The bat. Confinement. A female goat. Graffiti “The future is female!” Electronic tagging. On-line conferences. Animal testing or not. The Joker. Coronaviruses… All connected — to our future. Michael Leung’s intergalactic thinking connects with a multi-species world. 蝙蝠。限聚與禁閉。母羊。牆上塗鴉喊著:「未來是女的!」電子標簽。網上會議。應否用動物進行藥物測試?小丑。… 在梁志剛的系際思維裡,都可結連成為一體,預見未來。

/…feature image: France, 4th April 2020

 

2020.03.26

I first noticed several days ago, when I sat down in the kitchen, eight storeys high, and had another solitary dinner staring out at the snow-peak Alps in the distance. [1] It’s a part of the day where the white snow fades out and the common starling birds fly back to their nests. [2] That night, sitting down eating and watching darkness loom onto the natural skyline, something erratically flew past in the top-right part of the single-glazed balcony door. That something was a bat, one of 30 species in this region of France. [3]

The bat, an auspicious mammal, can be seen on traditional Chinese building facades, carved in wood, painted in gold, with bulbous eyes and an oversized coin in their mouth (capital is omnipresent). It is said that bats are a symbol for prosperity—the Chinese translation 蝙蝠 suggestive, the second character phonetically sounding like 福, meaning ‘prosperity.’ The Chinese bat symbol has perfect symmetry and it wouldn’t be surprising if Jerry Robinson saw this before designing the original Batman logo in 1941.

 

The Collective, April 2020. O. is located in the top right of the painting.

Earlier that day, the fourth day of the French “confinement,” I watched a video online that supposedly showed a Wuhan wild animal market. The video was palpable. It was later fact-checked by Liselotte Mas at Agence France-Presse to be not Wuhan, but a market in North Sulawesi in Indonesia, in July 2019. [4] I thought of E., the vegan I met during a collective work week at O. a month ago, when they looked slightly uncomfortable from the group conversation about having to kill the “excess” male goats that were born this year because farmers don’t want goats who don’t produce milk. I thought how lucky it was that the goat that I witnessed being born that morning, and later carried uphill to the barn house in my arms, was female. I remembered the graffiti that I saw near an arts institution several years ago, ‘The future is female!’

 

Right now it’s difficult to plan the immediate future. Yesterday with my classmates we called in from different confinement and non-confinement countries, sharing extended experiences elsewhere told to us by friends and families. We spoke about: electronic tagging being used in Hong Kong to enforce a 14-day self-quarantine measure; understandably postponed academic conferences and how online conferences will be the future; Disaster Capitalism and the Shock Doctrine spectre (Naomi Klein); and if Donna Haraway will be writing a book about our relationship with the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2, or even ‘communovirus’ as shared my an anonymous group). C. spoke about the positive test results in laboratories on rhesus macaques monkeys in search for a cure. [5] I thought of the opening scenes in 28 Days Later, directed by Danny Boyle, where an Animal Liberation Front-like group (ALF) breaks into an animal-testing facility and sets free monkeys that were injected with “rage.”

 

Anti-extradition bill movement, Mong Kok metro station, Hong Kong, November 2019. Photograph downloaded from Telegram.

Joaquin Phoenix, who won the “Best Actor” Oscar last year for playing The Joker (Batman’s nemesis) and often wears an ALF black hoodie, spoke at his acceptance speech about injustice, our disconnection to the natural world and abuses towards cows in order to add milk to our coffees and cereal. [6] Laura Spinney’s op-ed in yesterday’s Guardian website, expands on the coronavirus’ relationship to agriculture and posits, 

‘[…] to understand why the emergence of such zoonoses – human infections of animal origin – has accelerated in recent decades, you have to understand the forces putting those viruses in our path. They are political and economic. They have to do with the rise of industrial-scale farming concerns in China and the resulting marginalisation of millions of smallholder farmers. In order to survive, those farmers have moved into the production of more exotic species – animals that were once eaten only for subsistence. But the bigger operations have pushed the farmers out geographically too, as they have taken up more prime farming land. The smallholders have been forced closer to uncultivable zones such as forests, where bats – reservoirs for coronaviruses – lurk.’  [7]

This is a strong argument, that progressively and non-discriminatingly works towards the root of the pandemic—a broken capitalist agricultural logic and worldview. Environment and science journalist Smriti Mallapaty highlights that the wild meat market in China is worth RMB ¥50 billion (Euros €6.5 billion/USD $7.1 billion) and employs one million people. [8] I should inquire about those dispossessed farmers that I once met near the newly-built Beijing Daxing International Airport—are they farming elsewhere?

On est tous des pangolins (We are all pangolins), Bordeaux, 18th March 2020. Photograph by Nicolas Tucat.
https://twitter.com/nicotucat/status/1240311801260191744

 

Like humans, coronaviruses are inextricably linked to non-human species, such as the bats, pangolins and civets, and are therefore connected to multiple ecologies and habitats—which under neoliberal capitalism, are all prone to commodification, development and urbanisation. The current pandemic is an ontological dilemma that questions how each one of us exists in this multispecies world; what we choose to know, believe and swallow; and how we can practice our ethics and politics in daily life through co-existence, mutual aid and sharing of our resources.

 

Michael Leung, 26th March 2020, France
contact@studioleung.com
www.tinyurl.com/ThirdTimeLuckyQ 

 

P.S. A joke E. told me when we were moving wood in the forest at O.:

E.: How do you know if there’s a vegan living with you?
Me: There’s soy milk in the fridge?
E.: That’s a good answer but no. The answer is, “They’ve already told you three times!”

SARS-CoV-2 is now the third human-deadly coronavirus-related after MERS-CoV (2012) and SARS-CoV in April 2003, which was later linked to the horseshoe bat in a remote cave in Yunnan province in China. [9]

The devil is always on our trail, and if we’re not on our guard, he’ll add another date until we wake up in torment. The question is: Do we want to wake up?

Fang Fang, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/14/world/asia/coronavirus-china-fang-fang-author.html 

 

NOTES

[1] Daily life and online posts remind me of this irrefutable banner: https://twitter.com/JamilMouawad/status/1240357613570752514

[2] https://www.faune-auvergne.org/index.php?m_id=5&sp_DOffset=5

[3] https://atlascs.fauneauvergnerhonealpes.org

[4] https://factcheck.afp.com/no-video-shows-market-selling-wild-animals-indonesias-sulawesi-island

[5] https://www.livescience.com/monkeys-cannot-get-reinfected-with-coronavirus-study.html

[6] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qiiWdTz_MNc and https://www.instagram.com/tv/B8jwPB2laV6/?igshid=12mx1awy04e7x

[7] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/25/new-virus-china-covid-19-food-markets?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

[8] https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00499-2

[9] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-chinas-bat-woman-hunted-down-viruses-from-sars-to-the-new-coronavirus1 and https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-020-0820-9

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