"The Many Faces of Contagion" in Lugano


Institutional Communication Service

18 January 2023

"The Many Faces of Contagion", the interactive exhibition created by L'ideatorio of Università della Svizzera italiana, lands at Villa Ciani in Lugano from 20 January to 12 March. In 2022, the exhibit, supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation and created in collaboration with the USI-affiliated Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB) in Bellinzona, was already at Castelgrande in Bellinzona where it welcomed more than 100 classes and 8,700 visitors. We talk about it with project coordinator Alessio Lavio.

"The Many Faces of Contagion" aims to be a space for reflection and sharing on the pandemic and, more generally, on the theme of contagion, comparing visitors' experiences with scientific research.

The Lugano exhibit, Alessio Lavio explained to us, incorporates the interactive stations already present in Bellinzona. "The things to read, to browse, to open, to do are the same, but setting them up in a new place changes the experience, and the rooms of Villa Ciani, with their frescoes, enhance some of the stations that now have a space of their own."

"The Many Faces of Contagion" comes to Lugano, broken in by a hundred classes of various age groups (the exhibition welcomes visitors from 4th grade through high school and higher education). "We adapted the activities for the schools as we went along, seeing what works well and what needs improvement," Lavio confirms. "Now the programme is tailored to the various classes, and it is always enriching to discuss with students, addressing issues such as mandatory vaccination, for example." Among the things that work particularly well is the video with which the itinerary opens. "We have six characters telling what contagion is to them, and it's a very striking introduction: listening to an elderly person for whom it has meant isolation or an AIDS patient for whom contagion has meant exclusion, or even a teacher who instead wants ideas to contaminate the class, gives the topic a human and social dimension that science sometimes conceals." This dimension also emerges in a following station in which, through post-it notes, "we ask the students what they missed most during the peak phase of the pandemic, and here, too, social isolation emerges above all, and therefore also a second type of contagion, the one we need, the human one: being together, hugging each other, contaminating each other with ideas."

And as for the general audience? "Being in Castelgrande has meant meeting a new audience that may not have known L'ideatorio yet," Lavio replied. Among the visitors were also several tourists, thanks partly to the exhibit being in Italian and English. "We hope that something similar can happen at Villa Ciani."

Do you fear that the public is tired of talking about pandemics? "The fear is there, but it was also there in Bellinzona, and then the numbers showed us otherwise," Lavio replied. The exhibition, in any case, focuses not on Covid but on the topic of contagion in a broader sense, "on what it means for human beings to deal with a complex phenomenon that is not just about current events." "The Many Faces of Contagion," Lavio concluded, is an opportunity "to reflect on the self and human nature through different practical activities starting from what science can tell us, because science is not an abstract and distant thing, but speaks about all of us."