Serotipo / Serotype
Please see here: alejandrovalenciat.com/alejandrovt/serotipo.html

A general overview of the idea:

Based on the information collected during my ethnographic work focusing my attention on the everyday understandings of dengue fever, and paying particular attention to the different ways in which the subjects that have had dengue described the experience of being unwell, I decided to re-work (collaboratively) all the information gathered so far, to create elements that reflect the ideas of how dengue fever is understood in various different contexts.

To reach this objective, I created a participatory experiment (ethnography by design) in which five artists, one virologist, two entomologists, and importantly, two subjects of my research that had previously suffered dengue fever, worked together to create the last ‘public experiment’.

After a deep ethnographic work with Luis Fernando and Sara (you can find information about the ways in which they described the experience of being unwell by accessing my PhD blog: www.anthropologyartscience.blogspot.com), we concluded that there is a lack of understanding and of connection between health authorities, the design of public health campaigns and fundamentally, the cultural beliefs attached to the disease.

Promoters of public health have not taken into consideration the points of view of the patients or those who have had the disease. They design campaigns based on an entomological and clinical point of view, following a standard template where you see health staff –dressed in laboratory coats– talking about environmental hygiene and the purposes of sanitation. In addition, humour doesn’t play a role in the design of the campaigns.

Starting with the design:

In order to collaboratively create an intervention that reproduces the way Luis Fernando and Sara experienced the disease, we asked Alejandro Uribe, Sarita Álvarez and Juan Camilo Ortega for their help. They are part of Bimana, a collective of artist that creates a variety of large-scale interventions and performances combining a solar balloon, plastic bags, kites, makeup, prosthetics design, and special effects. The idea was to create a fictional character, or a comic anti-hero, that would appear in the public space of the city, creating an active dialogue with different peoples.

With the objective of situating our public experiment within the context of Colombian popular culture and ‘everyday life,’ we also invited Emilio Arango. He is a well-known actor who has represented many characters in educational campaigns that involve artistic interventions in the public space.

With Emilio, we meticulously studied what Sara and Luis had told us about their experience with dengue fever and mosquitoes to characterize ‘Serotype’. We not only considered the symptoms of the disease (pain behind the eyes, aches, fever, joint pain and rash, to lethargy or restlessness, abdominal pain, persistent vomiting, and mucosal bleeding); we also took into account ideas such as social isolation, terrible headaches and insomnia.

We carefully followed every single movement and way of acting to produce a lot of emotions in the public. As you can see in the pictures, hundreds of people got involved, many of who took photos and played with ‘Serotype’. This was a complete success and all the team was very pleased with the final product.

Acknowledgments:

I am extremely grateful with the subjects of this ethnography Sara and Luis Fernando. Special thanks to the ‘Bimana Producciones’ team (Alejandro Uribe, Sarita Álvarez and Juan Camilo Ortega), the kite-flyer Andrés Ramírez and the actor Emilio Arango. I would also like to thank the rest of the people that helped during the public experiment: Pablo López, Lucía Tobón, Sara Ibarra, Susana Valencia, Hernán Marín, Mario Valencia, and Gustavo Ramírez.
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