NERO is an international publishing house devoted to art, criticism and contemporary culture. Founded in Rome in 2004, it publishes artists’ books, catalogs, editions and essays.

NERO explores present and future imaginaries beyond any field of specialization, format or code – as visual arts, music, philosophy, politics, aesthetics or fictional narrations – extensively investigating unconventional perspectives and provocative outlooks to decipher the essence of this ever changing reality.

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Italy
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Les presses du réel
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Heads of Content:
Valerio Mannucci, Lorenzo Micheli Gigotti

Creative Director:
Francesco de Figueiredo

Editor at large:
Luca Lo Pinto

Editors:
Clara Ciccioni, Tijana Mamula, Valerio Mattioli, Corrado Melluso

News Editor:
Giulia Crispiani

Designers:
Federico Antonini, Elisa Chieruzzi, Lorenzo Curatola, Lola Giffard-Bouvier

Administration and Production:
Linda Lazzaro

Distribution:
Davide Francalanci

Hazmat suits made by FOUNDRY UNIFORM specifically for PERFTORAN, exhibition view, Fotopub, Ljubljana, 2020. Courtesy the artist.

Pharmaceutical Fictions

Working together for a healthier world

Since the beginning of the pandemic crisis, the ambiguous political economy of government financing vaccination is at the core of the project by artist Petr Davydtchenko (Arzamas-16, 1986). He works from his personal and bodily experience in order to transcend and to counter the effects of the post-capitalist system on human and animal life, since according to him, art is first and foremost a problem that concerns life and not culture. From 2016 to 2019, he has been feeding on roadkills found in the South French countryside, to test the margins of the capitalist system. In 2020, while the public debate focused around solutions such as care and solidarity, the international politics were making compromises with pharmaceutical companies and their messianic promises. The pandemic showed that governments are able to pull together trillions of money when it is needed to. Davydtchenko has worked on these issues, building up a collaborative and nomadic project called Perftoran, showed in Italy (at Palazzo Lucarini in Trevi and at Spazio Rivoluzione in Palermo) and in Slovenia (at Fotopub in Ljubljana). Within the space of  the exhibitions in Trevi and Ljubljana, he created a physical laboratory where he worked with hackers and activists. Davydtchenko operated with his crew in the entanglement between information technology and public health, demonstrating how the encounter of art and science can foster productive results. 

“Innovative Health” is the brand of this particular “global company” working with local communities, temporarily hosted by art institutions. Through a negotiation, he turned the institutional space in a multidisciplinary research vessel about the most awaited and discussed thing in the world: the COVID-19 vaccine. The long-term project Perftoran is an attempt to reform political decisions in alliance with political- environmentalists activists and cognitive forces. In a similar way, it is an attempt to work against the capitalist competition of the information war and the associated profits from private Big Pharma companies.  Through actions in public space, Davydtchenko finds his way out through the flow of fake news, in the bulimic production of digital contents the artist also feeds on. In Rome and in Ljubljana, in front of symbolic places as the Altare della Patria and the Slovenian Parliament, the artist performed as an activist. The scene is very simple and grotesque, a proof of radical ecology where the disease and remedy coexist in the same reservoir. Davydtchenko has eaten a live bat—the supposed source of the virus—as an alternative and personal answer within the speculation on the pandemic. Here following, a text work the artist wrote about the controversial statements from a pharmaceutical company (Pfizer) and a manifesto from an off-market pharmaceutical body (Perftoran) and the possibility to make it available for free.

PERFTORAN, vaccine COVID-19, Spazio Rivoluzione, Palermo, 2020. Photo Alessandro Gattuso. Courtesy the artist.

Working Together for a Healthier World

The long-awaited day approaches. The day when humanity will be able to tell itself: this is this day. A day of aspirations. A great day for humanity. A day of deliverance. A day of freedom. A day between the past and the future. A great day for humanity. 

PFIZER

“Today is a great day for science and humanity.” This quote was written in a press release of the American pharmaceutical company Pfizer on the 9th November 2020. You might ask—what happened on this day? In reality, nothing. It is just the day that a company called Pfizer published a press release. 

In this press release we find information about the trial of a vaccine from COVID-19 virus.

“Pfizer- a serious company, and is unlikely to lie to us,”—is the type of comments being written over Facebook and social media. And of course, here at Pfizer we are a serious company, but the list of our sins during our 150 years of existence (there is far more than just lies) is almost endless. Wikipedia has been denouncing us only for the last 30 years.

In 1996, 11 children died due to illegal trials of a drug Trovan in Kano, Nigeria. A criminal investigation was launched in relation to Pfizer.

In 1999, the Journal of The American Medical Association (JAMA) published a case where Pfizer falsified a series of clinical trials of antifungal drug Fluconazole.

In September 2009, Pfizer USA was fined with a record amount across all American pharmaceutical companies. Pfizer was issued with a fine of 1 billion dollars for giving bribes to health care workers so that they would approve and release their drugs on the market. 

PERFTORAN, vaccine COVID-19, Spazio Rivoluzione, Palermo, 2020. Photo Alessandro Gattuso. Courtesy the artist.

In 2011, Japan officially stopped the usage of the vaccine from pneumonia and meningitis produced by Pfizer in connection with the death of 4 children aged half to two years. Those deaths occurred three days after the initial vaccinations.

In 2012, the lawyers of the investors accused the company of the destruction of research documents for the development of Celecoxib and Valdecoxib, worsening the situation by making false statements regarding the existence of a centralized database.

“A great day for science and humanity”—is the day when shares of Pfizer grew by 15 something percent. Then, when it was discovered that the trials were not finished, that it is not sure when the production will start, that the vaccine needs to be stored in -70 degrees Celsius, the shares of course dropped. But those who knew about the publication of the press release in advance (shares of Pfizer were particularly low on that exact day), those of course got their gains. Who knows, maybe one day we will see a new paragraph on the Wikipedia page of Pfizer about how awkward it turned out with the vaccine from COVID-19. But for now let’s say that we had “a great day for science and humanity.” That this day has actually happened. 

PERFTORAN, exhibition view, Fotopub, Ljubljana, 2020. Courtesy the artist.

PERFTORAN

As an artist and researcher I have spent many months developing PERFTORAN—an antidote to COVID-19 disease (caused by SARS-CoV-2 virus). In Rome and Ljubljana I have publicly demonstrated that the vaccine I have produced is reliable, safe and effective. I am now in the position to offer it for free.

The vast majority of scientists who have studied the virus agree that it evolved naturally and crossed into humans from an animal species, most likely a bat.

SARS-CoV-2 most likely evolved from a viral variant that could not survive for a long period of time or that persists at low levels in bats. Coincidentally, it developed the ability to invade human cells and accidentally found its way into us, possibly by means of an intermediate animal host.

At the beginning of the pandemic I developed strong symptoms. No doctor appointments, no masks nor tests available. Relatives were dying back in Russia, my cousin almost lost her child. The cruelty of this situation where you cannot be close to your dying relative in their last minutes of life. To hold their hand, kiss them and tell them you love them. They have to die alone. As a last resort I decided to expose myself to the origin of the virus by consuming a live bat in the Pyrenees Mountains. Back in Russia we were taught that the only way to defeat the disease is to expose yourself to its origin and, by doing that, gain antibodies. This is a bat virus and the only solution is a bat vaccine. After consuming the live bat my symptoms began to fade within days. And after a week I was completely recovered. Since then we had done trials on many volunteers in Italy and had positive results. There have been no severe side effects. Trials are currently in the third and final stage. Volunteers have been tested and have confirmed the presence of COVID-19 antibodies. 

PERFTORAN, exhibition view, Palazzo Lucarini Contemporary, 2020. Photo Dušan Josip Smodej. Courtesy the artist.

During the days of our testing in Ljubljana, the research facility came under extreme pressure by the public and authorities. We were interrogated and propaganda was spread through the media against us. However, we continued and my team of researchers managed to finalize the PERFTORAN vaccine and fuse the final and crucial ingredient into the formula—the bat itself.

Just as previous vaccines aim to use less harmful or deactivated viruses to confer immunity—we have demonstrated that the real vaccine from SARS-CoV 2 virus is yet another, less harmful vaccine derived from BAT. 

Every day, PERFTORAN colleagues work across developed and emerging markets to advance wellness, prevention, treatments and cures that challenge the most feared disease of our time. Consistent with our responsibility as an innovative biopharmaceutical company, we collaborate with health care providers, governments and local communities to support and expand access to reliable, affordable health care around the world.

Sonia D’Alto is a researcher, writer and curator. She is currently a PhD candidate at HFBK in Hamburg, and a member of the curatorial team of the Adolfo Pini Foundation in Milan, where she co-curates the project Casa dei Saperi. She is part of a feminist research group active in Palermo.
Petr Davydtchenko (1986, Arzamas-16) is an artist based in France. His work comprises installation, performance and culinary apparatuses.