What is Alien Sex Club?

Alien Sex Club is a new art installation by British artist John Walter, which will explore the relationship between visual culture and HIV today. It will take the shape of a ‘cruise maze’, a spatial form common to sex clubs and gay saunas. During the early AIDS crisis of the 1980s and 1990s, many public sex environments (often including cruise mazes) were closed by law. More recently, cruising for sex has moved online with apps such as Grindr, Scruff and Hornet gaining in popularity. However, many men still want to meet in person and anonymously for sex, despite the risks involved.

Alien Sex Club will use the device of the ‘cruise maze’ to bring together works that address the complex subject of contemporary sexual health. Walter’s research into the ‘cruise maze’ has led him to posit that substituting the maze typology with that of the labyrinth may play a role in addressing the subject. The mythology of the maze is associated with achieving trance‑like states, risk and addiction. Replacing this with the physical and psychic states related to labyrinths, which involve linear, meditative and ritualistic paths is a provocation to consider the issue anew. The architectural installation, which will be presented in London and later in Liverpool, will host fortune-telling performances, free rapid HIV testing for visitors and a series of public events that aim to provide audiences with a new vocabulary for understanding and talking about HIV and the factors contributing to its transmission.

Background to The Project

It remains under-reported that Gay men remain one of the groups most at risk of HIV in the UK, with 3,250 new cases of the infection diagnosed in this group in 2013. As antiretroviral drugs (ARTs) have become more effective at treating the virus there has been less talk of HIV as a Western problem. A correlated shift in risk perception has also contributed to a rise in transmissions over recent years. Factors such as recreational drug use, online cruising and an increase in unprotected sex (or ‘barebacking’) are some of the factors contributing to this phenomenon. Alien Sex Club grows out of collaborations between artist John Walter and Dr Alison Rodger, Senior Lecturer and Honorary Consultant in Infectious Diseases at University College London and a specialist in HIV. The project uses art and architecture to give visual shape to Dr Rodger’s medical research on the subject. Alien Sex Club is curated by independent curator and writer Ellen Mara De Wachter.



About John Walter

John Walter works in a range of media including drawing, painting, performance, video, music and sculpture. His installations are grounded in theoretical and empirical research, and they seduce visitors into engaging with complex and often uncomfortable subjects such as sexual health through his exuberant use of colour, humour and hospitality. Walter creates fictions that begin with his personal experience and quote the voices of others, weaving them together into new epic works. The term ‘Maximalist’, which best describes his work, refers to an additive practice that values the relationships between things rather than their qualities in isolation. Walter’s work is visually intricate, returning to specific lexicons of imagery such as tarot cards, which allow meanings to develop within multiple contexts.

Supported By

Ellen Mara De Wachter, curator

Penny Andrea, studio assistant

Jonathan Bassett, photography

Susie Hunter, fabricator


With thanks to:

Gary Everett

Bev Ayre

Lou Muddle

Olivia Du Monceau

Ann Bukantas

Jordan Baseman

Judith Carlton

Professor Lindsay Bremner

Dr Victoria Watson

Dr Francis Ray White

Colin Priest

SMART Consultants Aberdeen

Robin Klassnik and Matt’s Gallery

Patricia Fleming


and all those who generously gave to the Alien Sex Club crowd funding campaign


Susannah Hewlett, artist

Vera Chok, writer and performance maker

Mark Scott-Wood, artist

Jordan McKenzie, artist

Frances Disley, artist

Tim Spooner, artist

Professor Sheena McCormack, UCL

David Stuart, Dean Street Wellbeing

Ford Hickson, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Dr. Michael Brady, THT

Janey Sewell, UCL

Dr. Valerie Delpech, Public Health England

Page last updated on 17 April 2016