The vast subterranean site of Ambika P3 on Marylebone Road, London, has been transformed into artist John Walter’s Alien Sex Club (until 14 August). The mind-boggling, tragi-comic extravaganza—loosely taking its “cruise maze” format from the layouts of sex clubs and gay saunas—attracted all ages and sexual tendencies at its packed opening last Thursday (23 July). The broad appeal was entirely appropriate as this polymorphous event—devised by Walter in conjunction with Alison Rodger, HIV specialist and researcher at University College London—has a serious and important side, having been designed to use every means and medium imaginable to address the complex subject of sexual health.
Two members of staff carrying marrow sculptures wearing hats "knitted by the artist’s mother" at John Walter's Alien Sex Show, Ambika P3, London
There was brisk business for gins and tonics at the Capsid Club, based on the form of the protein shell—or capsid—of the HIV virus, with further computer-generated virus “heads” appearing throughout the labyrinthine installation, whether in paintings, 3D prints and even as a giant puce inflatable pug virus. There were more queues for special tarot readings with cards featuring images ranging from EastEnders heroine Dot Cotton to the Chrysler and Empire State buildings tucked up as The Lovers. (However, there was a distinct lack of takers among the party crowd for the rapid HIV testing on offer in a blue-painted replica of a garden shed played in by the artist as a child.)
One of many works in the "mind-boggling, tragi-comic extravaganza" that is John Walter's Alien Sex Show.
Funny and deathly serious collide throughout a programme of specially scheduled events along with exhibits such as a series of psychedelic videos populated by eccentrically-clad protagonists—including the artist—communing in “garbled, Grindr-infused post-Polari” on subjects revolving around the various hazards surrounding sexual transmission. There is a sobering series of coffins commemorating well-known figures such as Keith Haring, Kenny Everett and David Wojnarowicz who died of AIDS-related illnesses, as well as a more cheerily charming set of marrow sculptures each wearing hats knitted by the artist’s mother, satirizing “condom fatigue” and available for visitors to carry around the show. And let’s hope one of the plethora of property developers currently readjusting the capital’s skyline is inspired to erect Walter’s Prostate Palace: “the male g-spot transformed into a new architectural landmark for London.”