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EC Corps

by Ann Morton and Barret Michalec


To begin our process, Barret provided a number of reading resources of his research, videos, one-on-one correspondence, as well as face-to-face conversations. Ann was even given access to an online course in the ASU CAPIER curriculum which she completed. All this information revealed many things about the emphasis of Barret’s work, and gave Ann a clear understanding of what was important about the research. But three key pieces emerged, and it was on these points that the overall concept was developed:

  1. Barret considers his research, work and advocacy within the health care educational system as a form of protest.
  2. That recognizing the subtle movements in the face, with practice, can reveal the true emotions of whomever one is interacting with – these facial expressions are dubbed the “Primary Signal System” 
  3. That Barret’s research is based on his belief and personal experience that humans were born with an innate ability to feel empathy, to “get inside” of another’s emotional state. This “super power” (as Barret coins it), is called Emotional Contagion.

Given these key elements, it was decided to use factual research information to develop, design and create a collection of objects that would build a persona around a quasi-fictitious resistance group called the EC Corps (Emotional Contagion Corps). Imagine this – a clandestine meeting place where the EC Corps “Contagionists” (followers) would meet. You might see a rallying banner at the head of the room, a framed set of hand-made embroideries that become the symbols of the “Primary Signal System” displayed on the walls, promotional posters touting the group’s slogan – “Stay Alert, Stay Aware, Stay Contagious” waiting to be posted, indoctrinating pamphlets that describe the details of the “Primary Signal System” for new recruits, and embroidered patches available to all EC Corps “Contagionists” to display on clothing or backpacks. Through this collection, the ideas and mission of Barret’s research are defined, but also the earnest character and progressive personality of his communication style are also reflected.

EC Corps Manifesto:

FELLOW CONTAGIONISTS! We believe that our over-reliance on technology has allowed “the machines” to take over and now we humans are at the will of institutional systems and technology, and the ease they provide. In turn, we are losing our ability and willingness to connect to each other as humans.  From AI, to cell phones, to the over-use of simple emojis, and all the while operating within complicit social structures, we humans are losing our innate abilities to connect with each others’ emotional states, and so, in turn we are withering as a species. 

HOWEVER, in an effort to reignite human-kind’s emotional resonance and interpersonal connectivity, Dr. Barret Michalec, and artist Ann Morton have teamed up to form the EC Corps – an emotional intelligence enhancing guerrilla care-force, hell-bent on reminding and rekindling the most fundamental human abilities in emotional connectivity – EMOTIONAL CONTAGION!  We believe in using hand-made, high touch objects in our communications to counteract the high-tech world we find ourselves within. We are here searching for eager and able recruits to join the EC Corps and bring humanity back together.

Acknowledgement: Text and image references to facial expressions have been derived from the research of Paul Ekman in his book: Ekman, Paul. Emotions Revealed: Recognizing Faces and Feeling to Improve Communication and Emotional Life. St. Martin’s Griffin, 2003.

Print materials and hand-made objects portray factual information relating to the research of Dr. Barret Michalec, Director, Center of Advancing Interprofessional Practice, Education and Research (CAPIER) Arizona State University.

The EC Corps (Emotional Contagion Corps) is a fictitious resistance group created for purposes of an artistic collaboration between Michalec and Phoenix artist, Ann Morton – and meant to support and educate the public about the research of Dr. Barret Michalec.

Closer Look:

Medium: Framed Embroideries: Embroidery on cotton, Monoprint details/Santos Press; Banner: Pieced/quilted cotton, Digital prints, Applique, Embroidery; Poster: Monoprint/Santos Press; Pamphlet: Monoprint/Santos Press, hand bound/waxed linen; Patches: Commercial Embroidery

19”w x 14” l; Banner: 36”w x 66” l; Poster: 22” w x 15” l; Pamphlet: 5”w x 7” l, 16 pages + cover; Patches: 2 ½” x 2”

Cost of Piece:
Framed Embroideries: $1,500 each
Banner: $3,000
Posters: $25 each, signed and numbered (60% of proceeds will benefit ASU’s CAIPER Research Center)
Pamphlets: $25 each, numbered (60% of proceeds will benefit ASU’s CAIPER Research Center)

Patches: $15 each

Meet the Team

Artist: Ann Morton

Ann Morton’s work exploits traditional textile techniques as tools for aesthetic, social communication examining  a society of which we are all a part – as bystanders, participants, victims and perpetrators. Morton is driven to employ her art as a voice for advocacy. The work she completes reflects her own hand work, but also orchestrates the hand work from a variety of community participants through public interventions that seek to harness the power in the act of making and to socially engage the hands of many to create a larger whole.

After 35+ years practicing as a graphic designer, Morton earned my MFA in 2012 from ASU’s  School of Art. Currently, she practices as an artist and educator at Mesa Community College, and is represented by Lisa Sette Gallery.

Researcher: Barret Michalec

An award-winning sociologist, Barret Michalec has been internationally recognized as a disrupter and galvanizing force within healthcare delivery and health professions education – challenging common educational and training processes and developing evidence-supported practices to cultivate humility, empathy, and well-being among healthcare professionals and health profession students.