Art and HIV Research Meet in New Exhibition

Artistic and scientific disciplines meet in a new project which will be exhibited at CGP in London and at HOME in Manchester.

Dr. John Walter is the Resident Artist in Infection at UCL, supported by a Wellcome Trust Large Arts Award. He spent the last four months working alongside Professor Greg Towers and his lab, which to the creation of his new project CAPSID. The scientists uncovered a new feature of HIV which could lead to the development of a cure for the virus. They discovered that the virus can evade all parts of antiviral defences. Their findings show that channels in the viral core (the capsid) act like molecular hoovers. They suck in the raw materials that drive the virus’ replication

A capsid is a protein shell contained within viruses, which help safeguard and deliver viruses to host cells during infection. The finding of this research updates scientists’ understanding of the life cycle of HIV and how the capsid operates.

In earlier work, the team also found how the HIV capsid shrouds itself with human proteins which are invisible to the human system. It is the intriguing interactions between the HIV capsid and host that are central to Walters’ project. The intention of the collaboration is to raise awareness of these discoveries. They provide a deeper narrative which explores how culture is communicated.

Speaking to Artlyst, Towers states “It is hugely exciting to combine art with science- the collaboration brings benefits to both disciplines. John’s work helps our research reach a much wider audience. Through visual communication, he is able to translate the project so that it can be understood and discussed by anyone regardless of whether they have a scientific background or not”.

CAPSID is an immersive installation consisting of drawings, paintings, prints, sculptures, costumes, videos and sound. It builds on his previous work Alien Sex Club (2015) which revises dialogue around HIV in visual art using Maximalist aesthetic, spatial design and humour.

This work may have an impact on the development of future HIV treatments and how we treat other viruses.

Exhibition Dates:

Café Gallery Projects, London June-July 2018

HOME, Manchester October-December 2018