Candice Lin, detail from Putrefaction, 2016, Installation view at Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles
Contagion is most commonly associated with the spread of disease, poison, corruption, harmful practices or ideas, but its Latin root — con- (together) + tangere (touch) — opens the term in a slightly different direction: co-touching, touching together. Thus: emotional contagion, behavioral contagion, financial contagion, sacred contagion, hysterical contagion, “contagion theory” (the hypnotic effects of crowds), contagion of ideas, contagion of identity.
We are thinking about xenophobic fears re: contagion, we are thinking about contagious political sentiment, of both the brutal and hopeful variety. We are thinking about Édouard Glissant’s theories of contamination and hybridity. We are thinking about proximity and intimacy. We are thinking about how contagion defies borders, about the virtual and physical aspects of “going viral,” about how aesthetic, political, cultural, and spiritual ideas spread, about shared mind and body.