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Virality: Against a Standard Unit of Life

Editors’ Note:

As COVID-19 continues to spread around the world, the #StopAsianHate and #BlackLivesMatter movements triggered by racist violence and crimes, which have escalated since the pandemic outbreak in early 2020, are taking place across the US and Europe. Virality: Against a Standard Unit of Life, published in e-flux journal in February 2021, attempts to analyse and speculate the co-existence and the relationship between “the virus” and “insurrection” in an experimental way. The essay compares the two modes of viral replication (the lysogenic and lytic) with the breeding process and social effects of insurrections. Through collaborative writing, the two authors combine their knowledge and backgrounds (H. Bolin is a writer and translator; Sonali Gupta, a PhD candidate in biophysics) to explore topics such as biopolitics, global capital relationships, state control, and the Western political system. Such experimental effort is inevitably challenging. As rightly pointed out by Xiaowen Zhu, the translator of the essay’s Chinese version: some paragraphs in the text are intricate and obscure, and she has consulted Dr. Guan Wang for accuracy during the translation process; in addition, the text is based on a U.S.-centric framework and its objective standpoint has a certain limit.

Translator’s Note:

The two authors draw a connection between two headlines of our time: “the virus” and “insurrection” by comparing the lysogenic and lytic, two modes of viral replication with the breeding process and social effects of insurrections. Some paragraphs may appear intricate and obscure for readers who are unfamiliar with biology. In the process of my translation, I have consulted and gained help from Dr. Guan Wang. I sincerely look forward to receiving feedback or corrections, if any, from readers. Additionally, it may be helpful to point out that the essay seems to project a conceptual framework associated with U.S. centrism. From a learning point of view, I thoroughly enjoyed the translation process. However, my perspective may differ from some statements in the text.

All images courtesy of Peter Polack. For more information: link.

This is part of e-flux in Chinese Column, a collaboration between Heichi Magazine and e-flux journal, with curator and writer Xiaoyu Weng as the column’s guest-editor.

Virality: Against a Standard Unit of Life from e-flux journal #115—February 2021, read the original article here. Click here to read the essay in Chinese. ​Translated by Xiaowen Zhu, co-edited by Xiaoyu Weng and Qianfan Gu.

Xiaowen Zhu is a Berlin-based artist and writer. Her artist book Oriental Silk (乡绸) was published by Hatje Cantz in 2020. More about Zhu:

Published: 2021.04.01