project image
Don Chow

first performed on December 12, 2020
Sensistan Technology Art Museum
performed once in 2020


Vancouver, Canada


“Language is a Virus: Meditations On The History Of Biological Warfare (3-minute Zoom)” was a solo remote video performance artwork for global pandemic, created for the open call by “Dislocada/Dislocated,” an international curatorial collaborative platform, which curated and presented performance videos by 33 artists from fourteen countries in 2020.

During extended periods of time quarantined and online, the pandemic raised questions not only about how information is disseminated via mainstream news and online media, but also about who one’s friends and communities are, as seen and revealed through social media communications. In 2020, a global crisis and fear-driven environment quickly developed in which a majority of people, otherwise progressive politically, appear to have been socially engineered to dismiss “conspiracy theories” and wholly censor critical discussion with claims of “believing in science”— while remaining seemingly ignorant of historical context and readily accepting unproven narratives as fact, in particular the universally (i.e. Western mass media) repeated but unproven narrative that the coronavirus outbreak originated in a “wet market” of Wuhan—leading directly to staggering increases in anti-Asian violence as well as, increasingly, an American war footing with China.

Recorded using a low-resolution computer webcam and operated by the Zoom video conferencing live streaming software widely adopted during the pandemic, “Language is a Virus” consisted of three brief sections (within specified time limitations):

– the first action was a spoken word performance, mimicking a stand up comedy routine; Meet Bill Gates at Tim Hortons (a Canadian fast-food chain);

– the second action was a music performance, i.e. a series of tones (harmonic cycle of fourths) played on flute, offered as a meditation;

– the third was a text reading, of an excerpt from a book on the history of biological warfare. Excerpt from The United States and Biological Warfare: Secrets from the Early Cold War and Korea by Stephen Endicott and Edward Hagerman (Indiana University Press, 1998).

The work further drew upon ideas of: telematic art (Fluxus artist Robert Filliou’s “Eternal Network” concept, via ongoing annual Art’s Birthday events in which I often participate); the performance lecture (Robin Deacon, Venice International Performance Art Week, 2017); the 1986 Laurie Anderson pop song (named after a William S. Burroughs quote); and current practices, and trends in live web streaming technologies.