Kris Nuzzi, with guest and Sur Rodney (Sur)

The following statement was written by Sur Rodney (Sur) for the (re)Presenting AIDS public forum on culture and accountability hosted by Visual AIDS, the Pop Up Museum of Queer History, and the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at CUNY on August 20th. A portion of the text was read by Kris Nuzzi.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Statement by Sur Rodney (Sur)

How “should” HIV/AIDS be represented in the public sphere?
Organizing the exhibition NOT OVER: 25 Years of Visual AIDS offered a lot of to consider. The image we had planned to use for our exhibition’s announcement card was a reproduction of a block print by Nancer LeMoins titled: Will Art Change My Life? Will it bring my fucking friends back? The square format was not ideally suited for the rectangular announcement format our designer was working with. At cause, we used a video still that pictured the artist Vincent Chevalier, when he was 12 years old, wearing a curly blonde wig. A text ran along the lower border of the image that read: "So when did you figure out that you had AIDS?" In the video, a young Chevalier plays the role of a man blaming his wife, who he had just buried, for infecting him with AIDS. His play-­‐ acting dramatically expressed from the mouth of a 12 year old. Everyone I presented this card to was struck by the image of this child speaking on living with AIDS while pretending to be on a television talk show hosted by his 13 year old girlfriend. This now has me thoughts regarding How HIV/AIDS should be represented in the public sphere, suggest -­‐-­‐ more representation, engagement, and propagation of concerns with AIDS and our youth.

In what ways do museums and galleries create history as much as they display it?
When it concerns a collection of artworks presented as a statement on the AIDS crisis, truncating or eliminating links between the present and past leans towards offensive. That’s what bothered me most about, what appears to be a memorial installed in the side room section of the exhibition I, You, We, currently on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

When “history” still has dire consequences for the present moment, what kind of engagement should historical institutions have with the communities whose stories they are telling?
Have intergenerational voices represented from as a broader demographic to better present the affects of the story being told. Providing audiences more food for thought and a greater and more balanced awareness to understanding consequences and the inherent diversity of present concerns. As a black, queer, feminist and wanna-­‐be trans activist with a commitment to silver nail polish, I’m looking at so much of this differently than what I see presented. When highlighting histories of the East Village 80s propagated in the most of the material I’ve read ignore the prevelance of gay men and their relations with women as the fuel in the engine driving so much of that period in culture, with black folks most often in the shadows where no one is looking. BOO!

As the crisis of AIDS continues, how do we ensure that the stories that need to be shared are told and heard by those who need them the most?
The first thoughts that come to mind – create more engagement with media; locate more available sources for distribution; and consider segregated communities. That would help a lot.