John Walter’s show Capsid at Home in Manchester can only be described as an assault on the senses. Bright colours and imagery are spread across the installation which fills the large gallery space and reaches out to audiences via huge artworks displayed across the windows. The atmosphere is carnivalesque, but beneath the visual spectacle lie serious ideas about HIV and scientific thinking.
Capsids, for those of you not up on your science terminology, are the protein shells of a virus, which protect and deliver the bugs to host cells during infection. They appear in multiple forms in Walter’s show, in paintings, drawings and videos, and are recreated giant size in a film that lies at the centre of the exhibition.
Titled A Virus Walks Into A Bar, the film – in amusing fashion, believe it or not – shows how the HIV virus makes its way into the human immune system. This may be technical stuff but in Walter’s hands it plays out in the style of a soap opera pub scene – complete with grumpy bouncers acting as the immune system attempting to keep the virus out.