Table of Con­tents | Arti­cle doi: 10.17742/IMAGE.IN.11.2.2 | PDF


Design for a Dis­se­mu­niza­tion Sta­tion Hou/Mahon

Reflecting on the Genesis and Realization of Design for a Dissemunization Station

Annemarie Hou and Patrick Mahon

Design for a Dis­se­mu­niza­tion Sta­tion (D4DS) is a col­lab­o­ra­tion between Annemarie Hou, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor a.i. of the Unit­ed Nations Office for Part­ner­ships and was then a UNAIDS build­ing-based exec­u­tive and advo­ca­cy expert inter­est­ed in ideas and prob­lems sur­round­ing acces­si­bil­i­ty and vac­cines, and Patrick Mahon, a uni­ver­si­ty-based artist and cura­tor. An instal­la­tion con­sist­ing of two tent struc­tures, D4DS includ­ed lis­ten­ing sta­tions and pro­vid­ed ambi­ent sounds sug­ges­tive of a vac­cine mov­ing through the body. The hybrid term “dis­se­mu­niza­tion” was used to reveal ideas con­cern­ing dis­tri­b­u­tion of vac­cines and relat­ed infor­ma­tion. Hou and Mahon reflect on the project and assess its suc­cess with respect to aspects of col­lab­o­ra­tion.

Intéressée par les idées et les prob­lèmes liés à l’accessibilité et aux vac­cins, Annemarie Hou, direc­trice exéc­u­tive et experte en plaidoy­er au siège de l’ONUSIDA, et Patrick Mahon, artiste et con­ser­va­teur uni­ver­si­taire, ont tra­vail­lé en col­lab­o­ra­tion pour créer Design for a Dis­se­mu­niza­tion Sta­tion (D4DS). Une instal­la­tion com­posée de deux struc­tures de tente, D4DS com­pre­nait des sta­tions d’écoute et four­nis­sait des sons ambiants évo­quant le mou­ve­ment d’un vac­cin dans le corps. Le terme hybride «dis­sé­mu­ni­sa­tion» a été util­isé pour révéler des idées con­cer­nant la dis­tri­b­u­tion des vac­cins et les infor­ma­tions con­nex­es. Hou et Mahon réfléchissent sur le pro­jet et éval­u­ent son suc­cès en ce qui con­cerne les aspects de la col­lab­o­ra­tion.


Fig­ure 1: Annemarie Hou and Patrick Mahon, with Tegan Moore, Design for a Dis­se­mu­niza­tion Sta­tion, UNAIDS, Gene­va, 2017. Portable tent struc­tures with sound instal­la­tion. Pho­to by Patrick Mahon.

The Intentions of Design for a Dissemunization Station (D4DS)

This dis­cus­sion begins with a review of the ideas and inten­tions for the project Design for a Dis­se­mu­niza­tion Sta­tion (D4DS). The art­work that was ulti­mate­ly real­ized con­sist­ed of a pair of cus­tom-print­ed tent struc­tures with two inte­ri­or lis­ten­ing sta­tions pre­sent­ed in con­text of an ambi­ent sound­track invok­ing an “inner bodyscape”—suggestive of a vac­cine “liq­uid” osten­si­bly mov­ing through it. The instal­la­tion offered par­tic­i­pants an expe­ri­en­tial engage­ment with the sub­ject of vac­cines and its com­plex­i­ties in a 21st-cen­tu­ry glob­al con­text. Par­tic­i­pants encoun­tered his­tor­i­cal radio reports of epi­demics and vac­cines-relat­ed news, record­ings of pub­lic health stu­dents, and artists dis­cussing the chal­lenges of com­mu­ni­cat­ing vac­cine infor­ma­tion through visu­al art strate­gies. The art­work pro­vid­ed an oppor­tu­ni­ty to enter into a phys­i­cal site that simul­ta­ne­ous­ly sug­gest­ed a space for vac­cine pro­mo­tion and access; it was a mul­ti­modal sit­u­a­tion where par­tic­i­pants could learn about, pon­der, and imag­ine the prob­lems and pos­si­bil­i­ties that are inher­ent to vac­cines in the con­tem­po­rary world.

Fig­ure 2: Instal­la­tion view with artists, Annemarie Hou and Patrick Mahon, Design for A Dis­se­mu­niza­tion Sta­tion, UNAIDS, Gene­va, 2017. Portable tent struc­tures with sound instal­la­tion. Pho­to by Natal­ie Love­less.

Our Working Principles

The inten­tions of the project were based on the mutu­al com­mit­ments of the prin­ci­pal col­lab­o­ra­tors, Annemarie Hou and Patrick Mahon, to engage in shared research and the pro­duc­tion of a cre­ative work inte­grat­ing design and expres­sive art. Hou and Mahon began with the assump­tion that each would focus on their respec­tive exper­tise and knowl­edge sets regard­ing vac­cines, and also work to inform them­selves about the other’s per­spec­tives, as well as attempt to grow their capac­i­ties regard­ing less famil­iar areas of expertise—in their respec­tive lives as a UNAIDS exec­u­tive and advo­ca­cy expert (Hou) and a uni­ver­si­ty-based artist and cura­tor (Mahon).

Hou and Mahon’s work­ing meth­ods ini­tial­ly involved online exchanges of text (con­ver­sa­tions, read­ings, data), images (draw­ings, rough designs, found images), and oth­er mate­ri­als that they thought might help inspire col­lab­o­ra­tion. Among the var­i­ous mate­ri­als exchanged, some of the most com­pelling includ­ed his­tor­i­cal radio broad­casts report­ing on impor­tant vac­cine dis­cov­er­ies, news bul­letins about out­breaks and epi­demics, images of adju­vants and virus­es, and visu­al­iza­tions of how vac­cines work in the body. As col­lab­o­ra­tors, they were con­scious of the ques­tion of how to cap­ture vac­cines and vac­ci­na­tion in an artis­tic man­ner. The visu­al mate­ri­als they exchanged there­fore includ­ed the micro­scop­ic and dig­i­tal­ly pro­duced, as well as the pic­to­r­i­al, such as pho­tog­ra­phy of vac­cine admin­is­tra­tion and rep­re­sen­ta­tions of the “cold chain.”1

Fig­ure 3: Patrick Mahon, water­colour detail of Vac­cine Adju­vant for Design for a Dis­se­mu­niza­tion Sta­tion, UNAIDS, Gene­va, 2017. Image cour­tesy of the artist.

Ear­ly on in their col­lab­o­ra­tion, with the inten­tion to reduce the vast set of prob­lems iden­ti­fied to a set of inter­ests they felt they could use­ful­ly address, Hou and Mahon found them­selves focussing on ques­tions of access (to good infor­ma­tion, and, for many in the world, to vac­cines them­selves), and debat­ing ideas regard­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tion. In the lat­ter regard, the pair asked broad­ly, “What do vac­cines ‘look like’? How do we under­stand vac­cines through var­i­ous forms of visu­al rep­re­sen­ta­tion, through the image cul­ture that we are exposed to?” This led to research into biomimicry—the design of mate­ri­als and struc­tures mod­elled on bio­log­i­cal enti­ties and process­es. At this point, they also began to dis­cuss the degree to which, giv­en the glob­al con­text they hoped to deal with, their work should be com­mit­ted to ideas of mobility—not only the mobil­i­ty required to dis­trib­ute infor­ma­tion and vac­cines them­selves, but the real­iza­tion that if art is going to offer mean­ing­ful impact in the con­text of vac­cine dis­cus­sions and real­i­ties, then the art­work itself would need to invoke forms of mobil­i­ty through its propo­si­tion­al char­ac­ter and its struc­ture.

Fig­ure 4: Dis­play pho­tographs of pro­posed D4DS usages, Design for a Dis­se­mu­niza­tion Sta­tion, UNAIDS, Gene­va, 2017. Portable tent struc­tures with sound instal­la­tion. Pho­to by Patrick Mahon.

Back­ground research for the project showed that many artists and design­ers have already pro­posed and/or built struc­tures that are intend­ed to address prob­lems regard­ing human social needs and desires—structures meant for shel­ter, pri­va­cy, mobil­i­ty, and so on (e.g., Andrea Zit­tel, Lucy and Jorge Orta, Krzysztof Wod­iczko). In con­text of such prece­dents, Hou and Mahon deter­mined that their project should be ded­i­cat­ed to the idea of design­ing and pro­duc­ing at least one pro­to­type: a portable sculp­tur­al struc­ture that sug­gests mul­ti­ple uses regard­ing vac­cines. The pro­to­type would act as a fold­able, dec­o­rat­ed infor­ma­tion booth that could be sit­ed in pub­lic con­texts such as air­ports, or as a portable node for cre­at­ing com­mu­ni­ty aware­ness, or even to pro­vide pos­si­ble access to vac­cines.2 D4DS would invoke real-world issues—reminding view­ers about issues of access to vac­ci­na­tion, and about vac­cine hes­i­tan­cy, for example—but as an art­work, it would have a propo­si­tion­al or even fan­tas­ti­cal char­ac­ter that enlists imag­i­na­tive respons­es.

When it was ulti­mate­ly com­plet­ed, D4DS com­prised the fol­low­ing: a pair of cus­tom-print­ed tent struc­tures with two inte­ri­or lis­ten­ing sta­tions, all shown in the con­text of an ambi­ent sound­track invok­ing an “inner bodyscape”—as a vac­cine osten­si­bly moves through the body. The lis­ten­ing sta­tions fea­tured voic­es of pub­lic health pro­fes­sion­als and stu­dents in dis­cus­sions con­cern­ing how atti­tudes to vac­cines are formed in var­i­ous set­tings around the globe; visu­al arts stu­dents dis­cussing the poten­tial of art as a tool of engage­ment regard­ing vac­cines and the debates that sur­round them; and a mon­tage of sev­er­al decades of radio broad­casts about vac­cine dis­cov­er­ies, epi­demics, and relat­ed reports.

Ulti­mate­ly, to encap­su­late the afore­men­tioned con­cerns and inten­tions, Hou and Mahon arrived at the play­ful, hybrid term “dis­se­mu­niza­tion.” Fus­ing the word “dis­sem­i­na­tion” with “immu­niza­tion,” the neol­o­gism attempts to point to ideas con­cern­ing the dis­tri­b­u­tion of infor­ma­tion, access to immu­niza­tion, and the com­plex­i­ty of rep­re­sen­ta­tions that are required to encap­su­late the idea and the phe­nom­e­non of vac­cines as a glob­al and shared chal­lenge.

Fig­ure 5: Dis­play pho­tographs of pro­posed D4DS usages (detail), Design for a Dis­se­mu­niza­tion Sta­tion, UNAIDS, Gene­va, 2017. Portable tent struc­tures with sound instal­la­tion. Pho­to by Patrick Mahon.

Reflections on the D4DS Project

What fol­lows is a dia­logue and reflec­tion on the project’s gen­e­sis, meth­ods, and out­comes.

Annemarie Hou: I think it would be use­ful for us to begin this dis­cus­sion reflect­ing on the char­ac­ter of the mul­ti-year, inter­na­tion­al col­lab­o­ra­tive under­tak­ing, <Immune Nations>. Do you recall being skep­ti­cal and/or excit­ed about any­thing about our over­all under­tak­ing, in par­tic­u­lar? Let’s also talk about what may have changed (or stayed the same) regard­ing what we antic­i­pat­ed doing.

Patrick Mahon: I have done sev­er­al expan­sive col­lab­o­ra­tions that had sim­i­lar­i­ties with this one, so I don’t recall being par­tic­u­lar­ly anx­ious about the chal­lenges of the project at the out­set. Nonethe­less, when the group came together—the sci­en­tists, pol­i­cy folks, artists, and com­mu­ni­ca­tions people—I real­ized that I was on unfa­mil­iar ground.

I don’t have a strong sci­ence or health-sci­ence relat­ed back­ground, and, indeed, much of what I have done as an artist has turned on social and/or envi­ron­men­tal con­cerns, so I was aware of feel­ing “out of my depth” at an ear­ly point in the project. And it seemed as though, at the begin­ning of our under­tak­ings, we were some­times speak­ing at cross-pur­pos­es. Or per­haps it was that it took time to find ways to effec­tive­ly link togeth­er our respec­tive con­cerns as artists, sci­en­tists, pol­i­cy wonks, and so on. Dur­ing that first meet­ing, it even some­times felt as if we were in a “com­pe­ti­tion” to deter­mine whose goals (e.g., the sci­en­tif­ic, pol­i­cy-focused, artis­tic, etc.) would predominate—whose goals would be pri­ma­ry and whose would be sec­ondary. Inter­est­ing­ly, though, once we stepped back after our ini­tial meet­ing, and thought about the ideas, aspi­ra­tions, and respec­tive val­ue sys­tems we were each most com­mit­ted to, a lot of the uncer­tain­ty seemed to sub­side. It was as if once the shared work real­ly took hold, the desire to find points of inter­sec­tion became a use­ful “syn­the­siz­er,” such that there was a real spir­it of coop­er­a­tion and an atti­tude of shared cre­ativ­i­ty amongst the teams. And, in my expe­ri­ence, this ethos was then trans­mit­ted to the over­all, large-group dynam­ic.

I think what changed is that we moved from encoun­ter­ing inter­dis­ci­pli­nary col­lab­o­ra­tion as hard work and even as a form of mild “com­pe­ti­tion” to expe­ri­enc­ing it as use­ful and gen­er­a­tive. Fol­low­ing that shift in per­spec­tive, we moved to engage in our shared work more vigorously—and play­ful­ly! I wit­nessed a tran­si­tion that led to even­tu­al­ly shar­ing in cre­ativ­i­ty, no mat­ter what our respec­tive dis­ci­pli­nary her­itages might have been. Do you recall this sort of tran­si­tion, or was there a dif­fer­ent tra­jec­to­ry to your expe­ri­ence?

Hou: I imme­di­ate­ly approached the project the way that I curate the art at UNAIDS. “Who is my audi­ence? What do I want to pro­voke them with and what are they inter­est­ed in?” With <Immune Nations>, at least at that first meet­ing, these ques­tions were a bit pre­ma­ture. So that is why this pairing—you and me—was so great in the end. We brought togeth­er the artist per­spec­tive and the pol­i­cy advo­ca­cy per­spec­tive.

Mahon: At this point, I think it would be use­ful to think back on the work it took to devel­op Dis­se­mu­niza­tion Sta­tion in order to deter­mine what was the most chal­leng­ing thing about the project, what was most reward­ing, and per­haps where the suc­cess­es and ongo­ing strug­gles occurred.

Hou: When we first met and I saw your art, I was struck by the con­nec­tion I felt to you and your pieces, so I was con­vinced ear­ly in the intro­duc­to­ry ses­sion that we would work well togeth­er. This col­lab­o­ra­tion has been a path of shared dis­cov­ery and also inde­pen­dent think­ing. At first, I was wor­ried the biggest chal­lenge was going to be time—would we find enough of it on top of two busy day-jobs for mean­ing­ful engage­ment? I remem­bered that time we both were trav­el­ling and hap­pened to be in the same time zone, you in Ecuador and me in Pana­ma, and it was real­ly a joy to con­nect while both of us were out of our usu­al ele­ments. It has been reward­ing to glimpse your world and to share my world with you. I’ve been able to show you how art can shape dia­logue and move glob­al health pol­i­cy. I also got to intro­duce you to the First Lady of Namib­ia and the Cana­di­an min­is­ter of health. I have seen the iter­a­tive process and spon­ta­neous nature of art cre­ation and the last­ing bond that forms over a three-year project peri­od. And on a very sweet side, I loved that any time chil­dren came to the exhi­bi­tion they imme­di­ate­ly ran for our “tents”; there is some­thing uni­ver­sal­ly inter­est­ing and safe about com­ing to a shel­ter, which in the con­text of vac­cines is some­thing we could explore fur­ther.

Mahon: I think you’ve cap­tured the spir­it of what our work­ing rela­tion­ship around the project offered. New chal­lenges meant need­ing to stretch our pro­fes­sion­al bound­aries, and the oppor­tu­ni­ties to con­nect with oth­ers remind­ed us how shared, cre­ative work can be per­son­al­ly reward­ing and trans­for­ma­tive, but also, at times, mys­ti­fy­ing or even frus­trat­ing! For exam­ple, there were moments on the project that I was con­cerned that my work was inter­pret­ed as per­form­ing an illus­tra­tive or dec­o­ra­tive role alone, or that my take, as an artist, on the prob­lem-solv­ing aspect of a project was assumed to be “soft,” or high­ly indi­rect. In the end, though (and I think I can speak for the oth­er artists involved in <Immune Nations>, as well as myself), our work as visu­al prac­ti­tion­ers felt very much wel­comed and embraced and respect­ed. And I think you, for one, were instru­men­tal in cre­at­ing a wel­com­ing space in which we could work col­lab­o­ra­tive­ly and include art mean­ing­ful­ly. In fact, you men­tioned the iter­a­tive aspect of our work­ing process, and I was think­ing that you your­self real­ly helped fos­ter an iter­a­tive process for pub­lic engage­ment with <Immune Nations> as a whole that was tremen­dous­ly ben­e­fi­cial.

In many ways, our first exhi­bi­tion in Trond­heim at Gal­leri KiT in March of 2017 (the pub­lic gallery of the Trond­heim Acad­e­my of Fine Art) was an appro­pri­ate launch for the project. Nonethe­less, the audi­ence there was a some­what typ­i­cal one for sev­er­al of us to encounter, in our roles as artists; large­ly, it was made up of stu­dents, oth­er artists and aca­d­e­mics, and mem­bers of the cul­tur­al­ly-mind­ed gen­er­al pub­lic. They were a respon­sive group, cer­tain­ly, but I think the con­text of UNAIDS that next May in Gene­va, and the oppor­tu­ni­ty to inter­sect with a sec­tor of the inter­na­tion­al health com­mu­ni­ty, made a pro­found dif­fer­ence to the life of the project and to its poten­tial impact out­side of the art world prop­er. In that iter­a­tion, the project’s aspi­ra­tions, to test the capac­i­ty of art to fos­ter engage­ment with­in a high­ly knowl­edge­able com­mu­ni­ty regard­ing the sub­ject of vac­cines, were very appar­ent. Rather than the audi­ence com­ing to the exhi­bi­tion on the pre­text of expect­ing a nov­el encounter with art, they appeared to be open to or per­haps to be look­ing for new ways to expand upon an inter­na­tion­al dia­logue that is already under­way but requires new modes of expres­sion and per­haps new ways to rec­og­nize and com­mu­ni­cate the urgency of the chal­lenges. So I think your work in host­ing us at UNAIDS was real­ly a sig­nif­i­cant cre­ative and intel­lec­tu­al con­tri­bu­tion to this project that real­ly allowed it to focus sub­stan­tial­ly on its goals.

Hou: Maybe, by way of con­clud­ing our dis­cus­sion, we can talk about what we learned method­olog­i­cal­ly that might inform oth­ers work­ing on mul­ti-year, inter­na­tion­al, and inter­dis­ci­pli­nary col­lab­o­ra­tions. What would we want to retain, adapt, or change in mov­ing such work for­ward, and what would we rec­om­mend oth­ers do in this type of under­tak­ing?

Fig­ure 6: Instal­la­tion of sound com­po­nents by Tegan Moore, Design for a Dis­se­mu­niza­tion Sta­tion, UNAIDS, Gene­va, 2017. Portable tent struc­tures with sound instal­la­tion. Pho­to by Patrick Mahon.

Mahon: One thing that I think is key in doing this sort of work is to rec­og­nize the respec­tive skill sets and the exper­tise of the col­lab­o­ra­tors, and to be open to becom­ing edu­cat­ed regard­ing each person’s respec­tive capac­i­ties with­out try­ing to become that kind of expert. It is impor­tant for sci­en­tists to insist on sci­en­tif­ic excel­lence, artists to insist on artis­tic excel­lence, and so on. This can be dif­fi­cult because it demands time and patience, and peo­ple are busy, so there’s often not a huge amount of time to engage in the patient shar­ing of infor­ma­tion that is not imme­di­ate­ly trans­par­ent from a dif­fer­ent dis­ci­pli­nary per­spec­tive. A fur­ther and per­haps more sig­nif­i­cant issue is that, as researchers and cre­ators, we can some­times feel inse­cure when we con­front a knowl­edge set that is unfa­mil­iar. Cer­tain­ly, the impulse to try to “mea­sure up” to some­one who knows a lot about a poten­tial­ly unfa­mil­iar sub­ject area—such as vaccines—is under­stand­able. But in a healthy col­lab­o­ra­tion, I think it’s unpro­duc­tive to be over­ly pre­oc­cu­pied by this kind of think­ing. As an artist, for exam­ple, I found that I was bet­ter at ask­ing lots of ques­tions about how vac­cines work, and about how the pol­i­tics sur­round­ing them func­tions, and to use the respons­es as a means to build the foun­da­tion for my own research-cre­ation approach. But I also came to under­stand that it was impor­tant to trust in my own abil­i­ties as an artist […] in order, for exam­ple, to be able to rec­og­nize and elu­ci­date some of the beau­ti­ful and curi­ous aspects of what I was learn­ing. Ulti­mate­ly, this was impor­tant in order to real­ize a project that had artis­tic rich­ness as well as a sol­id knowl­edge-based foun­da­tion.

Hou: Agreed. But, hon­est­ly, you made it easy for me, being flex­i­ble on the tim­ing and being so skilled at inter­pret­ing my ideas into a shared vision for the project. I like that we were able to come from our areas of strength and also be open to each other’s worlds. I felt my con­tri­bu­tion to <Immune Nations>—what are we call­ing it? “col­lab­o­ra­tion?” “experience?”—came with the exhi­bi­tion site itself: UNAIDS. It was when we final­ly decid­ed to install it there, dur­ing the 2017 World Health Assem­bly, that I felt, “Okay, this is my world, I know how to guide peo­ple through it.” So, I guess, when it comes to this kind of inter­dis­ci­pli­nary and emer­gent col­lab­o­ra­tion project, it means you need to pace your­self and rec­og­nize that you were cho­sen for a rea­son and that your role will become clear­er, even if it is not clear from the start.

The show in Nor­way, while it was held as a joint open­ing recep­tion event with the 2017 Glob­al Health and Vac­ci­na­tion Research Con­fer­ence (GLOBVAC), was, I think, ulti­mate­ly more tra­di­tion­al. It was in a gallery and it felt very much like an exhi­bi­tion, while the event in Gene­va at UNAIDS was more of an expe­ri­ence. It wasn’t tra­di­tion­al at all. Start­ing with the space: we do have an amaz­ing lob­by, [the] size of a soc­cer pitch and sur­round­ed by three-storey-tall win­dows, but it is noth­ing like an art space. So we built a series of events around <Immune Nations> dur­ing the World Health Assem­bly with many dif­fer­ent audi­ences and with top health offi­cials in the world. It was also a chance to expose all the artists to the advo­ca­cy side; I put togeth­er a town hall with the exec­u­tive direc­tor of UNAIDS and the First Lady of Namib­ia that all the artists attend­ed, so they could see the kinds of issues that get talked about. We also did walk-throughs with pub­lic health and pol­i­cy stu­dents. And it was amaz­ing to have the Cana­di­an min­is­ter of health give an incred­i­bly mov­ing speech about the impor­tance of vac­cines from her per­spec­tive as a min­is­ter, physi­cian, and moth­er. These were not typ­i­cal gallery expe­ri­ences. Sim­i­lar­ly, UNAIDS staff had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to inter­act with artists and health lead­ers [on] new issues and broad­en their under­stand­ing of the pow­er of art to bring debate sur­round­ing com­plex social and polit­i­cal issues to life. I don’t think we real­ized how big of an impact we could make.

Mahon: One last aspect of the impact of the over­all project and our spe­cif­ic work that we haven’t dis­cussed is around the notion of dis­sem­i­nat­ing “knowl­edge” regard­ing vac­cines. As allud­ed to ear­li­er, art is some­times thought to have a some­what indi­rect or tan­gen­tial capac­i­ty to com­mu­ni­cate sig­nif­i­cant ideas and is there­fore seen to have lim­it­ed poten­tial to engage in clear com­mu­ni­ca­tion, espe­cial­ly regard­ing com­plex sub­jects. But think­ing through our work, we observed that when view­ers have numer­ous pos­si­ble ways to approach com­pli­cat­ed ideas and sub­jects through art­work, and when their indi­vid­ual expe­ri­ences and impres­sions are allowed to vary quite wide­ly, this can actu­al­ly pro­duce a kind of strength regard­ing impact.

In the case of the Dis­se­mu­niza­tion Sta­tion, the fact that peo­ple were “lured” into a beau­ti­ful tent struc­ture while sur­round­ed by ambi­ent sound—even before they actu­al­ly went about putting on the headphones—might have increased the pos­si­bil­i­ty for them to be open to what they then encoun­tered by way of knowl­edge and infor­ma­tion. The work as a whole is meant to offer a mul­ti­lay­ered expe­ri­ence such that the con­tent we hear via the head­phones is only one aspect. Now, one could argue that it’s that aspect which could be most effec­tive in influ­enc­ing atti­tudes (the hear­ing of news reports and oth­er “infor­ma­tion”), but I don’t think we want to dis­count the impor­tance of the cre­ative frame­work in which the infor­ma­tion is encoun­tered as itself pro­duc­ing a form of knowl­edge. Sim­ply put, the “affect” pro­duced by the work is a sig­nif­i­cant com­po­nent of the expe­ri­ence. Arguably, it just might be the very thing that helps change minds (in pro­duc­tive ways), so to speak.

That being said, there was some pret­ty won­der­ful “affect” expe­ri­enced by us as the artist-mak­ers, too. When we came into the project, I don’t recall think­ing it would be as plea­sur­able, or, real­ly, as refresh­ing and trans­for­ma­tive to me, per­son­al­ly, as it was. But I think as the group grad­u­al­ly came togeth­er and “gelled,” and we saw the amaz­ing gen­eros­i­ty of the par­tic­i­pant-col­lab­o­ra­tors, it became increas­ing­ly heart­en­ing and plea­sur­able to be involved in <Immune Nations>. I don’t think you can ful­ly orches­trate this kind of result, though involv­ing peo­ple of sim­i­lar good will cer­tain­ly helps! In the end, I think if the col­lab­o­ra­tors can come togeth­er with a com­bi­na­tion of con­fi­dence in their own work and a will­ing­ness to learn and be vul­ner­a­ble, then it makes for a dyna­mite com­bi­na­tion. I do think our whole project on all lev­els was the result of such a syn­the­sis.

Fig­ure 7: Instal­la­tion view (from exte­ri­or court­yard), Design for a Dis­se­mu­niza­tion Sta­tion, UNAIDS, Gene­va, 2017. Portable tent struc­tures with sound instal­la­tion.
Pho­to by Patrick Mahon.

Acknowledgments

Annemarie Hou would like to thank the staff of UNAIDS for their invalu­able sup­port in mak­ing the <Immune Nations> exhi­bi­tion pos­si­ble and Susan Rogers Van Katwyk for her col­lab­o­ra­tion.

Patrick Mahon would like to thank the Fac­ul­ty of Arts & Human­i­ties (Visu­al Arts), at West­ern Uni­ver­si­ty, and sound and dig­i­tal imag­ing col­lab­o­ra­tors Tegan Moore and Thomas Mahon, for sup­port and assis­tance in mak­ing Design for a Dis­se­mu­niza­tion Sta­tion pos­si­ble.

Image Notes

Fig­ure 1: Annemarie Hou and Patrick Mahon, with Tegan Moore, Design for a Dis­se­mu­niza­tion Sta­tion, UNAIDS, Gene­va, 2017. Portable tent struc­tures with sound instal­la­tion. Pho­to by Patrick Mahon.

Fig­ure 2: Instal­la­tion view with artists, Annemarie Hou and Patrick Mahon, Design for A Dis­se­mu­niza­tion Sta­tion, UNAIDS, Gene­va, 2017. Portable tent struc­tures with sound instal­la­tion. Pho­to by Patrick Mahon.

Fig­ure 3: Patrick Mahon, water­colour detail of Vac­cine Adju­vant for Design for a Dis­se­mu­niza­tion Sta­tion, UNAIDS, Gene­va, 2017. Image cour­tesy of the artist.

Fig­ure 4: Dis­play pho­tographs of pro­posed D4DS usages, Design for a Dis­se­mu­niza­tion Sta­tion, UNAIDS, Gene­va, 2017. Portable tent struc­tures with sound instal­la­tion. Pho­to by Patrick Mahon.

Fig­ure 5: Dis­play pho­tographs of pro­posed D4DS usages (detail), Design for a Dis­se­mu­niza­tion Sta­tion, UNAIDS, Gene­va, 2017. Portable tent struc­tures with sound instal­la­tion. Pho­to by Patrick Mahon.

Fig­ure 6: Instal­la­tion of sound com­po­nents by Tegan Moore, Design for a Dis­se­mu­niza­tion Sta­tion, UNAIDS, Gene­va, 2017. Portable tent struc­tures with sound instal­la­tion. Pho­to by Patrick Mahon.

Fig­ure 7: Instal­la­tion view (from exte­ri­or court­yard), Design for a Dis­se­mu­niza­tion Sta­tion, UNAIDS, Gene­va, 2017. Portable tent struc­tures with sound instal­la­tion. Pho­to by Patrick Mahon.

Notes


  1. The “cold chain” refers to the sys­tem of stor­ing and trans­port­ing vac­cines at the rec­om­mend­ed tem­per­a­ture need­ed to main­tain avaccine’s poten­cy from its loca­tion of man­u­fac­ture to its loca­tion of use.

  2. To pro­duce a work of high qual­i­ty, as well as one that would be con­vinc­ing as a real­iz­able propo­si­tion, Hou and Mahon decid­ed to work in con­sul­ta­tion with an archi­tec­tur­al design­er. In doing so, they antic­i­pat­ed that both their pro­to­type and an accom­pa­ny­ing set of three pho­to­graph­ic mon­tages describ­ing its poten­tial uses in mul­ti­ple con­texts would allow the project to be pre­sent­ed with­in an art exhi­bi­tion, while sug­gest­ing sites of real social pos­si­bil­i­ty.

Annemarie Hou and Patrick Mahon, with Tegan Moore, Design for A Dis­se­mu­niza­tion Sta­tion, Gal­leri KiT, Trond­heim, 2017. Portable tent struc­tures with sound instal­la­tion. Pho­to by Yanir Shani.
Annemarie Hou and Patrick Mahon, with Tegan Moore, Pro­posed D4DS usages (detail), Design for a Dis­se­mu­niza­tion Sta­tion, 2017. Portable tent struc­tures with sound instal­la­tion. Image cour­tesy of the artists.
Annemarie Hou and Patrick Mahon, with Tegan Moore, Dis­play pho­tographs of pro­posed D4DS usages, Design for a Dis­se­mu­niza­tion Sta­tion, Gal­leri KiT, Trond­heim, 2017. Portable tent struc­tures with sound instal­la­tion. Pho­to by Yanir Shani.
Annemarie Hou and Patrick Mahon, with Tegan Moore, Design for A Dis­se­mu­niza­tion Sta­tion, UNAIDS, Gene­va, 2017. Portable tent struc­tures with sound instal­la­tion. Pho­to by Annik Wet­ter.