You are my death: the shattered temporalities of zombie time

Wellcome Open Res. 2020 Jun 10;5:135. doi: 10.12688/wellcomeopenres.15966.1. eCollection 2020.


This essay considers the relationship between the experience of life shortening chronic illness and the current COVID-19 crisis. Martin O'Brien uses his experience of living with cystic fibrosis to interrogate the temporal experience of living within a global pandemic. He returns to his concept of zombie time, the temporal experience of living longer than expected, in order to understand the presence of death as a way of life. The essay uses some of O'Brien's own art practices, and an analysis of his own sick, coughing body in order to think through what it means to live with cystic fibrosis during a pandemic, which mimics much of its features. O'Brien argues that we are currently occupying a widespread zombie time, which frames other people as carriers of death, and that we must find ways of being together in order to survive.

Keywords: Art; Cough; Cystic Fibrosis; Death; Performance; Time; Zombie.

Grant support

Waiting Times is funded by The Wellcome Trust [205400].