2020.06.20 Sat, by
THE virus – SELBST (C0vid-20-Recovered)

Thomas Eller’s THE virus – SELBST (C0vid-20-Recovered) (2020) was made in the midst of the Corona pandemic, while the artist was in lockdown in China. As so much of Eller’s work, it is a self-portrait, yet at the same time, also an intimate portrait of COVID-19; replicating in its form and content the biological basis of the virus.

Eller projects himself into the frame in a visually and aurally layered palimpsest. The artist re-duplicates himself, again and again, with each of his copies reciting the complete genetic code of one of the first strains of the SARS-CoV2 virus identified in Wuhan, where the COVID-19 outbreak began. But the copies are not perfect. The duplicates vary. Eller makes mistakes in the code, scrambling the RNA sequence here, dropping a nucleotide there….


For Video: https://vimeo.com/411067412
Website: https://www.momentumworldwide.org/collection/thomas-eller/

More copies of genetic code, more small mistakes here and there – Thomas Eller has translated into visual language an approximation of how the virus replicates itself, spreading its genetic information through multiplication, and through mistakes from copy to copy, mutating to create new strains. Ceaselessly copying itself, undergoing mutations along the way, the virus has generated more than two hundred different strains, so far, from this original genetic sequence. Scientists have not yet made sense of the variations between the strains. They are as random as the mistakes the artist invariably makes while reeling off dense lines of genetic code.

Amongst the duplicates on the screen, a digitally altered copy of the artist enters the frame; an Eller in pixels, with a computer’s robotic voice reciting the sequence of nucleotides. Technology is racing to overtake the virus, but when will it catch up? We are still waiting, and hoping, for a viable vaccine, for a treatment, for a cure. Until then, we hide from the virus, and from each other. We distance, socially, and wait for a scientific breakthrough, hoping that science will win this race against nature. We should be so lucky if the virus simply stops, as Eller does, and goes away.

[Rachel Rits-Volloch]