CoviDiaries: Miao Zhao—Following SARS, a Second Quarantine

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In order to make the creative world feel a bit less lonely and a bit more connected in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve been publishing a new blog series—CoviDiaries—that brings us into the homes and minds of various designers, illustrators and other professionals, to see how they’re coping. Today’s dispatch comes from designer Miao Zhao in Beijing.

This has been a more creative isolation than SARS … and definitely more painful. I experienced SARS in Beijing when I was still a kid, so to me it was nothing but a relatively longer holiday, because you know (or not) how dreadful school is in China. This time is different. The amount of effected and dead is many times that of SARS, and there is just too much news that breaks your heart. We see retired elderly doctors donning their medical coats again; we see patients dying due to lack of medical supplies; and we see stupid (and crazy) politicians (both East and West) doing their maneuvering to each other instead of caring for their people.

When the first whistleblower, Li Wenliang, died of COVID-19, it was such an emotional shock to me and many other Chinese people. As an art lover I did a piece of illustration to express my anger and despair. The illustration is an “OK” sign with tied fingers, and inside we see a hangman—everything is OK, or it has to be? Li Wenliang sounded the first alarm but was silenced by authorities, and that has been a critical reason for why the virus is going so wild now.

However, this piece is quite political, and I think that we need hope more than anger and despair right now, so I decided to revise it to the new version below.

The fingers are tied because isolation is still a must, and as long as we stay isolated, the virus will die. “Everything is gonna be OK”—yes, cliche, but most of the time it is true.

In isolation I’ve also been doing some comic strips, mostly for my personal fun, but maybe some will resonate with you.