Pandemic Crimes ScapeGoat Hunter

Media: Interactive Game with Multimedia Database


Funded by Alberta University of the Arts Research Scholarship in Partnership with Illingworth Kerr Gallery

Pandemic Crimes Scapegoat Hunter is an interactive game that confronts the escalated Anti-Asian sentiments and Xenophobia surfaced during the Covid-19 Pandemic. It provides an interactive way for the viewer to look through a database of memes, tweets, Youtube comments, videos, and other media documenting Pandemic incidents of racism, biased generalization, and hostile othering of East Asian societies and cultural heritage.

The viewer can play the hunting game by clicking their mouse over a gun, targeting a deer in sight, and shooting. As they are playing, the screen is bombarded with Asian-hating messages and images related to COVID-19. These include: culture shaming YouTube comments, Twitter or Instagram images expressing disgust and aggression toward East Asian cultures and cultural identities, testimonies of Chinese, Korean, Japanese victims who suffered verbal or physical abuse, public speeches of politicians condemning China and Chinese customs, and real-life video footage of physical and verbal attacks on East Asian immigrants all over the world.

The game integrates the Anti-Asian sentiments of COVID-19 to the practice of seeking, pursuing and killing an innocent animal. This juxtaposition poses Pandemic episodes of racial hostility as a form of “Hunting”. The project interprets the racist reactions of global societies as socio-political scapegoating, where East Asian people groups are blamed and attacked for the social, economic, and urban conditions faced by the majority.

The project is dedicated to collecting and archiving of racist and xenophobic content in web platforms, social media, and in the news throughout the COVID19 period. Informed by the history of war crimes, it coins these cases as "Pandemic Crimes".

History of war crimes have taught us that during times of societal instability, violent acts of hate are at liberty to be conducted. Only documentation of the offences which survive the period of chaos holds the offenders accountable and bring them to trial. Without documentation, there could be no proof that the crime itself ever happened, and the violent history suffered by victims are easily forgotten from society’s collective memory.

By coining Pandemic Crime after “war crime”, I am proposing that the global crisis of COVID-19 has presented a similar situation of chaos and instability which allowed for the conducts of xenophobic scapegoating and racist animosity. I am further advocating that documentation of these cases will serve as evidence for our post-pandemic society to critically re-examine its behaviour, and correct its outlook on/treatment of East Asian minorities.

The project believes that art should be the critical mirror to society not only in times of security but ever more so in times of social upheaval- when governing authorities have more power than its people, and people are more likely to respond out of terror and paranoia. Without a critical assessment of its ethics in a state of crisis, the post-pandemic society is in danger of moving forward with a collective outlook normalized with racist stigmas, xenophobic attitudes, and prejudice against East Asian cultures.

The comprehensive database of this project exposes society’s default response to crisis in racial scapegoating, and proves the oppression of East Asian diaspora through the COVID-19 period. The project hopes to prompt discourse for more ethical ways for society to respond to crisis in the future.

Media documentation has become challenging due to mandated censorship over online platforms which erase racist contents some time after they have been posted. Ironically, censorship is not protecting victims from racism but destroying all evidence of hate crimes after they have been suffered by its victims, wiping them away as if they never happened.

When we come across objectionable content or derogatory messages online we are inclined to immediately rid them from our sight. But the offensive contents are actually significant files proving hidden social realities and outlooks. Such episodes unveil how society honestly views and treats the ethnic subject at hand. They disclose the discriminative attitudes deeply rooted in North American society towards Asian identity. They reveal hidden contempt against Asian presence in North America. They reflect the challenging environment of prejudice that Asian diaspora face in North America.

Eliminating the trace of an online assault is like wiping clean the scene of crime. It terminates the chance for critical evaluation. It is dismissive of the experience suffered by victims. It is an easy let-off of offenders, who are more likely to continue to conduct themselves in the same problematic attitudes on account of not needing to take responsibility for their behaviour. It is also a disservice to the ethical development of a society which needs to identify its deep-seated problematic views and resolve its embedded divisions and points of contention.

By collecting virtual evidence before they are erased and building an independent archive of Pandemic Crime cases, the project denies control to censorship and advocates for victims of COVID-related hate crimes.