History of Art


Helen Chadwick, Unbound

29 February 2024, 6:00 pm–8:00 pm

sea and cliffs

For this Research Seminar, we welcome Dr Theo Gordon, University of York, for a talk on ‘Helen Chadwick, Unbound'.

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







Queenie Lee – History of Art


IAS Forum, Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)
South Wing
Wilkins Building

In this paper I consider Helen Chadwick’s major digital montage series Viral Landscapes (1988-89) in the context of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the UK. The Landscapes were initially commissioned as part of the ‘Artists in National Parks’ project, a government and oil industry-sponsored programme of artists producing new work in response to the protected landscapes of England and Wales. Chadwick used the opportunity to reflect upon the penetration of HIV across the UK, in the moment immediately following the government’s controversial ‘Don’t Die of Ignorance’ (1987) AIDS awareness campaign, which had mobilised tropes of landscape imagery to instil fear of the epidemic in the population.

First reframing Chadwick’s practice in the later 1980s as profoundly political, I then examine the Landscapes as a critique of the conservative cultural politics of nature, used at this moment both to cover over the economic and environmental degradations of renewed capitalism and to stigmatise people with HIV as ‘unnatural’. The essay concludes that Viral Landscapes have major contributions to make to ascendent debates in studies of HIV/AIDS that seek to examine the distribution of the epidemic across the varied and uneven spaces of globalisation, especially across rural environments.

About the Speaker

Dr Theo Gordon

Early Career Fellow in History of Art at University of York

Dr Theo Gordon is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the History of Art Department at the University of York. He has degrees from University College London and The Courtauld Institute of Art, obtaining his PhD there in 2018. He is a modern and contemporary art historian, specialising in HIV/AIDS, and queer and postcolonial practices across diverse media. His work has been featured in Art History, Art Journal, Oxford Art Journal, InVisible Culture, and he has recently edited a book of selected writings of photographer Sunil Gupta, and co-authored, with Flora Dunster, Photography: A Queer History, forthcoming with Octopus/Ilex in February 2024. His Leverhulme project will be the first book-length examination of how HIV/AIDS impacted artistic production and its critical reception in the UK.

More about Dr Theo Gordon