The Inscriptome: virus as a visual instrument

Sep 19, 2020

In this piece for the (now defunct) Strelka Magazine, Orkan Telhan and I looked at the cultural and historical context of viruses and their vaccines as media of inscription. Based on the model of 19th century arm-to-arm vaccination, we look at how the governance of viral inscriptions is a delicate balancing act.

The virus inscribes itself onto the body, but how does it inscribe itself onto the city and the world at large? A new inscription system based on material proxies, bioindicators, and metagenomic signatures allows us to see viruses as recording agents and better understand which spaces they conquer, which species they traverse, and what can stop them.

Link to the archived text

Image: Color plate by Francisco Javier de Balmis shows smallpox vaccination scars. Courtesy of Welcome Library‚Äč