Pentagram puts Londoners in the shoes of people with HIV

Having recently redesigned the chess set, Pentagram partner Daniel Weil is now making visitors to London’s Southbank the pawns in a new drive to raise awareness around HIV.

The cubes along the Southbank
The cubes along the Southbank

Weil and fellow Pentagram partner Naresh Ramchandani have designed a street exhibition along London’s Southbank entitled Life in My Shoes, organised by HIV charity Body and Soul.

The consultancy carried out the work pro-bono, and was brought in to create a concept from a series of portraits of young people with HIV, shot by photographer Rankin.

A lady in red peers through the peephole
A lady in red peers through the peephole

Cubes run along the Riverside Walkway area, each displaying the portraits at life or larger-that-life-size, looking to make passers by thinking about how life is in the shoes people with HIV.

Weil says, ‘I had a clear idea when I saw the pictures about the boxes – they became a metaphor for the proposition. We wanted to achieve something that was very expressive and celebratory of life.’

Rankin's joyful portraits adorn the cubes
Rankin’s joyful portraits adorn the cubes

The boxes are deliberately anonymous, with no text on the outside. When viewers peer through holes at different levels, they read statements about how the people depicted on the boxes feel living with HIV.

The messages shown inside the cube
The messages shown inside the cube

Weil says, ‘We wanted to encourage a sense of participation, but the biggest problem is that people are so saturated with information that we switch off. We had to make people engaged but also make the people that are living the experience feel like they’re being expressed.’

The cubes five have been created to be modular, meaning they can travel either as a group or individually to new venues after their tenure at the Southbank.

The yellow 'celebrity' cube shown in the background
The yellow ‘celebrity’ cube shown in the background

A yellow cube is also on display, with images of the charity’s celebrity supports on the inside, such as Kate Moss and Denise Lewis.

Weil says, ‘I wanted to reverse that celebrity culture – I didn’t believe that should be the draw. It’s about these incredible images  [of the young people], otherwise you drown the idea.’

Close-up of the portrait cube
Close-up of the portrait cube

Isabella, 21, who is HIV positive and whose portrait is featured in the exhibition, says, ‘I hope that the Life in my Shoes exhibition will really open people’s eyes to what’s going on right here, in the UK.

‘If people looking at my portrait can think just for a minute about what life’s really like in my shoes, then that’s a gift… that’s their gift to us.’

Life in My Shoes runs until 7 July at Riverside Walkway (by Gabriel’s Wharf), South Bank, London, SE1

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