[ . SARS, 2010 2/5 glass, by Luke Jerram]
The danger that lies in not seeing
is the fears that could haunt.
but the danger that comes with seeing is greater;
they become all that we can see.
I remember it as literally running scared. Out for a stealth run at night (when only ghosts and diehards walk), i’d take a wide detour round any being, and not inhale until they- and any germs and viruses and dust-were 200m away,and then sort of pump-exhale the air and any possible micro-killers from my lungs. Other than a nebulous ‘fear of terrible sickness’, of being the next sorry case to fall on the front page of the papers (JC Student Pays for Run with SARS!), i wasn’t sure what exactly i was afraid of.
It’s so strange that the things we once struggle to tame and conquer, we then hold in remembrance and elucidation.
The morbid has always been chic (re: damien hirst and his cut-up animals, the horror that is the twilight series, and robert pattinson’s eyeshadow), but i find this series just refreshing in its bland coolness.
Luke jerram, also ‘amateur scientist and researcher’, had consulted with leading virologist dr. andrew davidson of uni of bristol. After five years of research, his inaugural US exhibition debuted- rather catchily (or catchingly) titled ‘infectious beauty’ [see a review here, and an excellent slideshow and article from the nytimes]. It rids that which have been named SARS, HIV, e-coli of their multi-coloured dyes and cute animations.
Each sculpture is about 1 million times larger than the actual virus it represents, and nothing more. Beautifully spiralled RNA/DNA cores included.
Speaking of human perception, the artist himself is diagnosed with dichromatic colourblindess.
Smallpox seems, well, small and distant now, but it was one of the oldest viruses dating back to 10,000 BC, as well as the deadliest- killing over 500,000 million people. It was responsible for 1/3 of all blindness,
and even entered literature:
lo, the smallpox with horrid glarelevelled its terrors at the fair;
and rifling every youthful grace,
left but the remnant of a face.
-goldsmith 1966, 370-371
2010 marks the 30th anniversary of the eradication of smallpox, the triumph of it being the only human infectious disease to be eradicated.