All the Blah, Blah, Blah boxes

Black Death Box
Cholera Box
HIV box
Influenza box
Smallpox box
Tuberculosis box


These latest pieces from my MEMORIALISING disease project continue to explore the forms of viruses and bacteria but this time in a more lighthearted way.    I’ve called them BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, DISEASE BOXES  to suggest that people don’t always take medical advice seriously.

In these works I  put small ceramic viruses and bacteria  inside curious old boxes.  To make the works even more eye catching I have decorated them with Cyanotype printed fabric or paper. Cyanotype is the first known photographic method so suits these largely ancient diseases.

Reading from the top left hand side:

  • Black Death with a rat with a smoking gun
  • Cholera with a breathing device
  • HIV & AIDS with satirical cartoon about the crisis in Africa – and a disco glitter ball too
  • Smallpox, although you can’t see it here, ceramic virus sewn into the side panels
  • Tuberculosis with a textile and embroidered pair of lungs
  • Influenza quarantine box


These brightly coloured Pop Art pieces look as delicate as coral, but at the same time as dangerous as sea mines playing with our conflicting responses simultaneously delighting in their prickly beauty whilst fearing the threat they represent.

Whilst these sculptures were created in response to recent pandemics such as Ebola & Avian Flu, the subject is approached playfully with some of the works being based on Noughts & Crosses, Bar Billiards, Jacks and Chess. We are asked to consider whether these are merely games of chance or might we be gambling our lives away?

This artwork has been exhibited at the Bath Fringe Arts Festival 2016, Warrington Arts Festival 2016, World Museum Liverpool and at the STEAM gallery, Wigan in 2017.

Exhibition proposal

The sculptures and images shown here in MEMORIALISING DISEASE are available as an exhibition. Please contact the artist Helen Birnbaum through this blog for more information.  

Black Death with a metal ring symbolising qurantine

The exhibition MEMORIALISING DISEASE celebrates pioneering individuals who lead the way in medical science, sometimes without even realising the impact of their work. Six deadly viruses and bacteria, recreated in ceramic as bunches of viral blooms laid in the memory of the individual who first found the way to a cure.  The artist’s way of laying flowers by the graveside is to take ceramics of single deadly viruses or bacteria back to places of significance in the history of developing vaccines.  Single ceramic viruses or bacteria are photographed by their own significant location, or with somebody who played an important role in this battle. Images of famous people who also suffered are included.

Cholera  – display each for the Cholera pioneers Wilkinson and Snow

Black Death               





Images of the exhibits and the exhibitions photographs are also provided as Jpegs with the email that accompanies this proposal.  The  Artist’s Biography is also provided.

Copyright for images not taken by the artist will be sought for images used other than those already stated as Wellcome Library copyright.


Each exhibition consists of:

Six individual canvas mounted photographs: 30 cm x 20 cm

  • contemporary image of places of significance
  • contemporary image of person of significance
  • ceramic sculpture in historic site
  • contemporary medical photographs and/or health education poster
  • microscopic image of virus or bacteria
  • descriptions of each image

One ceramic sculpture representing virus/bacteria: 20 cm x 10 cm

One larger ceramic work representing a bunch of viral blooms: 40 cm x 30 cm