Global Strategy Lab, UAlberta Co-Lead at Evidence-Based Art Exhibition in Geneva

Posted on Wednesday, May 17, 2017

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The University of Ottawa’s Global Strategy Lab and the Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta will co-lead an evidence-based art exhibition to highlight the complexities surrounding global vaccination at UNAIDS in Geneva, Switzerland from May 23 to June 30, 2017.


The exhibition, <Immune Nations>, was created by artists, vaccine scholars, health law and advocacy specialists over three years of interdisciplinary research collaboration. It emerged from "The Vaccine Project”, which explores the complex issues related to the use and distribution of vaccines in the world today. Over the course of their research, participants developed artistic and academic projects in cross-disciplinary and international teams. The resulting art works invite complex reflection on a variety of themes, including the affective forces behind vaccine hesitancy, loss of public trust in vaccination, and the importance of herd immunity. The exhibit features 8 projects created by participants from various countries.


The project is co-lead by Steven Hoffman, Director of the Global Strategy Lab, Associate Professor at the University of Ottawa, and Scientific Director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research's Institute of Population & Public Health; Natalie Loveless, Project Curator, Artist, and Assistant Professor of Contemporary Art History and Theory, Department of Art and Design, University of Alberta; and Sean Caulfield, Artist and Centennial Professor, Department of Art and Design, University of Alberta.


“We were interested in exploring the constructive role that art and culture could have in informing global health decision-making," says Hoffman. “From the beginning we wanted to draw on the very best from what different academic disciplines have to offer and co-create an evidence-based art exhibit that reflected what we learned from each other.”


Shadowpox Exhibit Image

Alison Humphrey, Caitlin Fisher, Laraine Ulit-Destajo & Steven Hoffman, Shadowpox, 2017.

Motion-tracked interactive projections, Galleri KiT, 2017, photo by Natalie Loveless.


The exhibition premiered in Trondheim Academy of Fine Art in Trondheim, Norway, in March 2017. The opening of the May exhibition coincides with the 70th World Health Assembly in Geneva. Annemarie Hou, Chief of Staff of UNAIDS and participant of the Vaccine Project, is thrilled that UNAIDS will house the exhibit.


“The AIDS response has a long history of mixing art, policies and data to move the world to action. An evidence-based exhibit is a tremendous opportunity to bring attention and new thinking on issue of vaccines, including the needs to expand access and to develop news vaccines including one for HIV.” 


Alongside Professor Hoffman, <Immune Nations> features work by the University of Ottawa’s Patrick Fafard, Associate Professor, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, and Lathika Sritharan, Research Coordinator, Global Strategy Lab.


VacZine Nations Exhibit

Mkrtich Tonoyan and Rachelle Viader Knowles, VacZineNations!, 2017.

Zine installation, installation view of at Galleri KiT, 2017, photo by Yanir Shani.


Professor Hoffman features as an artistic collaborator on a motion-tracked interactive project called Shadowpox, which imagines the emergence of a vaccine preventable disease composed of viral shadows. The project combines real-world statistical data with theatrical simulation using motion-tracking, live-animated digital effects.


Professor Hoffman also collaborated with Professor Fafard to co-author “Can Art Influence Global Vaccination Policy?”, a research paper which attempts to better understand how artistic works might impact decision-making about vaccination at global health summits. The essay will be published as part of a special issue of “Imaginations: Journal of Cross Cultural Image Studies” ( in Winter 2018.


Ms. Sritharan is a key collaborator on Memories and Records: The Vaccine Archive, which examines efficacy of visual communication and record-keeping systems relating to immunization in an era of mass migration and cross-border activity. Participants of various nationalities sent their immunization records and memories for display, and visitors to the Norway exhibition were invited to participate by filling out a vaccination card based solely on memory. Those cards will also be displayed in Geneva.


Memories and Records Exhibit

Vicki S. Kwon and Morgan Wedderspoon, Memories and Records: The Vaccine Archive, 2017.

Archive collection and prints on Photo Tex, 2017, photo by Yanir Shani.


<Immune Nations> truly stands as a collaborative endeavour. According to Professor Caulfield, more than 100 people and organizations are collaborating on the exhibit, including representatives from virtual reality labs, universities, government organizations and the United Nations.


Professor Loveless, who curated the exhibition, is amazed by the quality of work produced.


“The pieces are extraordinary. Each one has been produced through genuine interdisciplinary collaboration, and is an invitation to through a major issue in global vaccination, from the psychology of anti-vaxxers, to the pragmatics of the cold chain, to the importance of herd immunity."


Sean Caulfield Anatomy Table photo

Sean Caulfield, Anatomy Table, 2017.

Silkscreen and digital printing on drafting film, plexi and Photo Tex, at Galleri KiT, Trondheim, Norway, 2017, photo by Yanir Shani.


Additional information on each project and participants can be found on the project website:

A sneak peek video of the Trondheim exhibition is available on YouTube:

<Immune Nations> Program (English only).

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