Virophilia and viRus: SOON pop-Up at sitem insel

12 October - 27 November 2020

In collaboration with Symbiont Space from Basel, we are presenting a research-based exhibition on life, viruses and their representations. Bio-Art at its finest for the research center sitem insel.

Viruses have a media boom! The world has never been so much concerned with these infectious organic

structures as in 2020. "The virus" was declared an enemy and especially for politicians, war metaphors

in the fight against the novel corona virus were tempting. The exhibition presented by Galerie SOON in

cooperation with Symbiont Space from Basel deals with this narrative.

Nature does not function according to human laws. On a genetic level, we are viral to a large extent. At

least 8% of the human genome is of viral origin. As we have evolved to greater and greater complexity,

viruses have sought efficiency and have thrown everything overboard except a handful of essential genes.

It seems as if nature has taken two different paths. One leads to minimal beauty, the other to ornamental


The viruses are denied life. They only reproduce in a host cell - they do not perform any metabolism on

their own, although they "survive" on lift buttons or smartphone surfaces. When viruses infect a cell, a

living system is created and the virus multiplies - it simply cannot do this on its own. In this way, the

question of "life" becomes a philosophical one. Can we live on our own or do we not also need plants for

example and a whole ecosystem to survive? Life is a interconnected system.

With the project "Virophilia" the Taiwanese bio-art artist Pei-Ying Lin has been investigating the

interconnectedness and permanent symbiosis with viruses since 2018. In her work we need not fear the

virus as something "foreign". Pei-Ying treats viruses as a symbiotic part of us. A viral holobiont that

possibly has a closer relationship to us than we know from our microbiome.

But especially today we find it difficult to gain a picture of the virus that is not a threat. During the current

pandemic, an iconography of viruses was unconsciously established, which will be examined in another

part of the exhibition. Even under the electron microscope, viruses are only visible as a blurred sphere.

Computer graphics specialists created images with haptic quality to make the pandemic and the enemy

tangible. The result was a homogeneous image of viruses that we perceive as equal and dangerous. Under

the title "viRus", selected icons are on display, which stimulate the perception and public dealing with a

highly complex topic.


Virophilia explained by Pei-Ying Lin in this video.

Installation Views