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 and balancing personal freedom with 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 too often hinders society’s ability to engage in respectful discussion around the life-saving potential of vaccines. Art / creative research plays 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 was designed to explore 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.
The project began with interdisciplinary workshops held over the course of three years, in which scientists, artists, and policymakers shared their perspectives and expertise, and devised collaborative artistic research projects. 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, with an opening event as part of the World Health Organization’s 2017 World Health Assembly.
For the McMaster Museum of Art (opening Fall 2021), the exhibition presents original work alongside new work produced in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
These exhibitions are curated by Natalie Loveless and feature 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.
<Immune Nations> was funded with support from the Research Council of Norway and the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada, and the Killam Reseach Fund.
We acknowledge the support of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).
Vicki S. Kwon
Natalie S. Loveless
Rachelle Viader Knowles