Visual AIDS presented WHAT YOU DON'T KNOW COULD FILL A MUSEUM last January as part of the Brooklyn Museum's Target Free Saturday. Moderated by Brittany Duck, featuring Hugh Ryan, Jean Carlomusto, Tara Burk and Vincent Cianni, the event was part 2 of our ongoing public conversation about art, AIDS and representation. Below, panelist Jean Carlomusto takes about how she became involved in making videos about the ongoing epidemic, and what it means to her do the work now.

JEAN CARLOMUSTO: I’ve been working since 1986 on covering AIDS. Because I see a lot of folks here are on the younger side or younger than me, let’s just sort of go back for a moment to the atmosphere in ’86.

I was working as a graduate TA at NYU in Education Technology. We had classes where students had to pick to work with a group to make a video. There were only three projects that could be made. They needed someone to make a film of a dissection of a cat; the second video was on training people how to do root canal; and the third project was to make videos for Gay Men’s Health Crisis.

The project that nobody in the class chose was Gay Men’s Health Crisis. That’s how scared people were of getting involved around AIDS. It was not fashionable. It was a plague. It was full of fear, an awful awful time.

So I started volunteering at Gay Men’s Health Crisis, during that time it was very hard not just to represent AIDS, but it was hard for a person with AIDS who had facial KS to go out food shopping because they were getting thrown out of stores. That’s how bad it was back in that time.

The work that I did was all in community and made me come to awareness that we were going to need to fight back to make any kind of change. At a certain point, let me just say that in about 1993 after many of us have been doing AIDS activism for years, there was a real change because we began to get so desperate that even in ACT UP, this AIDS activist movement that was formed, began to have internal friction because more and more people were sick. Those of us shooting footage around AIDS, we were beginning to find that this footage we took of our friends protesting in the street, these photographs, all of these materials, these all our friends -- were dead.

The material changed. At that point in time, I found that it wasn’t just about getting the word out. But preserving the archive is also about preserving our friends’ voices that are no longer here. So in my current day practice I do find it important to maintain my archive. That’s a part of my current activism, keeping history alive.

I see my role now in telling history, to tell people to examine how this history may fit into current discussions about the plague.

Download the rest of the conversation below.

Jean Carlomusto is a filmmaker. Her documentaries have been exhibited internationally in festivals, museums and on television. She produced, directed and edited, SEX IN AN EPIDEMIC, which premiered on Showtime Networks. She created OFFERINGS, an interactive video altar that was featured in art exhibitions such as: Make Art/Stop AIDS, Fowler Museum, UCLA and NOT ALONE, Durbin Art Gallery, Durbin, South Africa, and subsequently touring throughout South Africa. She is a professor of Media Arts and Director of the Television Center at LIU Post. She is currently directing a documentary about Larry Kramer for HBO.