Life as liquid/vivum fluidum

14. August 2020: Vernissage
19.30 Uhr audiovirale Impfung von The Sporthorses (Konzert)

in der ausstellung geht es darum, dass wir auch ein anderes, weniger feindliches verhältnis zu viren haben könnten – oder sogar sollten?

an exhibition about the possibility of a different, less hostile relationship to viruses

“There are many direct and indirect causes of viral pathogenesis, but given the sheer numbers of viruses within a holobiont, and the limited pathogenesis that actually occurs, it seems more likely that viral pathogenesis is not as common as viral commensalism and mutualism.” Juris A. Grasis, The Intra-Dependence of Viruses and the Holobiont

Life as liquid/vivum fluidum
An audio visual research and a series of events about the mystery of viruses

Pei-Ying Lin: Virophilia

audio visual research – portrait gallery of eminent viruses, with a choice of scientific visualizations (of the invisible)

Fair enough, we have won the war. The invisible enemy is pushed back, the aggressor not that aggressive anymore. But was this the right narrative, after all? Obviously, for politicians like Trump or Macron, it was a tempting metaphor:

Nous sommes en guerre, en guerre sanitaire certes. Nous ne luttons ni contre une armée ni contre une autre nation, mais l’ennemi est là, invisible, insaisissable, et qui progresse. Et cela requiert notre mobilisation générale. Nous sommes en guerre.

But nature doesn’t work like that. Viruses are not our enemy. After all, we are partly viral, on a genetic level: at least 8 percent of our genome are of viral origin. It might as well be that we have to share the positionof the pinnacle of evolution with the viruses; we are perfect counterparts. While we’ve evolved along a pathway of ever-increasing complexity, viruses have streamlined, successfully jettisoning all but a handful of essential genes. Life has taken two different paths. One leading to minimal beauty, the other to ornamental splendor.

What is life, anyway, if we are all interdependent? It might be that viruses have descended from living cells, so they are still alive now – but in a unique way: when viruses infect a cell, that reunion forms a complete living system. John Mattick, molecular biologist: “People say viruses aren’t free-living. But that’s a philosophical question – are we free-living?” – “We can’t live without plants. Life is an interconnected system.”

The artist Pei-Ying Lin has for years investigated this interconnectedness, this permanent symbiosis with viruses. Her work imagines and examines the virus not as the other we should be afraid of but as a symbiotic part of us. It might as well be that it constitutes a much closer relationship than the one we form with our microbiome.

And yet, we can’t help to picture the enemy. We need to see the invisible.

Contagium vivum fluidum (Latin: “contagious living fluid”) was a phrase first used to describe a virus, and underlined its ability to slip through the finest-mesh filters then available, giving it almost liquid properties. Martinus Beijerinck (1851-1931), a Dutch microbiologist and botanist, first used the term when studying the tobacco mosaic virus, becoming convinced that the virus had a liquid nature.

Viruses can be benign as well as malign – the sheer concept of illness doesn’t make sense from a viral point of view. Every infection is an exchange, altering both the host as well as the visitor. And that’s not only true for biological infections: “The word has not been recognized as a virus because it has achieved a state of stable symbiosis with the host.” (William S. Burroughs)

Deutscher Saaltext zum Download hier.

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