Visualising SARS-CoV-2

So how do you capture the image of a virus? It seems through electron microscopes as well as artistic illustrations and models that are created variety of platforms and processes (GLSL code/Blender etc). Many images are open source and community or institute driven.

The Center for Disease Control site has a number of images of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes the range of symptoms that make up the COVID-19 disease. Electron microscopic images that are cross sections of the virus as well as 3D illustrations they have created to visualise it more clearly.

US’s National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIHAD) Flickr Stream on SARs-CoV-2 is well populated with scanned electron microscope images actual as well as illustrative renders.

Community response has been strong in terms of visualising, commemorating and creating images of the virus.

In the MakerBot/ 3D printer universe there is at least one printable 3D virus model alongside mask and other types of printable responses. TurboSquid also has a huge range of 3D COVID models

Shadertoy.com is a community of artists and graphics who use GLSL code (a C based OpenGL Shading Language) to create images. You can see various 2 and 3D models of the COVID-19 virus on their platform. By talking to graphics cards directly creators, artists and enthusiasts can create images without the need for hardware specific languages.

The question for us as artists is how to engage with the themes that have emerged out of this virus related crisis: traces, tracing, tracking, isolation, connection, despair, apocalypse, lockdown, quarantine, freedom, constraint …and do that in a way that is conceptually interesting rather than superficially literal.

More interesting for us are the patterns that emerge out of this crisis. Patterns of movement and constraint, of exponential mathematics and statistics, patterns of emotions, of interactions within relationships, of communication flow and media focus.

To that area we will turn next…as well as some practical artistic experiments.