Black Sheep: The Point of An Art Exhibition (in Spain) About Stigma and AIDS

I’ve been reflecting the last few days on the question of sheep (baa, baa) and the mainstream media. (Take Anthony Weiner, or don’t, but at least take the fact that we’ve come precisely zero distance between Hester Prynne and today when it comes to public attitudes – or the attitudes the mainstream media thinks the public has about sex – even or especially, virtual sex. I digress.)

Meantime, running on parallel currents, have been two other of those epic news stories: In art, the Venice Biennale – I’m not there, but I do read the New York Times, so there’s a link in case you want to watch – and the 30th anniversary of the first appearance in public health reports of AIDS.

Okay, so here’s my subject. This 30th anniversary of AIDS is the big news of this week because – well, because I was there, with my great pals on Fire Island in the early 1980s, and between 1987 and 1991, before I moved to New Mexico, I tended my dear friend Rick Hamilton, who succumbed to AIDS just after I turned 30. It was a harrowing time, which all came back to me in the lovely sad-happy memories way on Friday night. While one of my neighbor’s houses (not Rome) burned, I lay on my couch at home watching A Home At the End of the World on Sundance channel. (I digress again, although here’s my excuse to post the Laura Nyro YouTube that I have had no other excuse ever to post. This one’s for you, Rick.)

The movie, based on a Michael Cunningham (the Hours) story, was made in 2004 – but the book being published in 1990 captured the epoch pre-1994 (and AZT), in the pictured East Village where I actually grew up – and came of age. The movie was complex as human relations are. Love wasn’t supposed to be a neat package. And indeed, the lives that these complex friends experienced was really just the pain of loving not wisely but too well, and suffering the slings that come with intimacy and loss.

Loving Not Wisely But Too Well, on Flickr

Finally she gets to the point, you might be saying. For the point is this. While tonight considering what I was going to write to commemorate an anniversary I surely have not forgotten – and which in the mainstream media is typically pictorialized with ghoulish photographs of men spotted with sarcoma dying in hospital beds, and later, of brown-skinned peoples standing on line for treatment and medication – why, I ask you why?, should it be any wonder that stigma really is the important subject that art needs to tackle, about AIDS, 30 years later.

And not just  the art of Felix Gonzales-Torres or David Wojnarowicz, wonderful though they were. But the art of people who have not been superstars at a Venice Biennale. The art speaking the unspeakable with mystery and some strong poetics. Or no poetics at all. The Artaids foundation – to quote Muddy Waters, I bet you never heard of that one have you? – is opening this new art show titled You Are Not Alone at Fundacío JOAN MIRÓ, Barcelona. It will run  from July 1 to September 18 this year. It is curated by Hilde Teerlinck, director of FRAC Nord-Pas de Calais/Dunkerque.

You are not alone is intended to prompt reflection on the discrimination and stigmatisation to which, even today, AIDS sufferers are subject. Although medical advances have increased the expectancy and quality of life of sufferers, at least in the developed world, this progress has not been reflected in a reduction in the social rejection they experience.

I’ll say. 14 artists participate: : Deimantas Narkevicius (Lithuania), Latifa Echakhck (Morocco), Danh Vo (Denmark/Vietnam), Christodoulos Panayiotou (Cyprus), Lorena Zilleruelo (Chile), Lucy & Jorge Orta (UK and Argentina), Antoni Miralda (Spain) and Elmgreen & Dragset (Denmark and Norway). The Artaids collection recently acquired works by David Goldblat (South Africa), Otto Berchem (United States), Sutee Junavichayanont (Thailand), Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook (Thailand) and Juul Hondlus (the Netherlands) – and these are also included also.

David Goldblat Contributes to the Artaids Show Opening July 1

Go to this link to see the gallery.  The show is bookended at the back by Matthew Darbyshire (U.K.), whose work is said to recall graphic 1980s-1990s approaches to AIDS by  Group Material and presumably, ACT UP. Work by Pepe Espaliú, a Spanish artist who died of AIDS in 1993, opens the show. Let’s indeed have more meaningful conversations about the things art does – willing talks about stigma, marginalization, non-centrality. This to me is far more important than gymnasts on bizarre para-military design toys in Venice.

Allora and Calzadilla at Venice Biennale

Allora and Calzadilla at Venice Biennale

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