In 2020, DARIAH selected two streams of funding as part of the Theme funding call, ‘Arts Exchanges’ and ‘Arts, Humanities and COVID-19’. The call attracted a high number of well articulated and competitive applications, mainly addressing, perhaps not surprisingly, the topic of ‘Arts, Humanities and COVID-19’.
With an overall budget of 87.920 €, DARIAH funded nine projects for a year (December 2020 – December 2021). This series presents their results with a special focus on each of these projects.
Visualizing the Virus
Coordinator: Dr Sria Chatterjee (Institute for Experimental Design and Media Cultures at FHNW Basel and Associate Scholar at the Max-Planck Kunsthistorisches Institut, Florenz)
The international digital project, Visualizing the Virus, is an interactive platform that showcases and investigates the diverse ways in which the coronavirus is visualized, imagined, and the inequalities it makes visible.
Defining visualization in the broadest sense, the project explores representations of the virus and especially the disparities, histories, and futures its existence shows us.
Gaps between the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences are hard to bridge. This means that pandemics are often studied without considering their many interconnected histories. Visualizing the Virus connects insights from different disciplines to create a collective digital space for exactly such a convergence.
It brings together artists, social scientists, anthropologists, cultural theorists, virologists, and molecular biologists. Together, we analyze how viruses figure into the domains of representation, infrastructure, political theory, racism, ontology, permeability, practices of care and solidarity.
Conceptualized by an art historian, the project takes a unique approach to understanding viruses. We use visualizing as a verb to mobilize a method. To visualize is the first revolutionary step towards action in a world where much of life and its politics is invisible. Visualizing the Virus teaches us to look differently.
Seeing, or the inability to see something, is political. As the pandemic progresses, the coronavirus has exploded onto our screens and streets, claiming various kinds of visibility. Visualizing the virus has been both panacea and political tool – depending on who does it – and the processes of visualization are implicated in forms of care as much as they are in political violence, surveillance, xenophobia and institutional racism.
Visualizing the Virus is particularly committed to making visible the stories and connections that are not otherwise so visible.
The digital architecture of the platform invites the visitor to navigate clusters of connection. A cluster is a curated section that zooms in on a particular topic such as zoonosis, white privilege, and covid denial. Each cluster includes an introduction by the curator introducing the main ideas, and a number of individual entries by different contributors. One can explore links between quotidian lived experience, pathologies, the natural sciences and socio-cultural critique. It provides the visitor not just a dynamic archive but spaces for reflection on the scales of the crisis and our current infrastructural inequalities. Through curated clusters and themed clusters that make connections between issues and geographical spaces, Visualizing the Virus aims to provide a granular, intersectional picture of the pandemic as it evolves.
The platform currently hosts a total of 33 entries, 4 curated clusters, and 49 illustrated themed clusters.
Audience and Collaborations
With a wide network of collaborators, the project team is particularly grateful to the Max-Planck Kunsthistorisches Institute, the University of Global Health Equity in Rwanda, the Department of History at Princeton University, PACE Center for Civic Engagement at Princeton for their collaborations.
Current members of the Advisory Board include:
- Mel Y. Chen (Gender & Disability Studies, University of California, Berkeley)
- Natalia Ermolaev (Digital Humanities, Princeton University)
- Trish Greenhalgh (Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford)
- Christos Lynteris (Medical Anthropology, University of St. Andrews)
- Erika L. Milam (History of Science, Princeton University)
- Danielle Olsen (Wellcome Trust)
The project reaches a broad audience of scholars, students, activists, general readers and thinkers while it maintains active accounts on Twitter and Instagram. Beyond the web, project members have conducted a series of workshops and teaching modules, as well as attended events and festivals.
Visualizing the Virus received a Special Mention Award from the Arts in Health International Foundation (AIHIF) in April 2021.
Follow the project
Get in touch with the project team if you would like to participate by collaborating and/or contributing to the project. To keep up to date, follow the project on Twitter, Instagram and sign up to receive its monthly newsletter.
* DARIAH Theme is an annual thematic priority set by the Board of Directors of DARIAH-EU. The aim is to stimulate activities and events related to an important topic of research in the digitally enabled arts and humanities by issuing a call for funding.