John Walter: CAPSID at HOME

Sara Jaspan, Exhibitions Editor
A Virus Walks Into a Bar, John Walter: CAPSID at HOME, Manchester
A Virus Walks Into a Bar, HD Video (still), 2018. John Walter

John Walter: CAPSID at HOME Manchester, Manchester 10 November 2018 — 6 January 2019 Entrance is free

A virus walks into a bar… and does what? Exactly what all viruses are programmed to do: it seeks to infect its host environment. The Machiavellian methods of deceit, trickery and corruption employed by the invading organism in John Walter’s short film may be unconventional, yet the absurd 20-minute dramatisation (influenced by the artist’s fascination with soap operas and surrealism) provides a simple, unapologetically humorous way of explaining the life cycle of HIV.

The piece sits at the heart of CAPSID, Walter’s major solo exhibition opening at HOME in Manchester on 10 Nov. Named after the outer protein shell that protects, cloaks and delivers a virus to its host; the multimedia, maximalist installation addresses what the artist views as a crisis of visual representation surrounding viruses such as HIV, and presents a new way of understanding the biological agent based on the latest scientific research.

The title also relates to another core aspect of the show: Walter drawing on the process of infection, virology and capsids (which he conceptualises as ‘sneaks’) to provide the framework for a wider conversation concerning the spread of ideas between groups and systems – aiming to move beyond ‘an increasingly hackneyed discussion’ around memes, and towards a more in-depth investigation of how culture is transmitted.

Filling HOME’s entire ground-floor gallery with a gaudy, engulfing mass of colour, pattern and Walter’s signature ‘shonky’ aesthetics – privileging the handmade, the awkward and the asymmetrical – CAPSID sets out to immerse visitors in a complex yet playful world in which science provides the springboard for art. Entering the space, prepare to be inundated by what might initially seem like a baffling array of references lifted from children’s television and the pharmaceutical industry through to LGBTQ+ culture, science and art history. These fragments of ‘foreign material’ form part of the artist’s attempt to find an expanded vocabulary through which to discuss the traditionally marginalised topics that lie at the heart of his work – smuggling the outside world into the white cube like a capsid himself.

As Walter states: HIV “is a problem that people may think has gone away but hasn’t. It’s mutated, and it needs a different form of representation.” CAPSID (like the artist’s highly celebrated Alien Sex Club project in 2015) sets out to do this with remarkable joy and ambition.

CAPSID is curated by Bren O’Callaghan and accompanied by a programme of related activity including film screenings, discussions, tours and the first UK Flash Collective with Avram Finkelstein (founding member of The Silence=Death Project and Gran Fury collectives within the ACT UP New York movement).

John Walter: CAPSID at HOME Manchester, Manchester 10 November 2018 — 6 January 2019 Entrance is free

What's on at HOME Manchester

Where to go near John Walter: CAPSID at HOME

Indian Tiffin Room, Manchester

Indian Tiffin Room is a restaurant specialising in Indian street food, with branches in Cheadle and Manchester. This is the information for the Manchester venue.

The Ritz Manchester live music venue
Music venue
The Ritz

The Ritz was originally a dance hall, built in 1928, has hosted The Beatles, Frank Sinatra and The Smiths and is still going strong as a gig venue now.

Event venue

Homeground is HOME’s brand new outdoor venue, providing an open-air space for theatre, food, film, music, comedy and more.

Café or Coffee Shop
Burgess Cafe Bar

Small but perfectly-formed café – which also serves as the in-house bookstore, stocking all manner of Burgess-related works, along with recordings of his music. It’s a welcoming space, with huge glass windows making for a bright, welcoming atmosphere.

Rain Bar pub in Manchester
City Centre
Bar or Pub
Rain Bar

This huge three-floor pub, formerly a Victorian warehouse, then an umbrella factory (hence the name), has one of the city centre’s largest beer gardens. The two-tier terrace overlooks the Rochdale canal and what used to be the back of the Hacienda, providing an unusual, historic view of the city.

Bar or Pub
The Briton’s Protection

Standing on the corner of a junction opposite The Bridgewater Hall, The Briton’s Protection is Manchester’s oldest pub. It has occupied the same spot since 1795, going under the equally patriotic name The Ancient Britain.

What's on: Exhibitions

Culture Guides

Theatre in Manchester and the North
Theatre in Manchester and the North

Affecting contemporary performances and fresh, relevant takes on enduring classics, we pick out shows that help us scrutinise the world we live in.

Festival-goers at Green Island
Music in Manchester and the North

Gazing longingly towards the good times that will accompany the surely imminent sun, we take a look at the best music festivals coming up in Manchester and Salford.