John Walter‘s Alien Sex Club exhibition at Camp & Furnace and sculpture at Walker Art Gallery as part of Homotopia Festival.
Alien Sex Club
Camp & Furnace, Greenland Street, L1 0BY
Friday 30 October – 29 November 2015
Fridays 12.00 – 20.00, Saturdays and Sundays 12.00 – 18.00
Pug Virus (more details here)
Walker Art Gallery, Upper Atrium
Thursday 29 October – 31 January 2016
Daily, 10.00 – 17.00, FREE entry
Alien Sex Club is a major multimedia project by British artist John Walter, which explores the relationship between visual culture and HIV today.
The exhibition consists of a large-scale installation based on the shapes of cruise mazes, found in sex clubs and gay saunas. It comprises sculpture, painting, video, performance and installation. Visitors are immersed in a multisensory world in which they can watch videos and live performances, get lost in the maze and have a drink in the performance bar.
Alien Sex Club uses popular forms including hospitality, fortune-telling, comedy and the aesthetic of carnivals and festivals to introduce issues to a wide audience and make the subject palatable, interesting and fun, while grounding it in cross-disciplinary research.
Alien Sex Club will involve artists, activists and HIV specialists, clinical academics and scientists in collaborations for a public programme of talks and performances that will provide audiences with a new vocabulary for understanding and talking about HIV and the factors contributing to its transmission.
Curated by Ellen Mara De Wachter.
Pug Virus at Walker Art Gallery:
Continuing Homotopia’s long-standing partnership with National Museums Liverpool, throughout the festival John Walter’s inflatable sculpture ‘Pug Virus’ will be exhibited at the Walker Art Gallery.
The four metre-high inflatable head is sewn in pink ripstop nylon and is based on one of a series of 3D printed ‘virus heads’ that Walter has made. ‘Pug Virus’ is Walter’s attempt to re-envision HIV in our current era of highly effective antiretroviral therapy, in contrast to representations of the virus during the ‘AIDS’ crisis in the 1980s.
It fills the elegant space of the neo-classical Walker Art Gallery in a bold and uncompromising way. Visitors will then be signposted to the full exhibition at Camp & Furnace.
Also as part of Homotopia, at the Bluecoat, Walker Art Gallery and at Camp & Furnace, Alien Sex Club will present a free public programme of associated talks and events from artists, activists and health professionals aimed at providing audiences with a new vocabulary for understanding and talking about HIV and the factors contributing to its transmission.
Friday 30 October, 6pm, The Bluecoat – Artist John Walter talks about Alien Sex Club.
Sat 7 November, 2pm, The Bluecoat – Artist Frances Disley demystifies the jargon, statistics and modes of dissemination associated with HIV and visual arts in collaboration with Dr Valerie Delpech.
Saturday 14th November, 2pm, Bluecoat – Artist Mark Scott-Wood creates new work for an event exploring props, tools, habits and rituals associated with HIV in collaboration with HIV nurse Janey Sewell.
Sat 21 Nov, 4pm, Camp & Furnace – A collaborative presentation using good old words and pictures from performance artist Susannah Hewlett and clinical epidemiologist Professor Sheena McCormack.
Tues 1 December -World Aids Day – 11 – 5pm, Tarot Readings by Barbara Truvada, Walker Art Gallery. The Alien Sex Club tarot deck gathers together images that allow reader and visitor to discuss subjects including sexuality and cultural transmission. Walter’s set contains 78 cards, with a Higher Arcana of 22 picture cards and four suits – the Bugchasers, the Giftgivers, the Barebackers and the Serosorters – which draw on the mythology of HIV. The tarot reader’s name refers to Truvada® the brand name of a type of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP).
Background and context for the project
During the early AIDS crisis of the 1980s and 1990s, many public sex environments (often including cruise mazes) were closed by law. More recently, cruising for sex has moved online with apps such as Grindr, Scruff and Hornet gaining in popularity. However, many men still want to meet in person and anonymously for sex, despite the risks involved.
Gay men remain one of the groups most at risk of HIV in the UK, with 3,250 new cases of the infection diagnosed in this group in 2013. Anti‐retroviral therapy (ART) helps HIV‐positive patients stay healthy with near normal life expectancy but the long‐term physical effects of ART are still unknown and its long‐term cost is of increasing concern. It is estimated that ART costs around £500,000 per person for a lifetime of treatment.
Popular debate around the medical and social implications of ART and HIV in this country is set to increase in the next year, as pre‐exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and self‐testing for HIV will become more available in the UK, changing how people think about risk and unprotected sex.