"Self-Isolation Mind Theater" by Tian Ke




Beijing-based illustrator and art director Tian Ke wrote this comic on February 1st, 2020, 10 days after the metropolis of Wuhan was shut down due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and more than a month before the WHO declared the virus a global pandemic.

This comic was originally posted during a rare period of public anger online, when many were voicing open criticisms of the Chinese government’s handling of the pandemic. Tian Ke obliquely criticizes the widespread calls to cheer on the government’s response, such as the fervor that followed the live streamed construction of an emergency hospital in Wuhan.

Tian Ke also references silencing of medical professionals. This sentiment later became associated with the tragic death of whistle blower Dr. Li Wenliang, who was accused of “making false comments” by the police when he was caught alerting his friends to the danger posed by the virus in late December. He later advocated for increased freedom in public discourse. I asked Tian Ke about whether her thoughts about the situation have changed in the intervening months. She said that, more than ever, she feels that the freedom to openly discuss current events like COVID-19 is vital.

Comic by Tian Ke
Translation and design by Xinmei Liu
Foreword and editing by Xinmei Liu, R. Orion Martin, and Jason Li
Originally published by Art Book China as part of their Apple a Day series