Patient Zer0 was inspired by, conceived and designed in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic (click image to visit on-line installation).
Despite the fact that common-sense and major health organisations recommend physical isolation, many choose not to abide, unable to realise that not only are they potentially putting themselves at risk, but also everyone else that crosses their path, including family members, friends, co-workers, neighbours or other people who happen to share the same space, touch the same surfaces, exchange cash or sit at the same coffee table and chair. They remain convinced that “it is just a flu”, that going out is a sign of courage and helps “The Economy” – when it really is the opposite: they are neither brave enough to care for themselves nor for all those around them. And by their actions our days become darker still.
There are, however, those who need to go out and work, to ensure their salaries get paid, to ensure our lives go on, our internet purchases get delivered, our internet connections keep running. They take precautions and refrain from physical contact. Others yet risk their lives assisting and caring for the many victims, and often they do not even sleep at home with their own families to safeguard them. These are the brave ones.
But despite their brave actions these are dark days, as many of the victims are separated from their families and will die alone. Some die in isolation, others are left behind in homes and care centres, several are left unattended because there aren’t enough resources. Imagine being told “you are not a priority”. Imagine your relatives being told “I’m sorry, there is nothing we can do”.
This is the first (I would hope the only) pandemic that many of us are witnessing in our own lifetimes. It is changing our daily lives, our routines, our perceptions, our relationship with life and death, and our relationship with “the other”. We can choose to perceive everyone else as a potential threat or as a fellow human being sharing the same feelings, going through the same experiences, fearing as we do, loving as we do.
Reports abound of attacks perpetrated against people who were suspected to be infected. Ambulances carrying patients to improvised hospitals have been stoned and homes for the elderly graffitied. The best and the worst of human nature has risen and is unashamedly out in the open.
No economy is worth saving at the expense of humanity.
No society makes sense at the expense of Humanity.
Though physically apart, we share the same nature.
Though physically apart, we are connected in so many ways.
This pandemic has caused too many victims, attacking bodies and souls.
It is time to honour the departed, whoever they may be, wherever they were from.
Simply because they were human. Like us. Like me.
And time to thank the brave.
(Patient Zer0 will open in a popup window, check if your browser is not blocking it. For sound click the play/pause button at the top-left corner of the screen)
Patient Zer0 (slightly) remixes Elizabeth Jennings‘s most excellent poem “In Memory Of Anyone Unknown To Me”, as the original verse layout (below) is slightly adjusted for on-screen presentation. The choice was made to present key sentences and expressions at a time, rather than full verses, yet completely safeguarding the original flow of the poem.
In Memory Of Anyone Unknown To Me By Elizabeth Jennings At this particular time I have no one Particular person to grieve for, though there must Be many, many unknown ones going to dust Slowly, not remembered for what they have done Or left undone. For these, then, I will grieve Being impartial, unable to deceive. How they lived, or died, is quite unknown, And, by that fact gives my grief purity, An important person quite apart from me Or one obscure who drifted down alone. Both or all I remember, have a place. For these I never encountered face to face. Sentiment will creep in. I cast it out Wishing to give these classical repose, No epitaph, no poppy and no rose From me, and certainly no wish to learn about The way they lived or died. In earth or fire They are gone. Simply because they were human, I admire.
I am also humbled to have been given the opportunity to include Heitor Alvelos‘ sound piece “Relief” as a soundscape for Patient Zer0, adding to its solemn, eerie atmosphere.
RELIEF My sound work has always been a slow process, often taking years until it finds the right form or context; in the case of this piece, the editing started in 2017, over source materials going back decades. The original premise was to create a slowly unfolding abyss, an experience whereby the listener would feel themselves falling continuously and perpetually. Yet somehow it all felt a bit… not quite there. So the edits have patiently remained on the shelf. Fast forward to March, 2020, and the same exact sounds now speak of a different reality. It is no longer the abyss, it is about bringing down the statistics, the exponential curve, the intensity of it all. Looking back, the piece was already complete, give or take a few minor edits: it just had to wait for its resonance - and it resonates now, albeit for the worst reasons. The tailend of the sound piece, and corresponding acoustic shift, signal the upcoming aftermath of the pandemic, in whichever form it might end up taking. The sounds are purposefully soothing, ominous and open-ended, evoking the gigantic, desolate sigh of relief that awaits us all at some point. Or so we hope. Technical note: sound frequencies were partially sacrificed due to storage requirements. A lossless version will be available in due time via benevolentanger.org Heitor Alvelos, 31 March, 2020
Note: Due to browser privacy restrictions, audio playback upon page loading is disabled. Please use the control at the top-left to start playback.
The system is formed by two particle sets: one reserved for assembling and dismantling the solemn utterances as text-dust (Remember You are Dust and to Dust You Shall Return). The other particle set is the societal backdrop, where each larger cell (in shades of blue-cyan or red) represents an individual. The relationships among these individuals are illustrated by connecting arcs, and both individuals and arcs are animated with the natural living rhythm of breathing, through colour (both) and movement (arcs), as COVID-19 mainly attacks the respiratory system. The two particle sets (text-dust and individuals) are connected since each dust particle has its origins in one of the individuals. All individuals remain anonymous until they are infected. Their names, countries and age at the time of infection are displayed.
Initially only one individual is infected. This is the Patient Zer0. He could be anyone of us.
Through contact with other individuals, contagion occurs (represented by the white rays) and so the spreading starts, across communities, countries and continents.
The Economy responds to the observer’s mouse: placing the cursor in close contact with each individual will cause them to break confinement and move around. As expected, the more the individuals move, the faster they all become infected.
Mouse left-clicking restarts the societal background. The poem, however, flows independently.
This project was developed in Processing.js and the particle animation used in the sentences was inspired by Jason Labbe’s code.