Colloquial Bryophytec

Swine Flu was first recognised during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic where it was seen that birds, humans and pigs were becoming sick with flu at the same time. The 2009 outbreak of swine flu was also a result of avian, swine and human flu viruses mutating with the Eurasian swine flu. Even though the virus could not be spread by eating the meat of an infected animal and was only passed on through human contact, millions of pigs were culled in an attempt to contain the virus. The most extreme example of this was on the 29th April 2009 when the Egyptian government ordered the slaughter of every single one of the country’s pigs.

The fear of this influenza was quite evident, even here in Brisbane. People began avoiding going out in public and when they did, many wore masks. The news was full of new cases of flu being found and footage of supposedly sick pigs with the guarantee that they would be culled to protect our health. It seemed, at first, as though this was the only form of vaccination. I did not feel sorry for people that were getting sick for the 3-4 days that the primarily non-lethal flu lasted. I felt sorry for the pigs, because although they had a strong immunity that left them very able to fight and overcome the flu, they could not overcome the human fear that had developed.

‘Colloquial Bryophytec’(2009) is in commemoration of the death of these pigs. It included one hundred scaled down photocopies of thirty different detailed pen drawings of pigs. The photocopies were then cut out and stood up in moss filled green beer bottle lids. This work has travelled with me to a number of exhibitions over the past few years and once the brown moss is sprayed with a small amount of water, it immediately changes back to fluorescent green. This is what I hoped would happen for the pigs. That although we were killing them, and that when their numbers increased again they would still be forced to live terrible lives in factory farming, that one day they would see greener pastures and live normal happy lives, the way pigs should.

-Molly Billings, “The Influenza Pandemic of 1918,” Stanford University, http://virus.stanford.edu/uda/.
-Joseph Hughes et al, “Evolution of an Eurasian Avian-like Influenza Virus in Na├»ve and Vaccinated Pigs,” PLOS Pathogens, http://www.plospathogens.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.ppat.1002730.
-“Swine Flu: Egypt Orders Cull of Pig Herds,” The Telegraph, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/swine-flu/5247771/Swine-flu-Egypt-orders-cull-of-all-pig-herds.html.