Looking down on a sink with a running tap and pair of hands, it takes a second for the sound clip playing over the top to register. But, when it does, it is instantly recognisable: a familiar voice playing down the severity of a pandemic, reassuring an anxious public that all will be controlled through the simple act of diligent handwashing. And so the hands scrub, revealing a steady stream of blood which incessantly flows.
Further videos reveal small cloths stained with statistics that no amount of cleansing, shaking or rubbing will erase. And finally, another familiar voice booms, making its cheap emotional pleas, playing into its nation’s deeply ingrained patriotism, talking about its great spirit and how they cannot fail; 498, 654 dead in the US from SARS-CoV-2 as of 22nd February 2021.
The solemn tone and stark imagery of the blood brings to mind Regina José Galindo’s ¿Quién Puede Borrar las Huellas? (Who Can Erase the Traces? 2003), where the artist silently makes her way from the National Palace in Guatemala City to the Congress of Guatemala, frequently pausing to dip her bare feet into the basin of human blood she carries, leaving behind bloody footprints in protest against Guatemala’s former dictator José Efraín Ríos Mont’s presidential candidacy.
Regina José Galindo, ¿Quién puede borrar las huellas? (2003). Video still of performance, variable dimensions