This project comes from a very simple question: Can we start to see the connotation of viruses differently, especially those that causes infectious diseases? The reason why such question is being asked has a very strong historical and scientific background. In biological definition, viruses, unlike bacteria, are not consider as ‘living’. It is due to the fact that viruses themselves do not equip with essential components that can facilitate their replication. In other words, viruses cannot replicate themselves. They are doomed to be the ‘parasites’ on living creatures, and human is one of them. When viruses borrow our cells as their replication factories, our body system become unstable, our body immune system reacts, and at the macro scale we get sick. Though the interaction is much more sophisticated than how we commonly understand.
The biological world is vast and evolving. We as one of the biological habitants that share the same basic building blocks with other living and semi-living things, we are born to be included in the cycle of evolutions. We share the same genetic codes with viruses, and for their semi-living status, we have not yet develop a medicine to cure them but only merely stop them from further replicating. At the same time, not all viruses are pathogens. New discoveries of beneficial viruses are starting to reveal, some are even crucial for our survival. The amount of viruses surrounding us also vastly outnumber what we have known now. To make it short, human and viruses depends on the existence of each other. Evolution is a non-stoping competition and collaboration.
This project is to investigate the possibilities of human-virus encounter in the realm of culture through different facilitation of events, performances, and materiality to build up new discourse and sensible understandings.
Virophilia is a cookbook written for the 22nd century human in consideration for incorporating the positive usage of virus into our daily life.
Dates back to 17th century when Leeuwenhoek first invented the microscope with resolution high enough to see bacteria, it was the first concrete acknowledgement (for human) of their physical existence. 19th century, the door of Microbiology opened when many scientists such as Ferdinand Cohn, Louis Pasteur, Robert Koch started to describe bacteria in detail, and develop methods for handling them. It was also when we started to have the idea of ‘hygiene’ along with the discovery of antibiotics and antibiotic resistance.
As time comes to 21st century, we have discovered again that ‘bacteria are directly and only correlated with diseases’ was problematic, hence the discussion around probiotics and microbiomes. Between the beginning of Microbiology and our turn-over understanding of bacteria, there is about 200 years in between.
The ‘discovery’ of viruses, or more of how viruses finally enters the world we can observe, was the beginning of 20th century. Before, scientists and the whole world consider viruses no difference from bacteria. Only until early 1920s scientist were able to dissociate bacteria and ‘the filterable agents’ - a.k.a. viruses. And it was also when we started to identify diseases that are caused by viruses. Scientists of 21st century in different fields are starting to research the benefits viruses brought to their host. For example the ability for plants to endure drought, abilities to change insects behaviour, etc.
The world has had a huge perspective shift since the late 21st century. The world has returned to consider human as a part of the whole ecosystem. This also motivates human to view other biological beings in different ways, which leads to a series of exploring viruses in different usages. Although human using viruses for medical use such as vaccines and vectors for genetic therapy was not something unexpected, the movement of using viruses for food and pleasure is a rather different turn as when it first appeared, the science funding supporting the non-medical research on virus was comparatively scarce.
This cookbook is written to show the fascinating aspects of viruses that were not considered useful but rather the non-biased, intention-free relationship human can have with viruses.
June 2068, Amsterdam
See some excerpt here:
The performance is an event where dishes from the cookbook is presented to the audience. The audience are invited to eat the dish while listening to instructures and stories about how the dish is made, and how the dish would react with the audiences' body while ingesting.
excerpt from the performance
Government of Earthlings reckon it was a fundamental failure that by 21st century human still devoted huge resources combating the viral agents instead of looking at the neutral ecological characteristics of viral agents. The investment on hostility towards viral agents is incomparable with objective researches especially in the field of human medicine. Many earthlings has been harmed due to this imbalance and was forced to evolve towards a human manipulated direction. This has caused substantial problems for the earth ecosystem that once human disappears a huge re-balance will take place, and if human persist existence other earthlings will spend their major efforts to response to it which creates a system too fragile.
Although human and viral agents are both born naturally and neither are harmed irrecoverably towards extinction, the recent developed methodologies by human which extend the war with the virus towards other species due to the fact that viruses are able to initiate relationships at the molecular level with all other species and human aims at eradicate the viruses along with their hosts. It is considered a warfare against Earthlings.
In order to mediate the ongoing million year’s war between human and viral agents ever since human exists, Government of Earthlings decided to accelerate the speed of friendly connections been made. Through sending human technologies and mentality from the future to the human nowadays.
And it is also why you are invited here today.
In front of you is a dish containing IF04. It is the fourth generation influenza food technology which combines seasonal influenza vaccinations along with dining pleasure. From the cooking point of view, IF04 functions like a spice. It is grown in chicken eggs like yeast grown in sugary juice to produce wine. It gives you an extended bodily sensation when used.
Now, slightly mix the yolk, foam, and rice in front of you, and take a spoon of it.
Try to feel the foam inside your mouth. IF04 is spreading mainly in the foam part of the dish, which is originally egg white. There are billions of them, spread on the surface of the foam.
Can you feel it?
Small protein shells of IF04 coats its DNA just like the shell of chocolate easter egg, but in the size of a hundredth of one single human cell. Now they are carried by the foam and rubbing themselves on the mucous membrane of your mouth, exploring the proteins on the surface of your cell. They are very tiny, almost like small sands carried in the seawater. The inner surface of your mouth is like a beach, which each movement you have, the tiny IF04 in the foam rubs the mucous membrane like waves pushing towards the beach.
Try to swallow it.
As the food travels down your throat, IF04 also softly sliding down. And some of them starting to match and anchored on the surface of your oesophagus.
Try to feel the surface of your oesophagus. Is there a very subtle sensation like white noise on the skin?
Take few more bites...
The toolkit provides an easy guidelines for newbies to learn how to play with principles of viruses in order to create new dishes. The images are some recipes designed by the participants in past workshops using the toolkit.
Download the beta version here.