Pug Virus at Walker Art Gallery

Article Featured Image

John Walter's sculpture at Walker Art Gallery and Alien Sex Club exhibition at Camp + Furnace

Alien Sex Club

30 October – 29 November

Camp & Furnace, Greenland Street, L1 0BY

Fridays noon – 8pm, Saturdays and Sundays noon - 6pm

Pug Virus

29 October – 31 January 2016

Upper Atrium, Walker Art Gallery

Daily, 10am - 5pm, FREE entry

Alien Sex Club is a major multimedia project by British Artist John Walter. It explores the relationship between visual culture and HIV and asks audiences to consider sexual transmission risk in a broader personal and social framework.

Using the spatial device of a cruise maze found in sex clubs and gay saunas, the Alien Sex Club installation at Camp & Furnace brings together sculpture, painting, video, performance and installation to address the complexities of contemporary sexual health. Visitors are immersed in a multisensory world where they are free to adventure, have their fortunes read by the tarot reader or share conversations over a drink at the gin bar.

Through the aesthetic of carnival and festivals Alien Sex Club introduces serious issues to a wide audience in an accessible, playful and provocative way. The project is part of John Walter’s PhD research and is the result of a collaboration with Dr Alison Rodger, Senior Lecturer and Honorary Consultant in Infectious Diseases and HIV at University College London supported by a Small Arts Award by the Wellcome Trust.

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. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) helps HIVpositive patients stay healthy with near normal life expectancy but the longterm physical effects of ART are still unknown and its longterm 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 preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and selftesting for HIV will become more available in the UK, changing how people think about risk and unprotected sex.


Alien Sex Club exhibition: Lou Muddle, Homotopia, 07840 759 467, loumuddle@gmail.com
Pug Virus at Walker Art Gallery: Sarah Webster, National Museums Liverpool, 0151 478 4752 sarah.webster@liverpoolmuseums.org.uk

Notes for editors

Alien Sex Club
John Walter (born 1978, Dartford) works in a range of media including drawing, painting, performance, video, music and sculpture. His installations are grounded in theoretical and empirical research and they seduce visitors into engaging with complex and often uncomfortable subjects such as sexual health through his exuberant use of colour, humour and hospitality. Walter creates fictions that begin with his personal experience and quotes the voices of others, weaving them together into new epic works. The term maximalist, which best describes his work, refers to an additive practice that values the relationship between things rather than their qualities in isolation. Walter’s work is visually intricate, returning to specific lexicons of imagery such as tarot cards, which allow meanings to develop within multiple contexts


John Walter 


Ellen Mara De Wachter 

Walker Art Gallery
One of the finest art galleries in Europe, the Walker Art Gallery is home to renaissance masterpieces, Tudor portraits and one of the best collections of Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite art in the country. An outstanding display of contemporary art includes work by David Hockney, Lucian Freud and Bridget Riley.

Open daily 10am-5pm
Walker Art Gallery
William Brown Street, Liverpool, L3 8EL
Telephone 0151 478 4199  

@walkergallery and #pugvirus

About Homotopia
Homotopia is an arts and social justice organisation. It draws on the LGBT experience to unite and regenerate communities through the production, promotion and commissioning of great art, heritage and culture for everyone. The Homotopia Festival, which was founded in2004, takes place every Autumn across Liverpool. This year’s festival started with a photographic exhibition by Deutsche Borse nominated Zanele Muholi and includes; prize-winning authors of fiction and non-fiction Diana Souhami and Sarah Waters, premieres of new theatre and dance, rare and classic films, two transgressive, ground-breaking museum exhibits and a debate about art and activism. Homotopia is funded by Arts Council England as a National Portfolio Organisation and by Liverpool City Council. www.homotopia.net