The Coronamovie: how the pandemic unfolds (in 36+ frames)

In a totalizing news situation as we are experiencing now, the scope a daily newspaper’s editorial staff for decision-making is on the one hand intensely constricted, while on the other seems to grow infinitely. With just one topic for weeks (and probably months to come), which affects the whole world, every area of life, every department, everyone involved in producing a newspaper – reporters, photographers, illustrators, columnists, layout artists, typesetters, etc. – appear to know exactly what is to be done. The front pages of the French daily newspaper Libération have always been a model of effective communication design. They have always allowed considerable creative leeway. This is perhaps a particularly good place to seek evidence of editorial determination in navigating through the extremely wide range of possibilities to identify the most urgent theme and its most poignant image to frame the day as it hits the – analogue and digital – newsstand. It is exemplary, how the single topic of the corona crisis is represented by the variety of its cover pages over the course its various editions. Its first cover story hesitant treating the first outbreak of the epidemic in Wuhan on January 23, 2020, then sporadically, and since March 9, uninterrupted, issue after issue, until April 22, when a title story on the potential consequences of petrol politics introduced a subject not directly related to COVID-19).  It results in a quasi-filmic movement, a sequence, a dramaturgy. The attention and interests, attuned to the expectations of the readers and to the political-journalistic agenda-setting of the newspaper, track the pandemic developments in a day-by-day rhythm. Its coverage began with reports from China (four front pages in January and February), followed by those of neighbouring Italy (two covers) and directly accompanied by a focus on the preparations in France, the impact on the financial markets and the economy in general (three covers), the government’s reactions and President Macron’s decrees of a state of emergency (four cover pictures). This continued until the front-page editorial team held their sights on the situation in hospitals and conditions for medical staff and the alterations in everyday life and the effects of the lockdown in economic and socio-psychological terms. A national event such as the death of “Asterix” illustrator Uderzo (on 25 March) brought forth a cover picture immediately placing Uderzo’s visual language at the service of corona reporting with Obelix’s menhir mutating into a virus. One could almost surmise a self-reflexive gesture by the Libé editorial staff and its visual experts, a reference to the consecutive pictorial narrative of the pandemic, the very bande dessinée, that continues here daily. TH

 

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April 2nd, 2020, 02 / Rosa Mercedes
Interface

Jodi Dean on work in neofeudal times, via Los Angeles Review of Books: “When work is imagined — and some on the left think that we should adopt a ‘postwork imaginary’ — it looks like either romantic risk-free farming or tech-work, ‘immaterial labor.’ By now, the exposés on the drudgery of call center work, not to mention the trauma-inducing labor of monitoring sites like Facebook for disturbing, illicit content, have made the inadequacy of the idea of ‘immaterial labor’ undeniable. It should be similarly apparent that the postwork imaginary likewise erases the production and maintenance of infrastructure, the wide array of labor necessary for social reproduction, and the underlying state structure.”

May 23rd, 2020, Tom

Naomi Klein on the “Screen New Deal” (via The Intercept): “Calling [Bill] Gates a ‘visionary,’ [New York governor Andrew] Cuomo said the pandemic has created ‘a moment in history when we can actually incorporate and advance [Gates’s] ideas … all these buildings, all these physical classrooms — why with all the technology you have?’ he asked, apparently rhetorically. It has taken some time to gel, but something resembling a coherent Pandemic Shock Doctrine is beginning to emerge. Call it the ‘Screen New Deal.’ Far more high-tech than anything we have seen during previous disasters, the future that is being rushed into being as the bodies still pile up treats our past weeks of physical isolation not as a painful necessity to save lives, but as a living laboratory for a permanent — and highly profitable — no-touch future.”

May 11th, 2020, Tom

Andrea Bagnato on Red Zones, isolation, metaphors, blame, risk and coexistence (at e-flux architecture): “[…] the current manifestation of confinement is better thought of not so much as epidemic control, but as a form of risk displacement: a minority of workers is made to keep the economy going so that a majority of the population can stay at home. And the reverse is true as well: millions of people have to put up with extended confinement so that the risk posed by industrial workers doesn’t grow out of control. In the necropolitical calculations of the State, the physical health of workers and the mental health of everyone else are both a price worth paying.”

May 5th, 2020, Tom
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