- A Montreal artist's work has become a coronavirus meme, garnering thousands of social media likes and even a share from James Charles.
- We spoke to the artist about their intentions and reaction to the viral image.
A global pandemic makes for great memes. As COVID-19 panic spreads, the internet is turning to humour to make light of the situation and to make sense of the ongoing media and political frenzy. Coronavirus content is turning the crisis on its head.
One Montreal artist's work is the latest to make the rounds on social media.
In a photo posted last week, Instagram user @j33zzz stands ready for an outbreak, covered head to toe in medical gear with a requisite cut out for their butt supported by a jockstrap.
The caption: "James Charles ready for Coachella 2020," in reference to the influencer's similar eye-catching look for the music festival last year.
The image of the COVID-19 chaps garnered tens of thousands of likes between the original post and a share on the local meme page @yugnat999, where it was posted with the caption "when your crush a été tested positive to the coronavirus."
From there, the post circulated on Twitter, where it eventually caught the attention of Charles himself.
"I hate you SO SO SO MUCH," he wrote, jokingly.
The photo is a humourous, queer response to the absurdity of the coronavirus panic, @j33zzz tells MTL Blog.
We caught up with them about the photo and its viral spread through the internet.
Responses have been translated from French and edited for clarity.
What inspired your last picture?
On the one hand, it was the alarming media crisis surrounding COVID-19 that inspired me. But I myself am often surprised to wake up with such ideas. Perhaps listening to TVA that night also helped me understand that it was necessary to deconstruct the stereotypes and media culture surrounding this virus.
On the other hand, gay culture continually inspires me, be it for the photos themselves or the captions.
My post was quickly associated with James Charles' iconic suit for Coachella 2019 and called a potential inspiration for his outfit this year.
You have to understand that this photo is not singular, but comes with a series of other photos that together make my page what it is.
A constant source of inspiration is to question the place of sexuality in our choices and actions.
Your entire page combines humour and beauty. What are your artistic intentions?
I would also say that it combines deconstruction of gender and open-mindedness — well, that's what I try to do.
I understand that it can be difficult today to wade in both humour and inclusiveness and plurality, especially when you like to deconstruct by stereotyping.
And if you think it's beautiful, I'm delighted.
I have to say that I like to let my creativity go, that's all that inspires me, sometimes it's imitating an object other times it's doing an exercise session with my head upside down while my friends are having lunch. I like to do what we are not used to seeing and open our eyes to diversity and creativity.
Why do you think it's important to bring some humour to the coronavirus situation?
I would like to mention that as an artist, I do not hold a political agenda and that my social aim for this project has clearly exceeded my initial intentions.
But it seems that this parody almost seems to be coming true today when I hear on Radio-Canada that the Costcos are running out of toilet paper.
I would like these people to see my photo; the absurdity of this photo will perhaps allow them to reflect on the fear campaign proposed by the media more than the virus itself.
What do you say to people who say you're insensitive?
In no way have my intentions been and will be to laugh at the negative consequences of COVID-19, but rather to put forward the media crisis surrounding it, which subsequently and unconsciously inhabits us, whether in our actions, our comments or our creativity.
The absurd being defined as the opposite of reason or common sense; absurd humour always has a second degree that requires a certain level of critical reflection that isn't available to everyone.
What do you think of the reaction to your photo?
I'm still amazed and astonished to see how it continues to grow, whether it's all the pages that are sharing it or stars like James Charles himself.
I also imagine that people appreciate it and that it allows them to put the situation into perspective. That's the beautiful thing about art, each person can make it their own and do whatever they want with it.
I think that all the memes people have made with the photo show that they feel inspired by it and also concerned about it consciously or unconsciously. The photo can then serve as a wake-up call.
But what pleases me the most is to see comments like "you're too beautiful my darling," or "the best thing about it is that it's a guy." Life goes on, I just spend more time on my phone.
You're not afraid to show your behind. What role does it play in your art?
Kim Kardashian's emphasis on her buttocks over the last few years, as well as her feminine power, has always been a useful and rewarding tool for me to show the male body in an atypical way.
Nature has spoiled me well — at least I think so!
But the question is, with the number of naked men's and women's bodies that surround us today, should I be afraid or is it not rather a question of personal choice and modesty? Every personal choice is respectable regardless of how they present themselves.
For my part, I like to do it in a creative and thoughtful way according to my environment and the social culture that surrounds me.