Mingler Scholarship 2020: Bacteria & Borders

The project ‘Bacteria & Borders’ is a collaboration between cartopologists, Marlies Vermeulen and Remy Kroese, and qualitative social scientists, Alena Kamenshchikova and Klasien Horstman. This artistic research project started with an ambition to challenge the epidemiologically driven vision of graphs and maps that present infection prevalence by separating different geographic areas. Attempting to bridge the insights from cartopology and qualitative sociology, this project aimed to introduce the notions of fluidity and interdependency to the maps – to show how borders are not clear lines on the graphs but they can move and bend depending on the multiple political, cultural and social processes that may influence infectious spread. 

While starting with an ambition to develop a novel vision of borders and cross-border infection spread, the project had a drastic turn in focus when we realised that we were lacking instruments for collaboration and communication across different disciplines of cartopology and sociology, across an artistic and scientific approach. We had different visions and understandings of how a research process should be built, how and what methods should be used, and how to interpret and report the results from those methods. The question arose: how can we deliver on an ambition to steer the imagination of cross-border infection spread if we cannot communicate with each other? We needed a different plan of action: first, we need to develop a clear framework of interdisciplinary collaboration, and then move towards our ambitious project ‘Bacteria and borders’.

Therefore, the final product consisting of a set of files and accompanied by a recorded conversation has a dual role: it aims to take a reader (you) on a journey through the jungle called interdisciplinary collaboration showing the inside processes including misunderstandings, frustrations and triumphs; and it aims to illustrate the results of our intricate process of collaboration building – a different imaginary of bacteria crossing borders. So, find the audio and accompanying publication below to enjoy your journey within an artistic research collaboration.

The project Bacteria & Borders is funded by the ‘Akademie van Kunsten’ and ‘De Jonge Akademie’, both part of the ‘Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen’. It has been developed to financially stimulate starting collaborations of artistic research and financed by the Niemeijer Fonds. Also the Research Centre of Arts, Autonomy and the Public Sphere, Zuyd University of Applied Sciences and the Maastricht University contributed financially. We are very grateful for this opportunity.