Chinese artist Siyuan Zhuji turns COVID-19 tests into art to depict the pandemic in China


For most of China’s 1.4 billion people, regular COVID-19 testing has become a way of life. Siyuan Zhuji attempts to turn it 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 an approaching cotton swab. In some footage, a health worker dressed in PPE can be seen through his teeth, administering the test.

“This is how our life is now, this period involves doing regular nucleic testing,” Zhuji told Reuters in an interview at his studio.

“It’s a way of life specific to our time.

Zhuji said the idea for the videos came to him when he began to consider the vulnerability of the mouth, as an entry point for the virus and also for repeated testing to find it.

He has recorded about 40 tests and says he will continue to take video with his thumb-sized camera as long as regular testing is needed.

Artist Siyuan Zhuji poses with a camera he places in his mouth to film nucleic acid testing for COVID-19.
Reuters

It ultimately aims to display the videos simultaneously on the big 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 that era. That’s 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 has caused persistent outbreaks across the country, which authorities have battled with a barrage of tests.

In many places, a negative COVID test is required to use public transportation and enter schools, workplaces, stores, banks, parks, and anywhere people gather.

China’s pursuit of “zero COVID” means Zhuji could still be filming tests for a while.

“I will continue to shoot these videos until the pandemic is over,” he said. “If I die before the end, I’ll keep shooting until I die.”

New York Post

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