SARS artBMJ 2003; 326 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.326.7403.1404 (Published 19 June 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:1404
As we have pointed out in previous columns, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is very much an epidemic of the internet age (http://bmj.com/cgi/content/full/326/7395/937/a and http://bmj.com/cgi/content/full/326/7399/1152-a). But information and data about cases, symptoms, and treatment are not the only SARS related material online. The outbreak has also spawned much digital folk art.
The SARS Art Project (www.sarsart.org/) is evidence of how much the epidemic has captured the popular imagination, particularly at the height of media attention over the disease. The site, which began as a series of posts on the weblog BoingBoing.net (“a collection of wonderful things”), features a range of “found” and original images, “online oddities that demonstrated the epidemic's social impact throughout the blogosphere.”
Judging from most of the contributions from BoingBoing readers and net artists, it is clear that the mask is to SARS what the condom is to AIDS. Many of the artworks feature masks, from couture creations from the Philippines (www.inq7.net/lif/2003/apr/06/lif_8-1.htm) to a parody ad for a Michael Jackson style SARS mask (www.xeni.net/images/boingboing/sars/misc/terre.jpg), and even a surgical mask design for the Star Wars character Darth Vader (www.tkblog.com/pics/linked/darthsarsmask.jpg). Among the more striking images are SARS! (pictured), by net artist Katie Bush, and one of gods posted on doors in ancient (and modern) China to ward off evil spirits and “kick demon ass” (www.sarsart.org/sars-ghi.php).
Xeni Jardin, who has created the SARS Art Project, says, “Online art and weblogs are cheap, instant, and capable of reaching millions worldwide.” She adds, “They make what's global, personal; what's personal, global.”