Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Shadowpox: The Antibody Politic at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery

I'm delighted that Shadowpox: The Antibody Politic will finally be getting its North American debut as part of the exhibition Public Notice at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa.

The exhibition is thoughtfully timed for the centenary of the 1918 "Spanish flu" epidemic (which, if not for wartime media censorship in countries other than Spain, could just as easily have been dubbed the "Kansas flu").

If you're in the Toronto area this fall, please come play the game!

Public Notice 

September 15, 2018 - January 19, 2019

Alison Humphrey, Ruth Cuthand, Elaine Whittaker, Ho Tam, Stephen Andrews, Abraham Anghik Ruben, Kim Morgan

Elaine Whittaker, I Caught it at The Movies (detail), 2013, Petri dishes, digital images, mylar, gouache, agar, Halobacterium sp. NRC-1
Exhibition description:

"A hundred years ago, when World War I was winding down and peace was right around the corner, a new strain of influenza swept the world, killing more people than the war. The 1918 Spanish Influenza is considered the deadliest outbreak of infectious disease in recorded history.

"Previously, epidemics were blamed on “the other” for importing diseases, they were considered a foreign threat that encouraged xenophobia. The 1918 pandemic was different. It was a global threat that attacked the young and healthy, and forced a new way of understanding how disease was spread. It’s often referred to as the “forgotten” epidemic due to its limited coverage in the war-censored media at the time.

"Today such an outbreak would be non-stop news. Consider the mainstream reaction to the 2014-15 Ebola crisis: 10 confirmed cases in North America but over 21 million tweets about the outbreak in October 2015 just in the United States. The media referred to the panic as “fearbola,” and there was wide spread misinformation and misunderstanding about facts of the disease. Technology and access to information (false or otherwise) helps spread hysteria and fear.

"Fear spreads quickly and plays various roles in how a disease is spread. Inciting fear can raise awareness in more people, helping to control transmission and spread. At the same time fear divides. It divides the healthy from the unhealthy, those who are willing to help with those who are not, and often fact from fiction.
“Very few people understand the programming of fear, and why it distorts our perceptions. While fear is a program used for our survival, fear also creates irrational beliefs that cause larger systems of fear like politics, religion and the media.” 
– Ben Fama Jr., A Virus Called Fear 
"The artists’ work in Public Notice deal with disease and illness from various perspectives. Whether historically and racially themed, scientific facts versus fiction, or loss and misunderstanding, all contribute to the idea that often fear trumps empathy and understanding."

Update October 2018: 

Please see this page for some gorgeous photos from the show, along with the full exhibition catalogue:

Update December 2018: 

And please see this page for a talk I gave at the Ideas Digital Forum, a two-day symposium hosted by the The Robert McLaughlin Gallery for the Ontario Association of Art Galleries.