Obsessively avoided and often misunderstood, dirt - and our complex relationship with it - is the subject of a new season from Wellcome Trust that launches today.
We live in unmistakeably filthy times. For the first time in human history, over half the world's inhabitants live in urban environments, and exposure to dirt comes with overcrowding, inadequate sanitation and the industrial shaping of metropolitan life. Meanwhile, scientists are debating whether our increasing obsession with cleanliness is stripping away our ability to combat infection. However we may wish to sweep it under the carpet or wash our hands of it, this is a subject that continues to make its mark.
Running from 24 March until 26 September 2011, the Dirt Season will feature online games, events at special dirty locations from Glasgow to Glastonbury, and a major exhibition, ‘Dirt: The filthy reality of everyday life’, at Wellcome Collection, London.
Wellcome Trust's Dirt Season
Filth Fair (from 1 March)
Roll up! Roll up! Enter the Filth Fair, a word puzzle game for the iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad and online. Developed with Toytek, this app and website - based on a specially commissioned painting by best-selling author Mike Wilks - gets down and dirty with cryptic gameplay and stunning visuals. A total of 333 hidden words are buried in objects around the Filth Fair, and the player's task is to find and identify them all. This free-to-play game launched on 1 March and has extensive social network integration and support.
Dirt: The filthy reality of everyday life (24 March-31 August)
A major exhibition at Wellcome Collection, London, which travels across centuries and continents to explore our ambivalent relationship with dirt. Bringing together around 200 artefacts spanning visual art, documentary photography, cultural ephemera, scientific artefacts, film and literature, the exhibition uncovers a rich history of disgust and delight in the grimy truths and dirty secrets of our past and points to the uncertain future of filth, which poses a significant risk to our health but is also vital to our existence. A full series of events, symposia and activities support the exhibition.
Eden Project (28 May-5 June)
During half term, Eden Project will be telling visitors all there is to know about poo! Find out about the magic of manure: the weird things it's used for, why it smells and what it's made of. Look at loos of the past and discover how they evolved to the flush system that we have today, then take part in the 'flush game' to see what happens once you pull the chain and where it goes next!
Dirty Banquet (2 April)
Guerilla Science, working in partnership with experimental food artisans Bompas & Parr, will host a Dirty Banquet inside a spectacular secret London location. This feast of filth will showcase dirty delicacies, such as haggis, peaty Islay whisky, fermented kimchi, civet coffee and charcoal-cleansed Thames water - each course inspired by the physical, biological, ethical, architectural, social, political and temporal dimensions of dirt. Wellcome Trust-funded researchers and lecturers will accompany each course, feeding guests with ideas about the nature of dirt: anthropologist Val Curtis will guide everyone through the evolution of disgust, and epidemiologist Elizabeth Pisani, author of 'The Wisdom of Whores', will speak on sexuality.
Scratch and sniff card (April)
A special interactive card created by Wellcome Trust and the BBC will allow viewers to smell their way around the upcoming 'Filthy Cities' series in April. The card will take in dirty smells from New York to London to Paris. You'll be able to pick up the card at other Dirt Season events.
Glastonbury (22-26 June)
Working with Guerilla Science, the Wellcome Trust will bring a Decontamination Unit to Shangri La - Glastonbury's two-storey after-hours pleasure city of sin and sleaze. This year, an infectious and terrifying disease has broken through the metropolis, forcing panicked and contaminated citizens to flee. The only way to achieve purity, cleanliness and salvation is through the Decontamination Unit, a tightly controlled zone of disinfection. At the entrance, microbiologists and psychologists will assess the contaminated revellers and determine if they require physical or moral decontamination: one route leads to the spilling of dirty secrets and psychological purging, the other to physical purification, complete with a chemical spray and a biohazard suit. After winding their way through our cleansing chambers, the purified will exit through a skywalk onto the pristine second level of Shangri La, having escaped the world of filth, and embark into a brave, clean new world.
Secret Garden Party (21-24 July)
Guerilla Science and Wellcome Trust are hosting a dirty day at one of the UK's most colourful and riotous music festivals, the Secret Garden Party. With dirty dance-offs, a spectrum of dirty habits, a naughty writing workshop, an audience with a smelly tweeter and celebrations of odour in human behaviour, expect much dishing of dirt and filthy good fun. At sunset, they will host a dirty banquet (building on the one held in London on 2 April with experimental food artisans Bompas & Parr), complete with dirty delicacies and salacious speakers.
Late-summer festival (TBC)
We haven't quite cleaned up with the summer festivals yet and have plenty more muck to rake and dirt to share. Get dirty with Wellcome Trust in September at a special venue to be announced.
Glasgow (2-6 September)
The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery are joining forces with Wellcome Trust to explore infection and pollution, from middens to microbiology. Talks, tours and tea parties will explore the city's industrial legacy, Scottish encounters with tropical diseases and the history of health in Glasgow. Five days of getting down and dirty in the city will include a dirty tea party; drop-in hands-on activities covering waste management, forensic archaeology, signs of disease, hygiene and hand washing; a poster display; science busking; a series of short lunchtime talks; a Café Scientifique event; city tours; and filth-ridden infected films. The programme is inspired by the Hunterian's astonishing science and medical collections, as well as the world-class research being undertaken in the University of Glasgow.
Glasgow (23-26 September)
The Dirt Season comes to a suitably messy end with Dirt and Digestion, a digestive adventure at the Glasgow Science Centre - part of a weekend of grimy family fun that also includes Infection Detection events where visitors can solve bacterial mysteries with UV fluorescence, interactive games and lots of hands-on activities. Morning master classes will run for adults, looking in more detail at current cutting-edge research on the theme. You can also join in online and enter our 'Living with Dirt' photo competition, which will launch late summer.
The Dirt Season from Wellcome Trust runs from 1 March to 26 September 2011.