Go to London, Get Swine Flu, Look at “Artwork” to Help You Contemplate the Impending Pandemic


© Wellcome Images via AFP

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The UK has been disproportionately affected by swine flu, with over 5,000 confirmed cases and almost 80 deaths. The return of pupils to classrooms last week didn’t exactly help, the word “pupil” having been derived from an ancient Saxon word meaning “sniffling little petri dish that rubs its snot everywhere.”

So naturally the Wellcome Collection in London will be displaying a glass sculpture in the shape of the H1N1 virus, because that’s the sort of thing you do when your country is on the precipice of an epidemic:

A British museum has acquired an unusual new sculpture — of the virus which causes swine flu, it said Friday… The Wellcome Collection in London will display the glass sculpture by Luke Jerram… The work offers “a point of departure to explore the impact such viruses have had on populations and to find out more about the global research to tackle them,” said Clare Matterson, the Wellcome Collection’s director of medicine, society and history.

There’s a very deep metaphor embedded here. In a few centuries we’ve gone from chipping Michelangelo’s David out of stone to casting literal germs in glass. It involves the loss of greatness, the decline of civilization, the nightmare of nihilism, etc etc. We suppose we should be grateful Jerram didn’t make the sculpture out of mud, just to really hammer home the point.

The work will be displayed from September 25 until October 18. The artist’s previous endeavors have involved leaving pianos littered around the streets, which we’re pretty sure would have been Da Vinci’s next project right after he got done sketching the ideal human form.

Viruses made out of glass. That’s what we’re doing now.

  1. What a lame, and narrow minded opinion on art. If Leonardo had known viruses he probably have done masterpieces about them. But that’s not the point. Do you really think we should still be painting and sculpting Jesus on the cross? If you can’t see the misteryous beauty of the H1N1 virus you’re a little short-sighted for the century you live in.

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