Curator Kate Forde reveals the Filthy Reality of Everyday Life at London's Wellcome Collection

Interview by Ben Miller | 05 April 2011
Curator Kate Forde on the much-publicised Dirt: The Filthy Reality of Everyday Life at the Wellcome Collection...

A photo of black slabs in a gallery
© Santiago Sierra
Anthropometric Modules Made of Human Faeces by the People of Sulabh International, India:

"It’s beautiful, but also unsettling when you consider how it was made. Provocative is definitely the word. It’s human excrement in a gallery, which has made a lot of people re-evaluate the idea of crap in art."

An image of an illustration of a sick womanWellcome Library, London
© Wellcome Library, London
A young Venetian woman, aged 23, depicted before and after contracting cholera:

"Cholera dehydrates you so rapidly that in the end you get kidney failure and you die. One of the horrifying things about the disease is that it strikes so quickly. You can have a rosy glow and be a picture of health, then be corpse-like hours later. The remedy is simple, actually – you just need to rehydrate."

A black and white photo of seagulls scavenging from a landfill tip
© City of New York
Fresh Kills, a New York garbage mound being reclaimed in an environmental project by city planners:

"It’s a human side of geography and it makes you think about where your dirt ends up. It’s vast, three times the size of Central Park, and the largest human reclamation project ever attempted. They’re hoping to finish it by 2030."

A photo of a woman tending to red bricks in a gallery
© Wellcome Library, London
Serena Korda (above), Laid to Rest:

"She’s collected dust from various institutions and individuals around the Wellcome Trust and beyond and incorporated a little bit of their dust into each brick. As the exhibition evolves the stack will grow, and our ultimate goal is to create 500 of them."

A photo of a carpet of dirt on a vinyl floorboard
© Igor Eskinja
Dust carpet by Igor Eskinja:

"It’s designed to disintegrate over the course of the show and because we had 3,000 visitors at the weekend it really has done that. We have to keep remaking it according to the instructions."

  • Exhibition continues until August 31 2011. Open 10am-6pm Tuesday-Sunday (10pm Thursday, 11am-6pm Sunday). Admission free.

Kate Forde introduces bricks and
microscopes from the show:

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
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