Editor’s note: On Saturday March 1st, Visual AIDS organized a panel to discuss the YOUR NOSTALGIA IS KILLING ME poster which created so much online controversy. A vibrant crowd turned up at the NYPL to hear from both Ian Bradley-Perrin and Vincent Chevalier, AIDS activists and creators of the poster. Below is the speech Ian addressed the crowd with.
A lot has been tossed around about the poster’s meaning for and engagement with an older generation, and it’s certainly true that it speaks using a rich history of which the people sitting here with me are all part. However, that the poster uses much of the canon of AIDS agitprop and historical narrative, as well as the symbols of the commercialization and capital appropriation of AIDS represented by the United Colors of Benneton ad and Bono’s Inspi(red) campaign, is speaking less to the lived experience and many layered contextualization of these images in the experience of my co-panelists, but more to the place these images are taking up in a master narrative of HIV and AIDS. This is a distinction that I wanted to emphasize.
A common critique of the work of Vincent and me was that it is an academic piece with no place in the hard world of a lived experience with HIV or the direct action that ACT UP has long participated in. I am not going deny that the poster has many layers to it, and my studies in capital H history are part of that, but I wanted to talk for a moment about the poster as a personal appeal. Continue reading →
“I think no one will be shocked if I say that there is a hegemonic AIDS and a peripheral AIDS,” said curator Aimar Arriola in a recent interview, to which I responded, “You would be surprised.”
I have never heard it myself but friends have told me many members of ACT UP from the 80s and early 90s talk about the power of “The Room”, referring to the large meeting space on the main floor of New York’s LGBT center where ACT UP met (and still meets) on Monday nights. There is a longing to return. And with good reason. It seems as if The Room was an anchor in what was an unimaginable time of loss, confusion, pain, and discovery. If the outside world was cold, uncaring violent, and indifferent, then inside – while not free of violence — could be understood as sweaty with passion and people in proximity working on a constellation of related struggles. It’s in The Room, we are told, lesbians and gay men reconciled a cultural separation; it’s where feminism was taught to a generation of activists, and where privileges were acknowledged and made productive for the many. It’s where “Stop The Church” and countless “Die-in” actions were debated and rehearsed. It’s where many learned civil disobedience, and how to get arrested, where people were told to shut up, fuck off, and to speak their minds. Hearing talk of The Room you get a sense people felt alive, vital, sexy, and a part of something bigger than themselves when they were in it. Such an atmosphere is intoxicating. Both for those there and those who were not. Continue reading →