Monday, December 18, 2017

The Art and Science of Immunization

The Art and Science of Immunization” is a University of Toronto Jackman Humanities Institute working group I've been part of for the past year and a half. (See this post for more, including Shadowpox's Canadian debut!)

In an interview this week, co-lead Katherine Shwetz says:
"Vaccine hesitance is one of the most perplexing (and urgent) phenomena in contemporary health... [It] has profound implications for public health, medicine, social work, and also the issue of narrative competence—how do vaccine-hesitant parents parse health information to inform their decisions, and how can healthcare professionals effectively respond to false narratives about vaccines and health?  
"Our group demonstrates that an interdisciplinary approach to these questions leads to an understanding of vaccine hesitancy that is theoretically nuanced, scientifically accurate, and grounded in the lived experience of vaccine hesitant people and the healthcare providers who are responding to this problem." 
In addition to a mind-expanding reading list, the best thing about being a part of this group is the chance to have a long-running conversation with fellow PhD students working in very unfamiliar languages and cultures: epidemiology, immunology and public health. It’s made me realize that immunization, at its core, is a deliberate action to get acquainted with "foreigners"!

Presenters at "The Art and Science of Immunization: A Symposium" this spring, where Shadowpox had its Canadian premiere

Image: Shadowpox at RADA: Abraham Popoola (photo: Simon Eves)

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Playing Shadowpox

Some of my favourite photos from the Shadowpox installation at <Immune Nations> in Geneva this summer (more photos on the opening of the exhibition):

Monica Geignos, First Lady of Namibia, starts the game by selecting a region from the world map

Steven Hoffman, Scientific Director, CIHR Institute of Population & Public Health, chooses a country 

An inventive player finds a workaround for an oversight in our user interface, and...

...his little brother chooses the vaccine to protect a community of sprites not much shorter than him. 

Lab coats aren't chic, but they do show the pox!

Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, Minister of Health for Ghana, stands in front of the Shadowpox tent
to host the farewell for outgoing WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, and then...

...goes inside to rack up an impressive Protection Score!

Not to be outdone, Jane Philpott, Canada's Minister of Health, takes a turn
with the expert guidance of York Augmented Reality Lab Director Caitlin Fisher

A wide-angle shot showing both screens. The projection is identical, but flipped
on the player's side, so it can be viewed right-way around outside the tent.
(Check out the Kinect sensor on the shelf at the top left.)

Huge thanks to all the players who enjoyed the game at UNAIDS. Next stop: Canada!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Breakout Shakespeare

After seeing the Donmar Warehouse's intriguing verbatim musical The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee Takes Oral Evidence on Whitehall's Relationship with Kids Company (check out this musically-informed review by one of its MP subjects), I got a second dose of Josie Rourke's Donmar with their cinema broadcast of Phyllida Lloyd's Julius Caesar this week.

Thrillingly, the whole cast is female, with the framing device that the show is being staged by a drama group in a women's prison. The Donmar collaborated with arts charity Clean Break, which also contributed two graduates to the company.

This is the first of a "Shakespeare Trilogy" with the same concept – I managed to see the second, Henry IV, on stage in 2015 – and when The Guardian calls it "one of the most important theatrical events of the past 20 years," I thoroughly agree. It fruitfully disrespects not only the gender line, but the colour bar, and class and regional-accent silos as well. What if this weren't a one-off, but part of a sea change in how brave we're willing to be in our make-believe?

All three productions will be broadcast, but no dates are listed yet for Canada. (Get a move on, Cineplex!)

In New York earlier this year, the cast recorded videos to give more voice to their prison characters:

Friday, July 7, 2017

Performance Capture in Live Theatre

I spent last night in an alternate future. The RSC's Tempest had its press night at the Barbican Theatre, and I finally had the chance to see the show in the flesh after following its development online for ages.

This is the kind of mainstream breakthrough for performance-capture theatre that I've been waiting for for half a decade, from our 2013 mocap Midsummer Night's Dream at Theatre@York, through subsequent live-animated collaborations Faster than Night and The Augmentalist with innovator Pascal Langdale, and now the forthcoming Shadowpox. I was mesmerized.

I don't regret being out of town for the Tempest's cinema broadcast in March. It's an odd irony that as much as theatre almost always loses something indefinable by being filmed, theatre with projected effects (screen-on-stage-on-screen) loses double:

Friday, June 16, 2017

Shadowpox reviews in The Lancet and Canadian Art

An article today in the UK medical journal The Lancet reviews Shadowpox and the <Immune Nations> exhibition at UNAIDS for the 70th World Health Assembly in Geneva.

James Smith writes that "the eight artworks in this exhibition demonstrate how to engage productively and provocatively with policy makers and the public." After describing Jesper Alvær's Upstream the Cold Chain, Kaisu Koski's Conversations with Vaccine-Critical Parents, and Sean Caulfield's Anatomy Table, Smith continues:

"Of the remaining contributions, one of the most engaging is Shadowpox: The Antibody Politic, developed by Alison Humphrey, Caitlin Fisher, Steven J Hoffman, and Lalaine Destajo. This interactive installation quite literally renders visible the invisible, as participants must choose whether or not to be vaccinated against the 'shadowpox' pathogen, before having the opportunity to trace the impact of their decision as an animated population is exposed to the threat of infection. On completion, participants are able to view their 'infection collection' or 'protection collection', as the population is transformed from an aggregate statistic with a series of detailed individual stories. This is undoubtedly one of the most powerful and playful ways to illustrate both the individual and population-level implications of community immunity."

(Click to enlarge)

The journal Canadian Art also reviewed the exhibition:
Another unique artistic take on the global vaccination issue is Shadowpox: The Antibody Politic by a Canadian team: media artist Alison Humphrey, digital storyteller Caitlin Fisher and interaction designer LaLaine Ulit-Destajo, as well as [Steven] Hoffman himself. This “gamification of an epidemic,” as Hoffman puts it, invites visitors to try to wipe projections of various 'pox' off of their bodies. The number of pox to eliminate is scaled for whatever country the visitor has chosen, and thus underlines the way that resourcing affects “risk around the world,” says Hoffman." ...
Emotion certainly is something that runs high around vaccination debates, and one aim of <Immune Nations> is to find other ways of working with and through those emotions rather than just allowing the debate to become polarized.... 
'It is particularly timely now, given that we see around the world people questioning the role of science and alternative facts,' says Hoffman. 'It’s really important to us that we engage across sectors and find a new language in which to ensure people can be as healthy as possible.'
Shadowpox at RADA, video stills, 2016, “Immune Nations” at Galleri KiT, Trondheim, Norway. Photo: Natalie Loveless. Left to right: Skye Hallam, Fehinti Balogun, Tom Martin, Sayre Fox, Maisie Robinson, Natasha Cowley, Abraham Popoola, Jamael Westman and Polly Misch.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Shadowpox in Geneva

This week I've had the huge pleasure of working alongside Caitlin Fisher, Steven Hoffman and Susan Rogers Van Katwyk in person, and LaLaine Ulit-Destajo and Sean Sollé in cyber, to install Shadowpox: The Antibody Politic at UNAIDS in Geneva, Switzerland, in time for the WHO's 70th World Health Assembly.

<Immune Nations>, an evidence-based art exhibition about the constructive role that art can play in global political discourse around life-saving vaccines, opened yesterday and will run till the end of June 2017.

Steven J. Hoffman, Alison Humphrey and Caitlin Fisher in front of the tent for Shadowpox: The Antibody Politic
Monica Geingos, First Lady of Namibia and UNAIDS Special Advocate,
playing Shadowpox at the <Immune Nations> opening
The Lancet reviewed the exhibition, calling Shadowpox "undoubtedly one of the most powerful and playful ways to illustrate both the individual and population-level implications of community immunity." 

La Repubblica quoted Hoffman describing the paradox that the exhibition highlights: "On the one hand, millions of the world's poorest people do not have access to vaccines, while on the other, millions of wealthy people refuse to vaccinate themselves or their children because of unfounded safety fears."

The Vaccine Project, the three-year interdisciplinary collaboration that led up to this exhibition, was completed as part of the International Collaboration for Capitalizing on Cost-Effective and Life-Saving Commodities (i4C) that is funded through the Research Council of Norway's Global Health & Vaccination Programme.

 The whole team in the UNAIDS courtyard before the opening of <Immune Nations>
Click for a time-lapse video of the Shadowpox setup, for photos of the game's players in action, or read the rest of this post for more photos from the opening.... 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Shadowpox in Toronto

Technical director LaLaine Ulit-Destajo, Theatre@York technician James McQuay and I brought the Shadowpox project to its North American debut this week at a symposium hosted by the Art and Science of Immunization working group at the University of Toronto's Jackman Humanities Institute, in conjunction with Public Health Ontario.

Public Health Ontario published an in-depth review, "Building Bridges: The Art and Science of Immunization Symposium":
This event explored the breadth of perspectives on immunization issues and how those in arts and science fields can work together to address them. A major focus of the day was on vaccine hesitancy. There was significant discussion around how a humanities approach can inform how we communicate with the public and weave a narrative to help bridge the gap between science and the public. Attendees were a diverse mix, with backgrounds in fields such as immunology, epidemiology, history, English, anthropology and even theatre studies.... 
Allison Humphrey, a PhD student in Cinema and Media Arts from York University, introduced her interactive motion capture game, Poxémon. Players users use their arms and legs to fight off the “shadowpox” disease that attacks the individual, meanwhile trying to protect 100 other characters on the screen from infection. This game helps players to understand how infectious diseases can spread in a population, or be protected by vaccination. Attendees had the opportunity to demo the game during breaks.
Their video even includes footage (at 0:40) of Shadowpox in action:

Read the full post for more Tweets from the symposium...

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Shadowpox in Trondheim

Shadowpox made its debut in Trondheim, Norway, at <Immune Nations>, an evidence-based art exhibition about the constructive role that art can play in global political discourse around life-saving vaccines.

Annemarie Hou gets a 100 protection score!
Shadowpox talk for students from the Trondheim Academy of Fine Art
SciArt Magazine covered the opening at Galleri KiT: "The Art of Vaccination" (The Lancet reviewed the opening in Geneva).

Syringe Sequence #1-2, Kaisu Koski

See more photos below...

Friday, February 17, 2017

Shadowpox in the Lab

Shadowpox at RADA: Abraham Popoola, video still, 2016
LaLaine Ulit-Destajo, Caitlin Fisher, Steven HoffmanSusan Rogers Van Katwyk and I are in the final weeks of preparation for a gallery installation incarnation of Shadowpox as part of the <Immune Nations> exhibition in Trondheim, Norway, and Geneva, Switzerland.

<Immune Nations>
 is an experimental evidence-based artistic-research exhibition emerging from the three-year Vaccine Project, part of the International Collaboration for Capitalizing on Cost-Effective and Life-Saving Commodities (i4C) funded through the Research Council of Norway's GLOBVAC Programme.

The exhibition will kick off at Gallery KiT on March 13, as the official opening of the 10th Conference on Global Health and Vaccination Research. From Trondheim it travels to UNAIDS in Geneva on May 23 for the 70th World Health Assembly

Here are a few work-in-progress photos from the Alice Lab for Computational Worldmaking and the Augmented Reality Lab at York University:

Using Rulr to calibrate the Kinect and projector
LaLaine's motion-capture stick-figure animation in development (Bézier curves are on the way!)
LaLaine's openFrameworks Shadowpox code

LaLaine infects the lab with sprites
Title animator Jos Humphrey gives a peek behind the curtain in After Effects
Jos's title sequence on the big screen

Alison and Maggie the Mannequin model the latest in VR headsets, but not because they're part of the project.
They just make us look suave.