News/May 2020
Video still for Online exclusive: Watch the Spit Spreads Death film Spit Spreads Death: The Parade

This month, the full ‘Spit Spreads Death: The Parade‘ film is available to watch online for the first time, and for a limited time only. In September 2019 we paid tribute to the thousands of people who lost their lives in the 1918-19 flu pandemic. The work was made exclusively for the Spit Spreads Death exhibition at Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum, exploring the impact of the flu virus, how it spread, and what could happen in future pandemics.

Screening of the film and Q&A

If you’d like to hear more about the work and exhibition, join us this Friday, May 22 at 17:00 (GMT) and 12:00 PM (EDT) for a screening of the film and a Q&A to discuss art and pandemics. Register here. This is a free event.


About the work

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.

Search #SpitSpreadsDeath to see more news and updates about the exhibition and read more about the work on the Spit Spreads Death project page.