featured gallery for July 2004

Making The Private Public

As I sit down to write this statement, former president Ronald Reagan has just recently died -- Ronald Reagan, who for six years of his presidency could not even utter the word "AIDS." This may seem a strange way to begin, given that my selection of images from the Visual AIDS Archive Project is scarcely political in tone. My approach to the vast archive was simply to work through it systematically, selecting images to which I responded in any variety of ways. Of course, at the end I had accumulated a group of many more than 20 artworks. (The richness of the archive in terms of media, style and quality is such that any number of cogent groupings can be made, hence the ongoing assembly of these consistently strong monthly online exhibitions.) My final edit consists of 18 photographic works that are framed by two collages by Joe De Hoyos. Without any conscious intent, it is now clear that my exhibition is highly personal, largely bound by a common mood often saturated with sober reverie and quietude related to a variety of my own losses. While spikes of irony (Carlos Gutierrez-Solana) and humor (Jimmy DeSana) punctuate the exhibition, this selection of artworks is less political and overtly angry than introspective and occasionally elegiac. (It is a harsh fact that AIDS has claimed so many talented, creative people.) While it is often assumed that the agency of anger and protest logically outstrip unproductive sadness and passive retrospection, as the diverse artworks in the Archive Project attest, the epidemic generates a mosaic of emotional responses, none less valid, necessary, or conventionally constructive than any other. Despite advances in the medications that can treat people infected with HIV, many are still dying from AIDS-related illnesses (worldwide roughly three million in 2003 alone). The necessity of organizations such as Visual AIDS, which serve to raise public awareness of the disease, is no less urgent than it was 15 years past, when Reagan finally acknowledged the disease that has now become pandemic in proportion.

"To make the private into something public is an action that has terrific repercussions in the pre-invented world. The government has the job of maintaining the day-to-day illusion of the ONE TRIBE NATION. Each public disclosure of a private reality becomes something of a magnet that can attract others with a similar reference; thus each public disclosure of a fragment of private reality serves as a dismantling tool against the illusion of ONE TRIBE NATION; it lifts the curtains for a brief peek and reveals the possible existence of literally millions of tribes, the term GENERAL PUBLIC disintegrates, what happens next is the possibility of an X-RAY OF CIVILIZATION, an examination of its foundations."
-- David Wojnarowicz