Archive as Impetus, 2013, Xaviera Simmons

Inspired by her own practice, and prompted by the "Your Nostalgia Is Killing Me" poster created by Vincent Chevalier and Ian Bradley-Perrin for PosterVIRUS, artist Xaviera Simmons crafted an essay of timely and profound questions for the TIME IS NOT A LINE issue of the WE WHO FEEL DIFFERENTLY journal.

What happens when the immediacy of direct action fades? What occurs when, for a multitude of reasons, a subject falls out of favor with popular American media culture? What sustains when the local and global media halts its rigorous coverage of the moment-to-moment workings of a movement and when day-to-day protests and loud calls to action subside? More urgently, what has become of HIV/AIDS? And what has become of its responses today?

What has happened to the individual and collective psyches surrounding the disease and its voices? And how is this psychological knowledge passed on to the bodies of those born after the apex of the AIDS movement, those who seemingly no longer see or face the visible life threatening, life ending repercussions that the virus once produced? Are the collective and personal narratives of the friends, family members and confidants of those living and/or passing with the virus no longer as immediately relevant to the general population? Those whose memories are folded away on a daily basis into the privacy of personal and familial narratives? Where is our collective consciousness surrounding HIV/AIDS with the passing of time, advancements in medical technologies and care and the ever shifting cultural gaze? What has happened to those documents, texts, films and documentaries that lay seemingly static and frozen in steady retrospect dedicated as memorials?

What do we talk about when we talk about HIV/AIDS in the 21st century? What happens in and to our bodies when we see “AIDS,” when we see “HIV”? Who is the audience/receiver and under what circumstances are they receiving the implications of the letters: A-I-D-S? What direction does the compass lean towards when we contemplate HIV/AIDS today? Which labels do we identify most with in the spectrum of personal and sexual desire and preference? What is our relationship to the virus as living positive with it or as a known negative? Did we experience the loss of a lover from the disease or has the virus barely touched our immediate circles? Again, what do we talk about when we talk about HIV/AIDS in the 21st century?

Read the whole essay, and see related images, including the poster and work by artist Shan Kelley: Inching Toward a Contemporary Vision.

We Who Feel Differently Journal is a sporadic online publication that addresses critical issues of queer culture. It features analyses and critiques of international Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex, Queer and Questioning politics from queer perspectives.

Related: "Archive and Performance: Perfect Lovers?" An essay on Simmons' work, "Archive as Impetus at the MoMA"

Vincent Chevalier

Shan Kelley