Big sister and her partners in crime Survival Project are part of the Friend and Foe exhibition, now on at Santa Clara University (CA, USA) through April 11, 2020. The show muses on themes of migration, geopolitical borders, emotional connections and its layering on history, heritage and culture. These themes are suddenly relevant in new ways when faced with a tiny microbe called Covid-19. What is the meaning of borders, or nation states, families, friends, or even foes to a tiny virus? The microbe is savagely democratic – categories and borders both physical and mental are equally porous and meaningless. Every one of us becomes an equal opportunity host to a virus.

The streets here in Beijing are eerily quiet. Everyone has created self-imposed borders in the hope that barricading themselves at home will protect them from infection. The ridiculousness of DIY face masks provides moments of comic relief as well as insight into how far some will go to seek a sense of protection. Normally this would be a time for the celebration of a new year and spending time with family, but all that has stopped. Instead of these visits, all movement has been curtailed, abruptly cut short mid-step. What is a society without fluidity and mobility? These empty streets are one way this might look.

This fierce little bug has managed to do what politicians, activists, and workers of the world have failed to do since the beginning of the industrial revolution – slow the juggernaut of capitalism. Flights, factories, all non-essential commerce have ceased. Nature has forced us to halt our selfish stripping, burning, and polluting of the earth. The ripple effect of this is felt in all aspects of life and in many different parts of the world. We are granted a moment’s pause to look over at where we thought were hard boundaries, but finding instead an intricate mass of sinuous connections, stretching out into the distance.