Some Background on Artifacts of a Plague Year, page 3

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To summarize, there are two sets of comparisons which underlie this project’s realization: 

- The formal: single-image vs. catalog-form.

- The artifact’s significance: apparent neutrality in the face of powerful human events.

This book is structured with this recognition. It is divided into sections: the catalog pages followed by a series of the single images. Often, a given mask or glove will show up both on a catalog page and as a single image. Sometimes they will originate from different photographs of the same object; sometimes they will be different treatments of the same photograph. They are never exactly the same image.

The single images are then followed by a section showing the full universe of about 1,400 images in chronological order that were selected as candidates for the catalogs.

After I had mostly assembled the volume, I felt that it needed a kind of coda, so following the images of artifacts, there is a small selection from a related project: that of mapping the Coronavirus genome - that sequence of nearly 30,000 instances of the four compounds that make up RNA viruses: adenine, cytosine, guanine and uracil - and the mutations in that sequence that constitute the virus’ variations. For more information and examples, see the website www.jonburrisprojects.com.

Overall, I consider the entire book to be a kind of catalog, whose experience is intended less to be a linear process, but one in which the viewer might flip between images and sections, searching out correspondences, echos, differences, urban elements, etc. For me, if the book is about anything at all, then it is about testing the divergence between different modes of receptivity to different kinds of images, to the artifacts and to the larger context of this disease’s societal effects.

Just one other note: the catalog classifications are broadly of two types. Those in which gloves and masks are classified separately and those in which they are classified together. When they are classified separately, it is usually because the classification concerns an inherent element of the object, specifically color or form. When they are classified together, it is because the classification concerns something in the situation of the object, e.g. whether it is wet, or flattened, or on greenery, although there are a few exceptions to this. Within each category, the objects have been ordered according to one or another plan. Sometimes the plan will be easy to spot, others more obscure. No catalog image appears more than one once with the exception of the random pages, which include the set of all images whether or not they were otherwise selected. And, just to inject a bit of the arbitrary, I’ve included a “favorites” spread, which are images I particularly liked but which did not otherwise find a place in categories.

So, that’s the background. I hope you find it interesting.


Brooklyn, NY

August 2021

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