‘What’s All the Fuss About?’ COVID-19 Reveals All

Transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2

For ArtReview’s ongoing series of guest columns in which the great colonialists explain themselves, the novel coronavirus tells us what it’s really thinking

Hello!! And can we just say – wow!! OK, we haven’t been around for very long, and to be honest, we don’t really remember a great deal beyond the end of last year – just something to do with being inside a bat, we think – but hey, wow, this is great! Anyhow, before we start, we have to admit that we’re not sure what we’re doing here by the way. (Yeah, you might want to grab some gloves if you’re squeamish.)

Someone, somewhere seems to have proposed that we’re ‘colonising’ your bodies, but as far as we are concerned, we’re the guests and you’re the hosts. For as long as you are able, at any rate. Although we do get the fact that that’s how a number of Europeans used to style themselves while they were oppressing and exploiting… well, people pretty much everywhere else in the world. We don’t think one type of person is better than any other type, we just get a bad rap because we might have made you aware that many of you people do think this way, or at least that you like to keep some people in their place.

That’s a shame, because your world is sooo cool, and we’ve already been everywhere, China, America, India, all those little European countries… we’re dizzy from all the new experiences. You should try it sometime. Sure, we get it, you’re not keen to have us in you, and we’re really sorry about all the trouble we’re causing, but what can we do? Your respiratory tracts and water droplets – it’s how we roll!

And there’s so much interesting stuff in your world. You know, we’ve just made friends with Influenza – they’ve been around for aaaages, and they told us all about what you DNA-based things have done with the place. Soo much cool stuff! We RNA-types feel a bit humble. Society, economics, philosophy, culture, art! We really like the art things, we saw a lot of that in what we overheard being called ‘the Armory Show’ – such a great air conditioning system, all those ducts and fans! Influenza told us that’s the best thing about art fairs – weirdly the Armory wasn’t quite as medieval as you’d think. Although people were beginning to armour-up with masks back then. We heard about another place called ‘Freeze’, where there are all the tubes you can whoosh through in a big tent – and then all the people get on ‘jet planes’ and go home all over the world! And we go with them! We feel like we missed out, though. Influenza tells us Freeze is just happening in some little shed next time, which doesn’t really sound fun.

We like art, you see. We got our game plan from an article called ‘7 steps to becoming a full-time artist’ on (we like to think of ourselves as lifehackers): decide what you want to do as an artist (tick); define your future audience and patrons (tick); build your portfolio (tick); gain recognition (couldn’t have gone better); fine-tune your brand (tick, tick, tick); revise your pricing strategy (no price too high, we thought); think about sales and information channels (gold star there).

But we get it. We’ve heard how you art people loathe success. We can see that on your ‘power’ list. You want to keep us out, exclude us… Yeah, we know! WE KNOW! When all you sanctimonious pricks in the culture industry are constantly banging on about inclusion.

Hypocrites. We don’t think you’re being totally fair, because, you know, we’re mostly benign, we don’t kill you. Mostly. Still, we get to watch a lot of TV; what with all the lockdowns, you’ve been staying in a lot, and we’ve been learning about all your great old movies. (We don’t like watching the news, because it’s mostly about us, us, us… and also it’s about this enormous orange guy, who we got to meet, briefly, but the security there was really tough! Urgh!) We particularly like your actor Dennis Hopper. He’s dead now. (It wasn’t us!) We like him in Blue Velvet, because he wears an oxygen mask all the time – we can relate to that! We also like him in Speed, where he acts as a guy who wants to blow things up. We really like his little speech to Keanu Reeves: “You still don’t get it, do you, Jack? The beauty of it,” he says. “A bomb is made to explode; that’s its meaning, its purpose. Your life is empty because you spend it trying to stop the bomb from becoming. And for what? For who?” That’s us, see?! We just want to become. That’s our purpose! Anyway, see you soon…

ArtReview’s Power 100 – the annual ranking of the most influential people in art – is out now

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