A n t i b o d y
fragments written during the
Covid 19 pandemic
- e x c e r p t -
Eight or so planets circle around our sun. At least a hundred
billion other solar systems gravitate in our galaxy. Two hundred billion to two
trillion galaxies exist in the observable universe… And they say the universe is still expanding outwardly.
Is this planet really an exception, a sort of miracle that
combined the right conditions for life to kick off? How rare is this type of
life? I heard other types of life
out there could consist of, for instance, very complex kind of clouds,
And did you know that when two planes take off from the same spot
at the same time and fly in opposite directions around the earth, their time at
arrival does not match up? Are our meetings not always both missed and exceeded encounters?
Europe is also the name of a satellite of Saturn, one of its small
companions, like Callisto and Titan. On Titan they think there might be forms
of life sprawling in underground lakes and oceans.
I shut my ears with the palm of my hands and recede. There is a
roar… Listen! Let me go and visit underground seas in a semi-conscious state. I
can hear gigantic, profound erosions, tectonic strokes, the most delicious
disquiet that makes me shudder. Making love in a bed of fossils.
I will leave my chewing gum in the negative space of a prehistoric
toe and find, etched into my elbows, an ancient mollusc’s antennae. The smoke
of our cigarettes will take on the shape of sound waves, seismic graphs only we
can decipher. Our sweat will temporarily polish aside millennial dust, the glow
of unknown colours reflected on our skin.
Imagine if the virus was manmade? Imagine if Dr Frankenstein is
truly our archetypal entrepreneur: man, a failed avatar, becoming a
nature-defying engineer (out of greed, grief, humiliation…?), creating various
kinds of monsters that will eventually get retribution for his deeds.
In ‘Civilization and its Discontent’, Freud spoke of a ‘prosthetic god’, to describe man’s desire to become
God-like and to reign over the world with the help of artificial extensions and organs.
I’m also thinking of (Western)
man’s successive narcissistic wounds (as evoked by Freud too): 1. the earth turns around the sun (Copernicus);
2. man derives from animals and is not an exception in the evolutionary chain
(Darwin); 3. the mind is subjected to the unconscious i.e. the ego is not
master in its own house (psychoanalysis). I am tempted to add a fourth one: the
end of white and ethnic superiority.
And then I remember that Donna Haraway already coined a fourth wound:
the informatic or cyborgian one, ‘infolding organic and technological flesh’.
In the summer of 1816, Mary Shelley, under pressure to come up
with an idea for a ghost story (challenge taken up by her lover Percy, Lord
Byron and his physician), was eventually visited by a waking dream. During a sleepless night in her dark room, ‘behind closed
shutters, with the moonlight struggling to get through’, inspiration came to
saw with shut eyes, but acute mental vision – I saw the pale student of
unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the
hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some
powerful engine, show signs of life…"
The group had, on one of those rainy summer evenings near Lake
Geneva, talked about the ‘principle of life’ and Mary had been curious about
the latest experiments in Galvanism. At first, physicists would animate frog
legs by connecting them to electrical currents. In 1803, during a famous public demonstration, the
electro-stimulation technique was used on the corpse of an executed criminal,
managing to send quivers along its jaw, trigger a hand to clench and set in
motion legs and eyes.
The hedge outside my window just dropped its load of snow like an
inchoate shoulder pad. Twenty-five centimetres fell overnight. I dreamt of anxiously
roaming in a cavernous house and then driving along the bottom of steep rocks
with my friend Stephen, he who has just made a series of microscopic
photographs of the inside of a fish. The long road got gradually submerged by
the sea. At one point his Yves Klein-blue Lada swayed, I fell off and plunged
backwards into the water, not sure if the sensation of submerging into a wobbly
dark was pleasant or frightening, or both (...)
 Haraway, Donna J., When Species Meet, 2008.
 Shelley, Mary, Frankenstein, Introduction to the 1831 edition.