About <Immune Nations>
The COVID-19 pandemic has raised urgent questions related to the effective use of vaccines and has led to polarized global debates on vaccine equity. In turn, this has stimulated discourse around a number of broader ethical issues such as access to health care, as well as balancing personal freedom and public health. The forces behind polarized vaccine debates are complex, involving many players including the media, funding agencies, corporations and the scientific/academic community itself (and made more complex by the influx of fraudulent misinformation that undermines public confidence in vaccines). All of this complexity generates anxiety that hinders society’s ability to have a reasoned, rational and respectful discussion around scaling up the life-saving potential of vaccines. Art/creative research has the potential to play an important role in helping to foster a more nuanced discourse around vaccines by articulating elusive or emotionally charged issues in ways that other forms of communication often cannot.
<Immune Nations> is the first multi-year research-based exhibition to specifically address the issue of vaccination from a collaborative, interdisciplinary perspective, attentive to the arts and its many roles for advocacy and political intervention. The outcome of a multi-year project that was developed prior to the pandemic (2014-2017), the exhibition explores complex issues related to the use and distribution of vaccines in the world today and the capacity of artistic research to solicit complex forms of affective engagement when dealing with difficult and divisive social and political topics such as global vaccination.
<ImmuneNations> began with a series of interdisciplinary workshops in which scientists, artists and policymakers shared their perspectives and expertise. These workshops were followed by a first exhibition at the Trondheim Academy of Fine Art’s Galleri KiT in March 2017, where it was featured as the opening event of the 2017 Norwegian Global Health & Vaccination Research Conference, and a second exhibition at the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) in Geneva from May-July 2017, including during WHO’s World Health Assembly. This work further led to a special issue of the peer-reviewed journal Imaginations titled <Immune Nations> Research-Creation at the Intersection of Vaccine Science and Global Health Policy, featuring academic essays addressing public perceptions of vaccines today, policy issues related to vaccine use and distribution, speculations about the role art can play in discourse around vaccines and public policy, as well as discussions around interdisciplinary research in which theoretical knowledge is translated into creative practice.
For the McMaster Museum of Art, the exhibition presents original work alongside new work produced in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Featuring collaborative art and research projects by Jesper Alvær, Sean Caulfield, Timothy Caulfield, Patrick Fafard, Caitlin Fisher, Steven J. Hoffman, Johan Holst, Annemarie Hou, Alison Humphrey, Rachelle Viader Knowles, Kaisu Koski, Vicki S. Kwon, Patrick Mahon, Lathika Sritharan, and Mkrtich Tonoyan. Curated by Natalie Loveless.
<Immune Nations> was funded with support from the Research Council of Norway and the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada.
Vicki S. Kwon
Natalie S. Loveless
Rachelle Viader Knowles