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'We Haven't Learned From History': 'Radio Influenza' Is A Warning From 1918

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by , 04-18-2020 at 03:12 PM (128 Views)
      
   
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A nurse works in the influenza ward of the Walter Reed hospital in Washington, D.C., in November 1918. Artist Jordan Baseman evokes the era in Radio Influenza, a work of audio art commissioned to mark the centenary of the pandemic.

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The last great pandemic struck the world more than 100 years ago. But voices from that time can still be heard in Radio Influenza, a haunting work of audio art available online.

The voices are not real. They're computerized. They sound tinny and faraway as they read fragments of newspaper stories from 1918, when the so-called Spanish flu ravaged the planet. Still, these fleeting dispatches from the past are uncannily relevant.

"A man with a cold can easily throw it twelve feet by a sneeze," cautions an entry from Oct. 2, 1918. "Therefore, he must be kept at a distance. Sneezing and coughing unscreened by a handkerchief should be regarded as an assault. The sick animal who creeps away by himself until he has recovered shows an example that man would do well to follow."

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