featured gallery for June 2018

David Meet David and other friends

My curatorial residency with Visual AIDS in March of 2015 inspired this web gallery. I was particularly interested in the archaeology of an archive and the dissection between memory and nostalgia and threads that connect.

Coming from Australia I was inspired by the work of artist and activist David McDiarmid, who passed away in 1995, and whose work was recently featured in the retrospective When This You See Remember Me at the National Gallery of Victoria. I was interested in his years in New York in the late 1970’s and 1980’s enjoying the art, fashion and music scenes, the piers, gallery hopping and gay pride marches. Chatter from friends and writings by David himself placed him in New York during the early 1980’s attending Gay Pride marches. I visited the archives of The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Center in New York and looked through the photographs of Steve Zabel and his ongoing documentation of Gay Pride marches through the streets of New York – men in short frayed denim shorts, women in dungarees…looking for David…

During my time in New York I met and connected with a range of people, events, programs, galleries, archives and organizations and through these experiences a thread of community, shared experience and memory emerged that has shaped this selection.

I visited the Fales archive and looked at the proof sheets of artist and activist David Wojnarowicz – his photography down on the piers; his documentation of friends; his work with imagery that led to many of his iconic artworks and films. Would David Wojnarowicz have crossed paths with David McDiarmid? Did David ever meet David when their years of practice overlapped – some of their early work used similar iconography? Would they have got on?

Imagery is a starting point, a trigger for the imagining around particular memory and collective memory. The linking of artists and their work both found in the Artist+ Registry and experienced through discussion and personal interaction created an imagining for me. The opportunity to explore the archive from the physical files presents a whim of nostalgia in the act of viewing slides and the sometimes associated material of gallery invites, notes and the initial artist form provide a richness that adds to its significance and insight to an artist's practice. The archive online then quickly connects all the artists to a global community. I explored various themes of the collection and looked at the representation of the body across the archive – the outline of the body. The image by Wojnarowicz, Untitled, 1988 of 2 men kissing was also represented in his proof sheets I saw at the Fales - reproduced on a quilt panel created for Keith Davis, on a sunny day, in a park somewhere.

I collect old photographs from flea markets and try and imagine the story and connections of the faces I see… I looked at the use of old photographs in the Artist+ Registry, often used to reinterpret a personal history and stamp it with commentary from the present and the future as the artist shares wisdom with their younger self. The images of John Hanning and Scott Hunt reflect this.

Eric Rhein's Leaf Project imagines and references an individual through the outline of a shape particular to that person as imagined by the artist – in essence memory portraits. Rhein says, "One by one, I picked up leaves until a host of kinsmen was gathered in my arms. In death, they continue to be the teachers that they were in life, generously sharing with me the gifts of their individual attributes." Visiting Eric's studio and seeing his oeuvre of work, particularly viewing his Hospital Tear drawings, St Vincent's Hospital and Leaf Project works connected me with the scale of his project and his commitment to its ongoing legacy to the community represented.

The New York Public Library ACT UP collection took me into the minutes of their weekly meetings – the media releases and press clippings – and documentation of the various sub committees, including the strong involvement of women throughout. I was drawn to a faint photocopy of a newspaper article featuring a young Zoe Leonard promoting a needle exchange. Her later involvement with Fierce Pussy led me to the Lesbian Herstory Archives for other perspectives on ACT UP from the various collections they hold. Zoe Leonard is inspiring. I was reminded of the work of Jessica Whitbread, who I had just met while participating in a LOVE POSITIVE WOMEN banner making workshop at the Joan Mitchell Foundation. Jessica Whitbread is an artist and activist from a younger generation participating in this history – owning it. The other night here in Melbourne, Joan Nestle, one of the co-founders of the Lesbian Herstory Archives and now in her 70’s, urged and berated the crowd to own all our histories, particularly the anxious ones.

I walked around the boarded up construction site next to the old St Vincent’s clinic in Greenwich village with artist and activist Rafael Sánchez. A mini tour perhaps of its history and site significance to the community – an empty site, ungraffitted, unpostered…the NYC laws that prohibit graffiti creating an anxiousness and nervousness around public commentary. I wanted to plaster it with David’s work I WANT A FUTURE THAT LIVES UP TO OUR PAST. An AIDS memorial planned for the site will feature a text installation by Jenny Holzer. The only text on the construction walls surrounding the site we saw was the word ‘LOVE’– in chalk.

My good friend Ray Cook has recently created a profile and archive of his work on the Artist+ Registry – reinterpreting and playing with humor, his works trace both community and an epidemic, personal to Ray and shared through his work. I asked him about memory and archive in relation to practice: "I want our stories to be preserved and I want to become familiar with secret queer worlds that existed before my own. Every culture needs an archive, especially a culture that’s spent a long time in the shadows and this is where creative practice excels, it allows us to record and share the intangible. The photos and the songs, the novels etc., preserve the lived experience; the sensation—the way something feels. History is best reanimated with the evocative, figurative languages of creative practice; they cause the blood to pump through otherwise forgotten ventricles."

Friends, connections and shared memories of our ongoing archive.