic and extremities (expressed in mountains of toilet paper or complete surveillance of public life). Because in the long run what makes us human and social beings is not our biology but how we respond to our biology in times like this. And my fear in the current crisis is not how we walk out of it as a biological entity but as a social one.

Aftermath