Przemek Krzakiewicz’s “Sterile Space” is a response to the crisis brought about by the Covid‑19 pandemic, fitting in the wider canon of activities undertaken by artists, designers and academics who have embarked on looking for solutions to make life easier in the new reality. The concept of the installation came about during the last spring lockdown and is a reaction to the widespread fear and vulnerability against an unknown, overwhelming and unseen threat. Amid the sea of information surrounding potential remedies for the virus and other survival methods, the artist came across a text concerning the efficacy of UV‑C light, which is adept at destroying the DNA of the coronavirus, but also dangerous for the human body so is not used extensively. The artist decided to create a sterile space, free of Covid‑19, but which is also inaccessible to people. The beneficial yet destructive light is limited to an area of 1m3 encased in perspex. The installation is an attempt to create a tribute to the victory against an unseen danger, eulogising the attempts and experiments which went into the battle against the coronavirus.
The location of the installation is also not without meaning. The Barbican is a component of the city’s fortifications which were for centuries a type of ‘buffer zone’ which kept the city safe from outsiders and offered protection against potential threats. It was saved from destruction, even though it comprised a portion of the city’s urban layout which in fact encouraged the spread of epidemics. Paradoxically, the Barbican was in fact rescued from destruction due to its positive effect on human health as it protected the city from the biting winds from the north. In 2020 the Barbican became a fortress for the installation, which neutralises one cubic metre of ‘foul’ air.