The More-than-Human Wellbeing Exhibition


This exhibition is led and curated by Deborah Lupton, leader of the Vitalities Lab and the UNSW Node of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society, with team members Vaughan Wozniak-O’Connor, Ash Watson and Megan Rose. Our community partner is Health Consumers NSW. We gratefully acknowledge funding from the Australian Research Council (grant ID CE20010005) and the Faculty of Arts, Design & Architecture (collaboration grant) as well as the support of the UNSW Library’s curation staff in mounting the show in the Library’s exhibition space.

Exhibition Summary

‘Lively Smartphones’ exhibits

The ‘More-than-Human Wellbeing’ exhibition draws on several of our recent research projects. As a research translation and engagement initiative, the exhibition presents materials that communicate the key concepts and findings of these projects.

The exhibition engages with the concept of the natural science/medical museum and reinterprets it in the context of new ways of learning about and understanding our health and wellbeing: particularly as part of more-than-human and more-than-digital ecologies. Building on and extending Western historical concepts of health and the body together with more-than-human theory, we use multimodal arts-based and multisensory methods – both digital and non-digital – to highlight ways of knowing and being within and beyond the world of self-tracking apps, electronic medical records and smart devices for documenting illness and promoting health and wellbeing.

The exhibition seeks to attune visitors to their role in more-than-human ecologies and how their health and wellbeing and that of the planet is entangled. It shows that digital software, data and devices are only part of the manifold ways that people learn about their bodies and their health. It acknowledges that human health is always more-than-human health, and that natural and human-made objects and spaces are intertwined.

‘Hand of Signs’ exhibit

Across the exhibition, we are working towards a contemporary reconfiguration of the humoural model of medicine, which recognises the flows of vibrant vital forces and substances as they move in and out of the fleshly human body and intra-act with more-than-human ecologies. In this reconfiguration, in addition to the traditional elemental agents of air, wind, water and fire, the living and nonliving phenomena constituting and inhabiting place and space, and the temperamental forces that animate humans’ bodies, we can begin to include the phenomena of digitised forms of information that contribute to multisensory experiences of the world. We acknowledge that each exhibition visitor will engage with the materials using their sensorium in unique ways that are founded in their individual life experiences, affective responses, sensations and memories.

Exhibition Schedule

Detail from ‘Cabinet of Human/Digital/Data Curiosities’ exhibit

The show will run from 22 May to 18 August 2023, installed in the UNSW Library’s 5th floor exhibition space. Details here. We will also have a mini-show available for viewing at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society’s annual symposium, 13-14 July 2023, at the University of Sydney. We have plans to take the show to community spaces around Sydney as well.

Associated Events

We are planning a workshop on using exhibitions for research translation and engagement in health and medicine. Further details forthcoming.

Projects Involved

Screenshot from ‘Creative Approaches to Health Information Ecologies’ short film

The exhibition presents content in different media (a short film, artworks, zines, explanatory panels and creative statements, take-away exhibition reader) drawing on several of our past projects: including Medicine as Culture, The Quantified Self, Critical Digital Health, Data Selves and The Internet of Animals books by Deborah Lupton, as well as the projects ‘Living with Personal Data’, ‘Australian Self-Trackers’, ‘Data Personas’, ‘Health Information Story Completion’ and ‘Creative Approaches to Health Information Ecologies’. There are several hands-on activities to visitors, inviting them to think and feel about their wellbeing through more-than-human ecologies as they engage with our exhibition displays. This is a sensory museology approach to visitor engagement.

Concepts and Questions

The exhibition’s conceptual questions are as follows:

  • What are the connections we can draw between the data from human bodies and the marks left by human bodies on other things? What can we learn about these connections in terms of our part in more-than-human worlds?
  • How can we make these connections through the multisensory attributes of the exhibition materials and artworks?
  • How do these multisensory engagements make us think and feel about how we learn about our bodies and health and what we value about these modes of knowledge?

The key questions we’d like exhibition visitors to explore are:

  • How is your wellbeing entangled with that of other people and with objects and places, both natural and human-made, digital and non-digital?
  • What traces does the world leave on you, and what traces do you leave on the world?
  • How is this information shared or transmitted between you and the world?
  • How do you learn about your body and your health and wellbeing through your interactions with other people and the world?
  • How can we conduct our lives so as to promote mutual health and wellbeing with the other people and living things that are part of our ecosystems?

More to Come

We are working on curricula materials for senior school students drawing on the exhibition as well as further academic publications.

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