5 Mar 2020 - 10 Apr 2020 All day Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DT


An Exhibition by Helen Birnbaum

Works are located on the plinths in the atrium of the ARB.

Open weekdays from 09:00 – 19:00 (in term), 09:00 – 17:00 (out of term)

Exhibition Private View Thursday 5 March 2020, 18:00 – 20:00

Significant Bunch of Viruses, 2017

How do we remember medial pioneers who have changed the path of humanity by saving us all from infection? Should we put a bunch of flowers on their graveside, or by their favourite place, and sit and remember them?

The strangely beautiful world of microbes is explored in this exhibition, using mixed media and ceramic bouquets; the Influenza virus sits on weighing scales balanced against a large vaccine producing egg; Tuberculosis bacteria sprout from milk bottles; the HIV virus flows from an old urinal jar, and Smallpox virus cluster together as if actually inside the bloodstream.

Quarantine Boxes, 2019

Collections of ephemera and tiny microbial sculptures are contained inside old wooden boxes, suggesting containment of the disease, of putting them into isolation or quarantine. They also act as coffins and as a way to remember the individuals lost to these diseases.

Quarantine; Noun

  1. Strict isolation imposed to prevent the spread of disease
  2. Detention or isolation enforced
  3. Place, especially a hospital, where people are detained
  4. Period of 40 days.

Helen Birnbaum creates stories in clay, using this ancient material to explore modern imagery and mythologies of our lives today. Helen has exhibited at the World Museum Liverpool, the Gordon Museum at Guy’s Hospital, and Art Box Basel. In 2018 she won the Victoria & Albert Museum/Morley Gallery Ceramic prize. In 2014 she was resident Ceramic Artist at Liverpool Hope University.

Helen would like to thank the immunologist Matthew Helbert for his advice in creating these works.
See more of her work with bacteria and viruses.

Part of the Cambridge Festival of Science

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