November 21, 2016 by: Natalie Fleming
The UB Department of Art, Visual AIDS, the Center for Global Media in the UB Department of English, Queer Studies Research Workshop, Leslie Lohman Queer Art Series, Pride Center of WNY, Gay and Lesbian Youth Services (GLYS), and UB Student Health Services will observe the 27th annual Day With(out) Art on World AIDS Day by presenting a FREE screening of the newly released COMPULSIVE PRACTICE followed by readings of texts from the history of AIDS activism. The event will take place on Thursday, December 1 at 6:30pm in the Screening Room (room 112) in the Center for the Arts on UB’s North Campus and is free and open to the public.
Event organizer and Visual Studies PhD student Benjamin Kersten said, “Responses to the AIDS crisis blurred the lines of art, activism, and theory. The tragic losses due to AIDS-related complications made it clear that what is made visible or invisible, and how this is accomplished, can be a matter of life or death.”
In response to government inaction and widespread fear and hostility to people living with HIV/AIDS, academics, artists, and activists formed radical alliances and communities of practice and support. Artists, like those featured in COMPULSIVE PRACTICE, have advanced diverse strategies to not only raise awareness but to mobilize people to take action by challenging social prejudices, pushing for safer sex practices, and advocating for federal funding for research and treatment. As prevention and treatment efforts persist in the United States and globally, artists and activists continue to remind us to revisit the past, remember those lost, and forge communal hope for the future.
For Day With(out) Art 2016, Visual AIDS presents COMPULSIVE PRACTICE, curated by Jean Carlomusto, Alexandra Juhasz, and Hugh Ryan. The video compilation features artists and activists who incorporate video technology in their responses to HIV/AIDS: James Wentzy; Nelson Sullivan (1948-1989); Ray Navarro (1964-1990); Carol Leigh aka Scarlot Harlot; Juanita Mohammed; Luna Luis Ortiz; Mark S. King; Justin B. Terry-Smith; and the Southern AIDS Living Quilt., The habitual video practices examined in COMPULSIVE PRACTICE document the personal stories of women of color in the southern U.S. who live with HIV, provide intimate glances into the lives of emerging artists in the 1980s, form an archive of civil disobedience, and more. The variety of voices speak to the diverse experiences of and approaches to HIV/AIDS, tied together in this case by using cameras to record, reflect, and effect change.
Following the screening, artist, activist, and performer Ron Ehmke, who co-founded the Buffalo chapter of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), will perform a monologue he wrote and performed for one of the first Day With(out) Art events. ACT UP often chanted “we’ll never be silent again” at actions addressing the epidemic, and revisiting texts such as Ron’s fulfills that promise and keeps the history of AIDS alive.
Day With(out) Art began on December 1st 1989 as the national day of action and mourning in response to the AIDS crisis and has since grown into a collaborative project with museums, art institutions, schools, and AIDS organizations around the world. In 1997, Visual AIDS added the parentheses to the name of the event to affirm the active contributions being made by artists living with and HIV/AIDS and addressing HIV/AIDS internationally. For more information on COMPULSIVE PRACTICE, visit https://www.visualaids.org/projects/detail/compulsive-practice.
Kersten commented, “Each year, Day With(out) Art encourages us to revisit the history and continuing presence of HIV/AIDS through the eyes of those who are affected by HIV/AIDS every single day. The contributions of artists and activists who have responded to HIV/AIDS over the years teach enduring lessons about standing together in community and speaking out against injustice. In the face of divisive rhetoric and political uncertainty, these lessons remain as important as ever to ensure health and dignity for everyone.”