susan brind
bad air [mal´aria]
past exhibitions
LSHTM Homepage

susan brind
martina kramer
gary perkins
grenville davey
richard layzell

In bad air [mal´aria], Susan Brind entwines language and architecture in a complex work touching on the history of the LSHTM, the disease of malaria itself and the doctor and patients who wrote about it and suffered from it. It is an installation inscribed in gold leaf lettering on the terrazzo surfaces around the quadrant of the Keppel Street building. The texts are drawn from a number of sources, ranging from the classical period to the twentieth century. They draw upon beliefs that prevailed in Britain until the Victorian era, when ideas about miasma (noxious vapours and foreboding atmospheres) were replaced by scientific knowledge about bacteria, the causes of diseases and forms of pollution.
Susan Brind studied at Reading University and the Slade School of Art. Many of her commissions have touched upon themes such as the impact of architectural space and other influences on the individual and tensions between rational forms of knowledge and emotional thought.

The apparently linear narrative text is drawn from The Lake Regions of Central Africa written by Richard F Burton, first published in 1860. During his travels with Hanning Speke through the eastern and central parts of Africa in search of the source of the Nile, amongst other diseases, Burton suffered recurrent attacks of malaria. The extracts from his writings have been reordered and edited to suggest both the cycle of a single bout of fever and the relationship between the disease and the quality of air, commonly thought at the time to be inextricably linked. The source of Burton's subjective and melancholic descriptions of the landscape and climate might not, in the past, have been attributed to the presence of the malarial parasite and its effect on the liver and spleen. Nor to the effects of the Warburg's Drops, which contained opium, that he consumed to treat his fever. Instead they would have been ascribed to an imbalance of Humours, specifically a surfeit of black bile for which gold was once believed to be a cure.

The three numbered stages of the fever are those identified for medical purposes (WHS Jones, Malaria and Greek History, 1909).
The italicised texts represent proposed cures for a tertian fever. The first by Thomas Palmer, is given in his Admirable Secrets of Physick & Chyrurgery, 1696. The second quote, relating to the ancient use of Pennyroyal, is from Pliny the Elder's Natural History (first century AD). The third, by Thomas Sydenham, is from his Epistle 1: On the Epidemic Diseases up to 1679. Sydenham was the first doctor in England to suggest the use of Peruvian Bark - from which quinine was derived - as a treatment. The fourth quote, recounting Burton's use of Warburg's Drops, is drawn from Alan Moorehead's The White Nile, 1960, a twentieth century critical account of colonial travellers.

The quotation from page 26, The White Nile by Alan Moorehead, (Hamish Hamilton 1960, revised edition 1971) copyright 1960, 1971, is reproduced by permission of Penguin Books Ltd.

An Adobe Acrobat (PDF) version of the brochure is available:Brind.pdf (200k)

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