Saturday, 30 July 2011


We love Dirt.
We love the filthy reality of everyday life.
We love the Wellcome Collection's exhibition on this grimy little topic as it looks at our relationship with muck, how we ignore it, how it affects us and how it has been represented by artists and social commentators.

There's over 200 extremely well chosen objects on show from 5 key periods in the last 450 years (from Joseph Lister's pioneering Carbolic Spray instrument to an original John Snow map charting the Cholera outbreak from the Broad Street pump in the 19th Century), the layout of the objects and the path you take through the gallery also enhances the exhibition experience, an act of foul minded curational brilliance.

As munchers of good information design (thank you Mr Tufte), it was great to see the work of John Snow alongside the Report on the Mortality of Cholera in England by William Farr as well as brilliant pictorial insights into the first and second International Hygiene Exhibition held in Dresden, Germany in 1911 and 1930.

The older work fascinated us, some of the engravings of Geertruid Roghman depicting domestic servitude are beautiful in their virtuosity but challenge the viewer by having the subject face away from us.

We couldn't help but love this scathing illustration, Monster Soup commonly called Thames Water, from William Heath as The Thames became more polluted in 1815 in an effort to relieve the bulging cesspools of London.

The idea that 'cleanliness is next to godliness' strikes through most of the work, but the Wellcome Collection must be in purgatory because although they had so much dirt on display, it was a very well ordered and crisp environment and it would have been nice to feel a bit grubby, maybe get a little dirt under our fingernails, as we went round.

However, we heartily recommend that you leave those dirty pots to fester for one more afternoon and do not break out your feather duster because you should head to London so see this wonderful exhibition before it finishes at the end of August 2011.

You should really go and see it, you filthy buggers!

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