Untitled (self portrait), Derek Jackson, 2013

As part of our series NOT OVER, Visual AIDS asked artists in the La MaMa exhibition three questions about the ongoing AIDS crisis. The first question is taken directly from artist Vincent Chevalier’s work, “So…when did you figure out you had AIDS?”, 2010. It is left to the artist to decipher the meaning of the question, to decide if it a question about their status, how AIDS functions in the world, or both. Overall, the goal of the questions is to get at the complexity of HIV/AIDS—understanding it as a virus in people’s bodies, an assemblage that has changed the world, and as an every-evolving phenomenon.

Visual AIDS: When did you figure out you had AIDS?
When I told my father I was gay he responded by saying that I would never be allowed to set foot in our home again. In some ways it was a relief to not feel like I had something to hide anymore...but in other ways, and especially lately, I have been longing for the natural support and security that being a part of a family brings. In a similar way, gay men who are diagnosed with HIV are often stigmatized and rejected by other gay men and are forced to seek resources and acceptance from individuals and organizations outside of that community.

Visual AIDS: What does NOT OVER mean to you?
Even though there have been huge leaps in treatment and survival rates, the effects of HIV / AIDS continue to devastate on a global level. With our first world myopia, it is impossible to imagine the realities faced by people living in places like Africa and Central Asia. It is difficult to remain vigilant. To me, the words NOT OVER are a reminder that the progress that has been made is not broadly accessible or definitive.

Visual AIDS: What is AIDS in 25 years?
I hope it's a memory... A model for how individuals and communities worked to overcome something seemingly insurmountable... An example of empowerment from the ground up.

The interviews will be collected on our tumblr site: NOT OVER INTERVIEWS

Derek Jackson