“Oyez, oyez, the coronavirus circus, under its new name Covid-19, will pass through town! Wash your hands ! Wear your masks! Avoid hugging anyone – and happy Valentine’s Day anyway! Above all, don’t miss the opportunity to miss out! ” The photo is dated Tuesday. It would have been taken in the streets of Panyu, formerly the capital of a vast kingdom extending to the current Vietnamese territory and today a simple district engulfed by the irresistible outgrowth of the city of Canton and its some 15 million inhabitants. But where is all these people hiding, of which nothing can be guessed by the image, except by the height and density of the bouquet of apartment buildings that lines the background, highlighted by the perspective diving: not a cat on the ground, nor on the countless balconies, where only the clothes hanging on hangers allow to detect that the area is well inhabited, at the same time as they irrigate the ghostly climate – since the medieval tradition associating the cloth with a symbolism of a shroud, up to the cinema of contemporary horror (the ghosts of a Kiyoshi Kurosawa in mind), all linen floating without any apparent owner carries a rich and heady spectral imagination.
Nothing, except the passage of the town criers in official clothes and white gloves, cops or municipal agents, who thus seem to crisscross the district to address only depopulated facades and closed shutters of a population caulked willingly or by force facing the viral threat. That the motorcycle is of Japanese brand catches the eye and amuses it, because the crisis has had the paradoxical effect of warming at the margin the relations between two empires which have some reasons to look at each other with distrust, so much so that a historic TV series Antinippon was deprogrammed by a Chinese channel this week as a token of gratitude for the solidarity shown by Japan since the spread of the epidemic began in mid-January – but Shanxi TV wanted to reassure its assiduous, the diffusion will resume later, once the order of things and nationalisms returned to the ordinary.
As the protagonists of the scene pass in front of a restaurant with a sign bristling with giant replicas of crustaceans and fish, the screaming mouth as if echoing the megaphone brandished in the foreground and witness to the usual tribulations of the district, accentuates the impression a little more of emptiness, of brutal desertification. On their way, the bikers also come across the jet of a truck launched into the company, necessarily derisory and a little disconcerting, from “Disinfect public space”, tells us the legend provided by Reuters, which also includes this generic mention: “Attention publishers, this image was provided by a third party”, with the only credit the title of the newspaper that issued the photo (the daily China Daily).
This precaution is essential since the agency is not directly responsible for an image of its base, which it cannot therefore certify that it meets the same standards of authenticity as its usual production. This does not mean that there must necessarily be seen any mystification or matter suspected of embezzlement: such precautions accompany both the pictures of a volcanic eruption in Indonesia, a priori perfectly proven, as those of a recent rally automobile in Sweden. However, and for those who are a little interested in the regime of production of visual information, this distancing and the absence of a duly credited author feeds a little more the nebulous strangeness of this funny engraving of supposed propaganda , with a paradoxical, vague, elusive message, like its unnamed author.