One hundred years ago, an outbreak of flu spread rapidly across the world, killing 50 million people in 15 months.
When the Liberty Loan Parade began on September 28 1918, over 200,000 people crowded along Broad Street to cheer a line of marchers stretching over two miles.
It was to become an iconic moment in the history of Philadelphia and part of the global story of the deadliest flu epidemic the world has ever seen.
Within 72 hours every bed in Philadelphia’s 31 hospitals was filled. Over the next six weeks, a quarter of the population fell ill and more than 12,000 people died. The disease’s rapid spread paralysed the city and traumatised its inhabitants.
When the pandemic finally ended in early 1919, Philadelphia had lost over 20,000 people. Its death rate was the highest among major American cities.
On 28 September 2019, an interactive parade of light and sound remembered the individuals who lost their lives and the health workers who put their own lives on the line in times of crisis.
Led by multiple banks of dazzling white light, and pulsing with the sounds of a hundred different audio sources held by the marchers, the parade was a beacon for people to join. We walked with a group of mobile light sculptures and hundreds of cell phones will play a new score by David Lang sung by Philadelphia Grammy-winning choir The Crossing. Those marching propelled it onwards towards Philadelphia’s City Hall, as a collective act of remembrance and a celebration of the health workers who keep us all safe.
Created in partnership with the Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, the Spit Spreads Death Parade marked one hundred years of civic pride and shared history. The parade took place at dusk on 28 September 2019.
Follow the #SpitSpreadsDeath hashtag on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to see more news and updates about the parade and exhibition.
More information can be found here: blasttheory.co.uk/projects/spit-spreads-death/
Blast Theory is renowned internationally as one of the most adventurous artists’ groups using interactive media, creating groundbreaking new forms of performance and interactive art that mixes audiences across the internet, live performance and digital broadcasting. Led by Matt Adams, Ju Row Farr and Nick Tandavanitj, the group’s work explores the social and political aspects of technology. Drawing on popular culture and games, the work often blurs the boundaries between the real and the fictional.
Spits Spreads Death: The Parade is created by Blast Theory and commissioned by the Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia.
Major support for Spit Spreads Death has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage and the Institute for Museum and Library Services, with additional support from the Groff Family Memorial Trust and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, a state agency funded by the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.