julian walker

Exhibition open to the public on
Fridays 2-7pm,
Saturdays 9am-noon
18th May - 6th July 2002
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
Keppel Street,
London WC1E 7HT




Collection: Persistent Items
Julian Walker
May 2002
2.4 x 4.4 m
Mixed media installation

Julian Walker creates collections using vast quantities of small objects in a way that investigates the links between physicality, presence and identity. For Hygiene, Julian explores the relation between contagion and hygiene in an installation that uses fragile, personalised or discarded memorabilia. The work comprises a large number of small objects, set out in a tight grid formation and labelled with the name of an infectious disease; the objects are recognisably old, between 3000 and 100 years old, and rendered desirable through the patination of antiquity. As well as creating a formal aesthetic of the collection, the work creates an area of infection, both in front of itself, and behind, through its physical engagement with the fabric of the building.

The diseases involved are those which are perceived as belonging in the past, an undeniable part of our heritage, or those which have been rendered antique by changes in nomenclature: smallpox, leprosy, consumption, the English Sweat, cholera, Black Death, scarlet fever, palsy, ague, and so on. The work seeks to address the dichotomy that is the attraction of antiquity offset by fear of the possibility of contagion. It explores the idea and the reality of infection residing in the object and how this reflects the idea of presence that resides in relics of the past, and the extent to which time is perceived as removing danger from objects and replacing it with desirability. The work questions the residual power of the notion of “bad air”, which preceded the notion of germ theory, and which if it exists questions the efficacy of the notion of hygiene.

Julian Walker was The Natural History Museum’s first artist in residence in 1996, and was selected for the New Contemporaries in 1999, and the World Health Organisation’s ArtWorks exhibition, shown at the Whitechapel Gallery in 2000. In the past year he has shown work in London, Nottingham, Hastings, Berlin and Iceland.



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