(originally published in SUTZL, W., & COX, G. Creating Insecurity: Art and Culture in the Age of Security, pp. 53-56. Autonomedia. Brooklin, 2009.)

Computer virus have long been considered our machines' most fearsome foes. Able to replicate themselves and spread uncontrollably throughout communication networks, they constitute a direct threat to all the information we keep in our disks and hold so dearly. But computer virus, like their organic counterparts, function, even if we tend to perceive it as one single effect, on two different levels. First of all, they INFECT, their rogue activity has consequences, damaging the hosting systems and spreading their reach; and secondly, they also THREAT, causing a generalized feeling of insecurity and fear, originated by the perception of the eventual infection's outcomes.

carlos katastrofsky's project (2009), co-commisioned by Kurator and LX 2.0 for the Anti-Bodies programme, departs from and investigates this dual nature that defines viral activity. is a windows program that once downloaded by the user and executed in her machine, will simply delete itself. Despite such a harmless and even self-destructive behavior (on the antipodes of a common viral infection), the program is defined and promoted as an actual virus, that one, if brave or careless enough, can install, risking her computer and in the process compromising her own security.

Reminiscent of Russian Roulette (2006), a p2p-related piece in which a call was launched inviting users to upload files of their choice that could later be randomly downloaded by other users who had no knowledge whatsoever of the content of those files, possibly threatening the integrity of their machines, is, like so many other katastrofsky's projects, a silent project. One of two things can happen: either the user perceives as an actual threat and doesn't engage with the application, maintaining her system safe; or she will download and run the application, leading to its self deletion, and as in the previous situation nothing much will happen. Or will it? The core of the project doesn't lie in running or not a piece of software in order to obtain a certain outcome. The application is simply an excuse, a set-up that is carefully created by the artist to trigger a response in the user, to confront her and investigate how the psychology of fear works (we're not far from the strategies and methodologies of early social pshychology experiments) and causes one to react. isn't a virus because it infects a computer, it is a virus because it triggers the exact same responses every virus triggers, regardless of causing an actual infection. In that sense we can say it becomes a meta-virus, not threatning, but being perceived as a threat.