SHANGHAI (Reuters) – For most of China’s 1.4 billion people, regular testing for COVID-19 has become a way of life. Siyuan Zhuji is trying to turn them into a work of art.
Since March, the 33-year-old multidisciplinary artist from Jiangsu province has been filming his own nucleic acid tests with a small camera in his mouth.
His video clips show teeth and tongue and a cotton swab approaching. In some shots, she can be seen through her teeth at a PPE-clad healthcare worker administering the test.
“This is our life now, this period of time involves doing regular nucleic tests,” Zhuji told Reuters in an interview at his study.
“It’s a way of life that is unique in our time.”
Zhuji said the idea for the videos came to him when he began to consider the vulnerability of the mouth, both as an entry point for the virus and also for repeated testing to find it.
He has recorded around 40 tests and says he will continue to record videos with his thumb-sized camera as long as regular tests are required.
Over time, his goal is to show the videos simultaneously on a large screen in a grid, a snapshot of pandemic life in China. He calls his work “Hesuan Jiance”, which translates to “COVID test”.
“This work can represent this era. This is what I want to express. It is to record everyone’s current life,” Zhuji said.
The novel coronavirus emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, and for nearly two years China was relatively virus-free. But the Omicron variant caused persistent outbreaks across the country, which authorities have been combating with a barrage of evidence.
In many places, a negative COVID test is required to use public transportation and enter schools, workplaces, stores, banks, parks, and any other places where people gather.
China’s quest for “zero COVID” means Zhuji could be filming evidence for some time yet.
“I will continue to record these videos until the end of the pandemic,” he said. “If I die before the end, I’ll keep shooting until I die.”
(Reporting by Casey Hall; Editing by Robert Birsel)