Visual AIDS Programs Director Alex Fialho recently wrote five responses as Writer-In-Residence for Danspace Project's Platform 2016: Lost and Found (October 6–November 19, 2016), curated by Ishmael Houston-Jones and Will Rawls. The Platform considered the impact of HIV/AIDS on NYC's dance and performance communities and beyond. Excerpts from the responses are below, with links to the full articles on Danspace Project's Journal, edited by Jaime Shearn Coan. (danspaceproject.org/journal)
Excerpt: "Neil Greenberg’s performative evoking of those lost called to mind a cogent point made a week prior by New Museum curator Travis Chamberlain at the Lost and Found catalogue preview, when he asked us to consider “remembering and retrieval as a performative process.” Leafing through ephemera of an artist no longer with us in an archive; reconstructing or reimagining their performances for contemporary recreations; contending with their life narrative as inspiration for new work; conjuring their presence through video of a performance in which they took part; or projecting a list of names of those lost are all performative forms of recovering, retrieving, remembering, celebrating, paying tribute to—finding—the so many lost too soon from the AIDS pandemic. In this vein, attempting to “recover the loss of a generation of mentors, role models, and muses” is one of the central charges of Platform 2016: Lost and Found, inspiringly co-curated by Ishmael Houston-Jones and Will Rawls and programmed by the stalwart Danspace staff. The possibilities inherent in performative processes to exist in the present as lively remembrances is the potential strength of this Platform. And Danspace Project, as a longstanding hub of performance-based work, feels uniquely positioned as the context for these performative recalls and responses. Multiple moments from Platform 2016: Lost and Found opening events made this readily apparent..."
Excerpt: "Throughout Lost and Found, I’ve been particularly touched by this sense of communal catharsis that has resulted from movement paired with moving songs and the outpourings they inspire... Music may not be able to bring those lost back to life, but song remains with us closely, rousing memories and keeping legacies ever present and lively."
Excerpt: "Given this context, the commitment of Danspace Project’s Platform 2016: Lost and Found to centering diversity—particularly black masculinity—throughout its programming has felt responsive and significant. The presence of Ishmael Houston-Jones and Will Rawls, an intergenerational pair of black men, as the thoughtful co-curators of the Platform has been one of the most heartening aspects of Lost and Found. Extending out from Rawls and Houston-Jones, Lost and Found has involved an impressive and varied group of black male performers and perspectives, including Bill T. Jones, Archie Burnett, Raja Feather Kelly, Darrell Jones, Jack Waters, Sur Rodney (Sur), Timothy DuWhite, Terence Taylor, Jaamil Olawale Kosoko, Hilton Als, Thomas Lax, Jawanza James Williams, Kenyon Farrow, DonChristian Jones, Derek Jackson, and more. Lost and Found has also remembered the legacy of important black male artists including Willi Ninja, Assotto Saint, Donald Woods, and Alvin Ailey, among others. The result has been a Platform that has centered those closely impacted by the ongoing epidemic, through a nuanced and attentive consideration of the intersections of race and HIV/AIDS.
... Indeed, with one in two black MSM (men who have sex with men) predicted to contract HIV in their lifetime, at this moment of Black Lives Matter and ongoing police brutality, as we enter the era of a Trump presidency, it feels as if the stakes around representation and race couldn’t be higher; bravo to Danspace for choreographing such a diverse and dynamic cast throughout their Platform as response."
Excerpt: “What happens to health care, housing, culture and other basic needs for survival after inauguration?” Curator and organizer Ted Kerr projected this and many other pressing questions during his presentation for Danspace Project’s Platform 2016: Lost and Found, just two days after the polarizing election of Donald J. Trump as 45th President of the United States. Kerr’s questions voiced the very clear and present danger felt by most if not all in the room during the November 10th panel, titled A Matter of Urgency and Agency: HIV/AIDS Now—the fear of the reality that Trump’s bigoted opinions will turn into federal policy for the next four years. The event provided an opportunity for activists closely involved in HIV/AIDS organizing to speak their perspectives on contemporary issues. The fact that Trump said next to nothing about HIV/AIDS policy during his campaign, or his lifetime for that matter, coupled with his narrow-minded stance on countless other issues has left most at a deeply pessimistic loss for what the future holds; as panel organizer Jaime Shearn Coan put it, given the outcome of the election: “Urgency just got a lot more urgent.
... The searing, moving language that came from the words of the involved readers—Carmelita Tropicana, Terence Taylor, Timothy DuWhite, YaYa Mckoy, Kia Labeija and Pamela Sneed—provided incisive perspective and a helpful model for these trying times: that raising our voices in fitful resistance is a method of standing up against this immense letdown of political “representation.” #notmypresident”
Excerpt: "I’ve been carrying the 268-page catalogue for Platform 2016: Lost and Found around with me for over a month now. Though it’s heavy thickness has weighed my bag down during that time, the inspiring collection of material it contains has lifted me up and taken me to countless places—past, present and future. As the events for Danspace Project’s most ambitious platform to date come to a close, the energy and emotional intensity of the wide-ranging Platform will continue to live on in the impressive catalogue, edited by Ishmael Houston-Jones, Will Rawls and Jaime Shearn Coan. Platform co-curator Will Rawls’ introductory essay effectively uses the framework of zines to consider the collection of material that comprises the tome-sized catalogue. Similar to the ethos of a zine, the substantial publication brings together dozens of contributions in multiple manners of address, ranging from poetry, recollections, essays, drawings, photographs, reprints of canonical essays, and much more. The stories that unfold within these pages exhibit a range of immensely moving narratives about the ongoing AIDS epidemic and its impact on individuals and the collective communities of New York City’s dance and performance scenes and beyond."
* I dedicate this and all of my responses as writer-in-residence for Danspace’s Platform 2016: Lost and Found to the late Buzz Bense, who passed away on November 19, 2016; coincidentally, the final day of Platform 2016: Lost and Found. Buzz was an ardent activist, seasoned performer and sex-positive force in San Francisco throughout the ongoing AIDS crisis. He has been the single most influential gay mentor in my life, and working closely with Buzz to co-curate the exhibition “SAFE SEX BANG: The Buzz Bense Collection of Safe Sex Posters” with Dorian Katz at the Center for Sex & Culture in 2013 was where I found my voice in relationship to writing about HIV/AIDS. If it weren’t for Buzz, I don’t think that any of my Danspace responses as writer-in-residence, or my work at Visual AIDS for that matter, would have happened. I am deeply grateful for his presence and impact on my life, and I miss him dearly already. [Alex Fialho]
Alex Fialho, Programs Director at Visual AIDS, has facilitated projects and conversations around both the history and immediacy of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, utilizing art to maintain HIV/AIDS visibility, consider its legacy, and galvanize contemporary response. Fialho’s extensive oral history interviews with Gregg Bordowitz, Ron Athey, Carrie Yamaoka, Marguerite Van Cook and Nayland Blake will be part of the Smithsonian Archives of American Art’s forthcoming “Visual Arts and the AIDS Epidemic Oral History Project.” He has presented his research on the art of Glenn Ligon and Keith Haring at the College Art Association and NYU Fales Library. He also curates exhibitions for Lower Manhattan Cultural Council as Research and Curatorial Associate, and is a frequent contributor to Artforum.