John Walter: CAPSID

10 Nov 2018 – 6 Jan 2019

Regular hours

12:00 – 20:00
12:00 – 18:00
12:00 – 20:00
12:00 – 20:00
12:00 – 20:00
12:00 – 20:00
12:00 – 20:00

Cost of entry



United Kingdom, United Kingdom


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CAPSID is the latest multi-media maximalist installation by London-based British artist John Walter. Presenting a compelling, sometimes riotous and often surreal world, CAPSID is the result of collaboration between Walter and molecular virologist Professor Greg Towers of University College London.


A multimedia, maximalist installation occupying the entire gallery space, CAPSID develops Walter’s ongoing fascination with the representation of viruses in the visual arts.

Curated by Bren O’Callaghan, CAPSID is the artist’s largest solo show to date, co-commissioned by HOME, Manchester and CGP London.

Taking the HIV capsid as the starting point of his research, Walter expanded his examination within a broader context of virology.  Capsids are the protein shells of a virus, which act to protect, cloak and deliver the virus to its host. CAPSID addresses a crisis of representation surrounding viruses, and presents a new way of viewing and understanding HIV based on the best current scientific knowledge.

Perceiving the virus as a ‘sneak’ - a coercive and Machiavellian agent that tricks the host to undertake its malign bidding - Walter unpacks how the process of infection can address the spread of ideas between groups and systems. 

Intertwining art, science, allegory and real-life situations, Walter engages with the potential of the body as a means to address issues of transmission, and seeks to bring knowledge and visibility to marginalised topics in contemporary culture, re-articulating and reinventing the representation of viruses in the arts.

Walter started conversations with Professor Greg Towers of University College London late 2015 early 2016 to explore this concept. The result transposes the scientific research of capsids onto the broader subject of how culture is transmitted.

CAPSID builds on central themes of Walter’s practice including biology, hospitality and Shonky aesthetics, and follows Walter’s 2015 exhibition Alien Sex Club.

Combining a large body of work, ranging from paintings, drawings, prints, to sculptures, sound and video installations, for his exhibition at HOME, Walter brings together imagery, language and symbols from children’s television and pharmaceutical industry to LGBT culture, science and art history.

Central to the exhibition is HOME Artist Film commission, A Virus Walks Into A Bar (2018), combining Walter’s fascination with soap opera and surrealism. Set in a classic pub, the film illustrates the journey of an anthropomorphised capsid as it discloses its lethal effects. Performers embody different characters in dual roles, such as the capsid/villain, cell nucleus/barmaid and the cytoplasm/pub regulars. Walter made over 30 costumes for this film, which will be exhibited for the first time at HOME. Each is customised using embroidery, patches and pom-poms.

As part of the commissioning process, a programme of related activity has been devised by curator Bren O’Callaghan, which include 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.

CAPSID is supported by a Large Arts Award from Wellcome and Arts Council England Grants for the Arts. CAPSID debuted at CGP London from 17 May until 8 July 2018. The exhibition is accompanied by a new HOME publication, CAPSID. Featuring an introduction by Professor Greg Towers, a newly commissioned essay by Jonathan P. Watts and an interview with the artist by curator Bren O’Callaghan.


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