Epidemic Jukebox

Commissioned by The Wellcome Collection, Being Human – permanent gallery

Being Human is the new permanent gallery at The Wellcome Collection, which explores what it means to be human in the 21st Century, featuring over 50 artworks and objects.

The jukebox plays a collection of songs from across the world that relate to epidemics, from AIDs to Ebola. Some were part of campaigns sponsored by governments or health agencies, while others were more spontaneous creative responses. The piece explores how we use Music as a way to inform, communicate, console, process and express emotions in reaction to epidemics and health crises.

Design practice Kin took references harking back to that of a classic jukebox, with its curved glass top and panel display of song titles. Mixing this with nods to health and medical aesthetics to create this hybrid performer. The visitor slides a controller to move through the tracks, which cross-fade into each other, illuminating their name and song title as they are selected. A laser line moves across the glass artwork, refracting as it follows the contours of its form. Lights inside the unit reflect across the piece, casting moving reflections and shadows across the walls. The music is played through localised pod speakers above the installation, creating an immersive audio experience.

Bethan followed this mixing of aesthetics for the design of the glass harmonica ‘totem’ combining references to the many different recording devices designed over history from the early Phonograph cylinders and amplifier horns to the diameters of LP vinyl records through to the CD and Mini Disk to capture sound. The ‘totem’ is made from multiple hand-blown disks, plates and cones by Pietro Viero in Pyrex, a material strongly connected to the world of medical and science equipment. The artwork itself slowly rotates, with its many layered discs mimicking that of a stack of vinyl records that you would find in a conventional Jukebox.

Steel, acrylic, cork , pyrex, LED
Made in partnership with Kin who designed the Jukebox case and mechanism
Glass Harmonica ‘totem’ designed by Bethan Laura Wood in collaboration with Pietro Viero.