Coronavirus China
Get more with myNEWS
A personalised news feed of stories that matter to you
Learn more
Artist Siyuan Zhuji with the camera he uses to film his regular Covid-19 tests, at his studio in Jiangsu province, eastern China. Photo: Reuters

Turning life in China’s zero-Covid era into art, one test at a time

  • Artist Siyuan Zhuji is filming his regular nucleic acid tests from an unusual angle and documenting a way of life ‘unique to our time’
  • He has accumulated 40 video clips so far and plans to one day display them simultaneously on a big screen

A Chinese artist is using a camera in his mouth to make video recordings of his Covid-19 tests and has vowed to keep doing so as long as the testing continues.

“I will continue shooting these videos until the end of the pandemic,” said Siyuan Zhuji, 33, a multidisciplinary artist from the eastern coastal province of Jiangsu. “If I die before the end, then I will keep shooting until I die.”

Coronavirus: China sticks to zero-Covid as management failures and misery mount

Zhuji has been filming his own nucleic acid tests since March with a thumb-sized camera and has accumulated about 40 so far for an artwork he calls Hesuan Jiance, which translates as “Covid test”.

His video clips show teeth and tongue and an approaching cotton bud. In some shots, a PPE-clad health worker can be seen through his teeth, administering the test.

Zhuji aims to eventually display them simultaneously in a grid on a big screen – a snapshot of China’s pandemic experience, where regular testing has become a way of life for most of its 1.4 billion people.

“This is how our life is now, this period of time involves doing regular nucleic testing. It’s a way of life that’s unique to our time,” he said.

Zhuji said the idea for the videos came to him when he began considering the vulnerability of the mouth, as an entry point for the virus and also for the repeated testing to find it.

“This work can represent this era. This is what I want to express. It is to record everyone’s current life,” he said.

China was relatively free of Covid-19 for nearly two years, bringing infections under control after the novel coronavirus emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.

But the Omicron variant brought persistent outbreaks across the country, which authorities have been battling with a barrage of testing as part of China’s zero-Covid policy.

In many places, a negative Covid-19 test is required to use public transport, and enter schools, places of work, shops, banks, parks and anywhere else people gather.