<i>VacZineNations!</i>, a Critical Dialogue


  • Rachelle Viader Knowles Arts and Humanities at Manchester Metropolitan University
  • Mkrtich Tonoyan
  • Patrick Mahon Western University
  • John Hammersley Coventry University
  • Lisa Webb




visual arts pedagogy, art-as-education, graphic design, zines, vaccine hesitancy, collaboration strategies


VacZineNations! is a collaborative artwork led by Rachelle Viader Knowles and Mkrtich Tonoyan, produced by artists, students, and designers in the UK, Canada, China, and Armenia, and exhibited as part of <Immune Nations> at Galleri KiT in Trondheim, Norway, and UNAIDS in Geneva, Switzerland, in 2017. This critical dialogue text gives insight into the necessarily messy approach used to develop a project with over one hundred participants, working from multiple disciplinary and geographic perspectives. This text is accompanied by a second essay that positions the artwork within the context of practice-led research (see Knowles, “VacZineNations! as Practice-Led Research” in this volume).

Author Biographies

Rachelle Viader Knowles, Arts and Humanities at Manchester Metropolitan University

Rachelle Viader Knowles is an artist, researcher, and educator. She is Head of International for the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK, where her role supports the development of international initiatives and partnerships for education, research, and knowledge exchange. Rachelle has eleven years’ experience in academic leadership roles in higher education. Prior to joining Manchester Met, she was Associate Head International for the School of Art and Design at Coventry University, UK, and Head of Visual Arts at the University of Regina in Canada, where she taught media arts practice for twelve years. She is a dual UK and Canadian citizen. Her practice-led research investigates translocality, dialogue as art, and artistic practices/methods developed through participation, collaboration, and networks. Her works have been performed, published, screened, found, or encountered in numerous international venues and publications. Exhibitions include MilaKunst Gallery in Berlin; Conflux, and the Experimental Text Festivals in New York; Three Walls Gallery in Chicago; the MacKenzie, Mendel, Neutral Ground and YYZ galleries in Canada; Residencia Corazon Gallery in La Plata, Argentina; Chapter Gallery in Cardiff, Wales; the Gwangju Biennale in South Korea; the Gyumri Biennale in Armenia; and the Can Gelabert Cultural Centre in Mallorca. She is an active member of the international advisory board for the Armenian Art Centre of Social Studies based in Yerevan, Armenia. Rachelle holds a PhD in Art+Media from Plymouth University and an MFA in Visual Arts from the University of Windsor.

Mkrtich Tonoyan

Mkrtich Tonoyan is an Armenian artist, co-founder, and current President of the AKOS Cultural NGO, founder of the Art Centre of Social Studies (ACOSS) international artists-in-residence program (2006), co-founder of the ACSL NGO’s artists-in-residence program Art Commune (2008), and co-founder of Microresidence, a worldwide network of Artists residencies based in Japan. In the early 1990s, Tonoyan participated in the Karabakh War, experiencing all the horrors and suffering of death, destruction, injury, and despair, which continue to have profound impact on his creative and social practice. Tonoyan turned to contemporary art as a space of possibility to address crisis and change in all its dimensions: personal, political, ideological, and social. He works in a new direction of conceptual art called military art, founded by Alexander Melkonyan. Active in the professional realm of contemporary art since graduating from the Academy of Fine Arts in Yerevan in 2002, Tonoyan has regularly presented his work, projects, and lectures on Armenian contemporary art and had talks at numerous national and international art events, galleries, and universities. As President of the AKOS Cultural NGO, Tonoyan collaborates with organizations internationally to develop cultural exchange opportunities, and locally to develop socially engaged projects in the peripheries of Armenia. In 2010 Tonoyan was awarded a mobility grant from the Euro Cultural Foundation to research models of artist residencies in the UK; in 2011 he was awarded professional development funding from the Open Society Foundation to research artist residencies management practice in the United States; and in 2014 he was awarded research residency from Youkobo Art Space to continue research on the theme of microresidence and participate in the Microresidence Forum 2014 in Tokyo, Japan. In 2015 he was awarded a grant from Cleveland Foundation to be in Cleveland, Ohio, as an artist in the Creative Fusion residency for research and community-engaged projects. In 2019 Tonoyan was awarded an artist residency grant in Rikuzentakata, which was almost destroyed by the tsunami following the Tōhoku earthquake in March 2011.

Patrick Mahon, Western University

Patrick Mahon is an artist, a writer, and a Professor of Visual Arts at Western University, in London, ON. He is also the current Director of the School for Advanced Studies in the Arts & Humanities at Western. Mahon’s artwork has been exhibited widely in Canada at Museum London, the Hamilton Art Gallery, the Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Kamloops Art Gallery, and the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MOCCA), Toronto; in recent exhibitions in China, France, Ecuador, and Japan in 2017; and at numerous print biennales. Patrick was in residence at the International Studio and Curatorial Program (New York), Frans Masereel Centrum (Belgium), and La Maison Patrimoniale Barthète in France. The SSHRC-funded project, Art and Cold Cash, which involved Mahon and other artists from southern Canada and Baker Lake, Nunavut, was produced and exhibited between 2004 and 2010 (MOCCA, Toronto; McLaren Arts Centre, Barrie; Platform, Winnipeg: Dunlop Art Gallery, Regina), and a book was published by YYZ in 2010. Patrick’s collaborative SSHRC project, Immersion Emergencies and Possible Worlds, on the theme of water, began in 2010 and included a residency in Niagara Falls and at the Banff Centre. A related group exhibition, The Source: Reconsidering Water through Contemporary Art, presented at Rodman Hall Art Centre, opened in May 2014. A follow-up exhibition, co-curated with Stuart Reid, The Living River Project, was presented at the Art Gallery of Windsor in 2019. Patrick lives in London, Ontario.

John Hammersley, Coventry University

John Hammersley is an artist-researcher and educator. He is a Lecturer in Graphic Design at Coventry University in the UK, and an Associate Lecturer in the Department of Communication Design at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin, Ireland. His work explores dialogical approaches to art and design practice and education. He is a founding member of the artist network-as-artwork The Dialogic, and has recently published articles on learning dialogues in art and design education (Arts and Humanities in Higher Education) and the reciprocity of care in collaborative artworks with end-of-life participants (Scottish Journal of Performance).

Lisa Webb

Lisa Webb is an Assistant Professor of Graphic Design and Course Director for MA Graphic Design at Coventry University, UK. She holds an MA in Electronic Art and maintains a particular interest in digital media and computer mediated printmaking. A Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, Lisa was previously a Teaching Development Fellow in the School of Art and Design. She has successfully run an international exchange programme with Central South University in China, which has fuelled her interest in intercultural learning and informs her current teaching approach.




How to Cite

Knowles, R. V., Tonoyan, M., Mahon, P., Hammersley, J., & Webb, L. (2020). <i>VacZineNations!</i>, a Critical Dialogue. Imaginations: Journal of Cross-Cultural Image Studies, 11(2), 37–55. https://doi.org/10.17742/IMAGE.IN.11.2.3