This entry was posted on February 5th, 2020

On Contamination from Jessica McGoff on Vimeo.

This video essay was commissioned as part of the Critics’ Choice strand of the International Film Festival Rotterdam, as a response to Janis Rafa’s Kala Azar. The strand’s theme was the notion of collectivity, and the video seeks to think through the possibilities of a collective way of living, of coexistence. Kala Azar is an elusive and textural work, focusing on a young couple who collect animal cadavers for burial. Rafa’s film, and her previous visual work, explores the relationship between animals and humans.

This video response to the film was completed around two days before the news of the coronavirus broke – a disease originally transmitted from animal to human. By the time the video premiered in Rotterdam, the coronavirus was classified as a global outbreak. There was already a renewed interest in one of the films sampled in the video, Contagion (dir. Steven Soderbergh, 2011).

However, the video was not made with disease primarily in mind. Kala Azar propelled thought on coexistence, not decay. The video essay is above all a personal response, one rooted in an intimate and true experience. I wanted to think about parasitism not as a wholly destructive force, but more as a sensibility. In the Anthropocene, we live lives of contamination, between humans and animals, between humans and the systems we construct and are constructed by, between each other. We’re in an age of crisis (the coronavirus merely a capsule within a larger crisis), it is crucial we think through coexistence, and the generative, annihilative and avenging forces within.