About <Immune Nations>
Over the last several years, questions related to the safety, effectiveness and proper use of vaccines have generated an extremely heated and polarized international public debate. In turn, this has stimulated discourse around a number of broader ethical issues related to international health care delivery such as access to health care, as well as balancing personal/cultural freedom and public health. The forces behind the polarized vaccine debate 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 information about vaccine safety). All of this complexity generates anxiety that hinders society’s ability to have a reasoned, rational and respectful discussion around vaccines. Art/creative research has the potential to play an important role in helping to foster a more nuance discourse around vaccines by articulating elusive or emotionally charged issues in ways that other forms of communication often cannot.
With this in mind <Immune Nations> was envisioned as a collaborative and interdisciplinary initiative that will bring together a team of artists, academics, and healthcare professional in order to explore the complex issues related to the use and distribution of vaccines in the world today. The project will begin with two interdisciplinary workshops in which scientists, artists and academics in health law, history, ethics, and philosophy share research/creative research expertise in order to work collectively. The workshops will be followed by an exhibition(s) at a high profile international public policy centre such as the UN. The project will culminate with a publication that will feature 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 vaccine and public policy, as well as discussions around interdisciplinary research in which theoretical knowledge is translated into creative practice.
<Immune Nations> will also involve an evaluative component that will examine the potential impact creative practice/research has on public policy debate around vaccines, and more broadly biomedicine. There is a number of ways this evaluation may be carried out including traditional interviews and questionnaires, as well as unconventional methods in which the evaluation becomes a creative research (practiced-based) project itself. The exact form of the evaluation will be a major focus of the first workshop.
Regardless of the form of the evaluation, however, <Immune Nations> creative research team recognizes the complex and multifaceted relationship that exists between art/social practice and public policy. The impact of art/social practice on public policy and political discourse can be profound, but this impact can often manifest over very long periods of time, and be felt through indirect routes. In particular, the role of art in the context of the project is not seen as only a communication tool between policy makers and the public (although this might be one of its functions), but rather as an active player in a broader discourse around vaccines that ultimately helps to foster a space of reflection and contemplation.
Vicki S. Kwon
Natalie S. Loveless
Rachelle Viader Knowles