Subscribe to:
POZ magazine
Join POZ: Facebook MySpace Twitter Pinterest
Tumblr Google+ Flickr Instagram
POZ Personals
Sign In / Join

VAVA VOOM 2015: It Was a Night of Celebration!

| No Comments

POZ Managing Editor Jennifer Morton (center) celebrating with friends (photo by Michael Wilson)

The 2015 VAVA VOOM was held Monday, May 18, at the beautiful Prince George Ballroom. This year Visual AIDS recognized and celebrated the achievements of artists Julie Ault, Jim Hodges and Luna Luis Ortiz--and their contributions in strengthening the cultural history of art, AIDS and activism. The evening was hosted by the hilarious Mike Albo and featured a moving performance by Mx Justin Vivian Bond. In addition to our three honorees, we also recognized Pavel Zoubok, VAVA co-founder, on the the 10th anniversary of the Visual AIDS Vanguard Awards. I wonderful time was had by all!

We are grateful to our sponsors MAC Viva Glam, Photomatonchic and Blue Medium, and to our wonderful co-chairs, benefit committee, guests and volunteers. We are also grateful to Stephanie Roach, director of the FLAG Art Foundation, for curating the evening's silent auction, and to all the amazing artists who contributed work.

More about the Visual AIDS Vanguard Awards and the honorees here. Many more photos of the event here.

Chloe & Kid Lucky, Katrina del Mar (1995)

Katrina del Mar is a New York-based art and commercial photographer, as well as an award winning film director. Her work has been described as "beautiful" exuding an "intimate chemistry" as well as "filth of the highest quality," and Katrina herself has been described as "the lesbian stepchild of Kenneth Anger." Below, Katrina remembers moments with her friend Chloe Dzubilo, Visual AIDS Artist Member and fierce AIDS & transgender activist rocker. Katrina also compiled and edited a short documentary, "Chloe Dzubilo in Life: Testament of A Radical Trans Activist," for the occasion of the first CHLOES, Chloe Dzubilo Memorial and Activist CeleVation, on March 12, 2011.

Visual AIDS celebrates Chloe's life and legacy with Transisters & the Goddesses of Rock at 8 p.m. Friday, May 22, at Participant Inc., and with our recent publication of Duets: Che Gossett & Alice O'Malley in Conversation on Chloe Dzubilo.

View more of Katrina's photography on her website.

I met Chloe Dzubilo for the first time at Blacklips Performance Cult at Pyramid Club
the night they staged her play Vagina. I found it to be a hilarious, mystical and transformative piece, beautiful and transgressive all at once. Chloe herself was beautiful and transgressive, mystical and hilarious. We became famous friends in blue walled dingy basements, in various apartments, parks and diners. Once, at brunch, really early in our friendship I witnessed a healing between Chloe and her father. She shared that intimate moment with me and she cried. I felt like I'd found a sister. I would call her when I was freaking out; with compassion and humor, she would talk me through.

I photographed Chloe a lot. With her band, with lovers, with friends who looked like her, with her dog, alone, nude, clothed, with writing on her body: "precious diva" "family" "love tummy."

When I finally decided to make a film, she had to be in it. It was a girl gang movie. "Gang Girls 2000″ Betsy came up with the gang name, Blades, which I expanded to the Famous Blades of Chinatown, prompted by the freely given use of Chloe's Chinatown apartment as the gang headquarters. Chloe was to play the leader of the gang. I said, "what should your gang name be?" She didn't hesitate. "Transella Coutorture," she replied.

She called me from the hospital a few weeks into the shooting; she said, "Katrina, we should shoot a scene for your movie here. I just got surgery I have this huge scar. We can say I got cut in a gang fight!" We rushed over, all the Famous Blades, and wrote the scene on the spot. Nan Goldin was supposed to come shoot her that day but Chloe pushed Nan off for me and I felt like I meant something to somebody for once. She was supportive of my vision, and that meant the world to me.

I helped Chloe with groceries. I visited her in the hospital. When we had places out of town we would invite her up, or she would invite herself! She loved nature and horses. Weekends in the Catskills, weeks in the Hamptons, road trips to Florida. We would ride in the car singing along with Patti Smith at the top of our lungs. Chloe let me know how grateful she was to have holidays out of town; she made sure I knew that I was doing her a great service.

Her fight for trans rights and for the rights of people with AIDS is well documented. I was proud of my friend who would go into police precincts to teach the cops how to treat trans people well. She started an equestrian riding program for at-risk youth called Equi-Aid. She would tell me the only time she wasn't in pain was when she was riding horses. Or when she was helping someone and being of service.

She resisted taking the HIV meds for the longest time. She was doing holistic healing, no white sugar or wheat, herbs. Eventually she went on the meds and she struggled with those all throughout the rest of her life. She told me the AIDS meds made her bones brittle. She broke her back falling off a horse, which I knew broke her heart a little as well. But she came over in her back brace, which she had painted gold and decorated with rhinestones, and we made a portrait of this Amazon warrior. The brace had become proud armor, the emblem of her love of life and of the ongoing battle against a health care system that was failing her.

That's the strongest part, the beauty in simple transformation. She held the power of a humble goddess who could take a cracked and broken thing and make a beautiful other thing out of it. Male to female, she embraced the trans in transgender, the in-betweens, the crack between the worlds, the class schism. Making light of welfare level poverty by wearing Gucci to the welfare office; Chloe reveled in that, with an irreverent glee.

I feel Chloe offered me a great education in compassion, and in facing death and illness with grace, and in the spirit of service.

Chloe was always a little tangential in conversations, she riffed like jazz and you just had to nod and smile; but after the pain meds came in, she was way off the page. I'd stand there thinking, and finally saying, "Honey, I love you, but I have no idea what you're talking about." It's important to know that this was because of her meds, which, increasingly, were coming in pernicious combinations. When she was hospitalized in June of 2010, we thought maybe it was the end, because she was acting really deranged. But a few weeks later, she was out and more clear and lucid than she'd been in years. She'd gotten off the pain meds and it seemed like things were on the upswing.

By winter of that year she curated the "Transeuphoria" gallery show on East Ninth street and we all went. It was an amazing moment for all of us, the room crackled with excitement and love. I was so happy and proud to see her accomplishment, her visceral, confrontational and often hilarious art. The art of her partner, T, the paintings of Siobhan--all were instructive to me. I felt like I was invited in.

She had reached out to me and often I wasn't there for her. Everyone said this in the days and weeks after her death. It came as a shock to me, even though over all these 17 years there was always a consciousness of her mortality. People were and are still dying of AIDS. In her case, the combinations of medications made her very ill, and she simply couldn't handle it in the end.

In February, I found out from Alice that things got really bad. Alice asked me if she could bring Chloe over to my place after she got out of the hospital so she could just be in my living room with loving people around. I said of course. My home has been a sanctuary many times; and it's where we've had many a gathering, including a few queer Thanksgivings. Alice later texted or called to say Chloe wanted to come but didn't think she could manage the stairs.

She died a few days later. I got a call from Alice about it; in her typical dry style she gave me the news. Alice was in a state of shock; I could tell the emotions hadn't hit. I was stunned. I reached out to Betsy, who immediately, untypically, burst into tears. I called Antony, and Rita. We all gathered at Antony's place that night to meet and talk. T, Kembra, Kelly, Rita, Alice, Betsy, Ned, Viva. Artist witches, recovering addicts, queers: a beautiful family of self-created phoenixes. We centered around love for Chloe whether we had been friends or lovers, mentor or the mentored. We talked about honoring her. We cried.

Chloe's memorial service, her CeleVation, was organized around and by this group. It's strange to say that a memorial could be viewed as good experience. But I think many people felt this way. It was truly one of the best experiences of my life. Judson Church was filled, overflowing with people who had known and loved Chloe. Viva was the high priestess, elected with acclaim by the rest of us. Many people performed. Betsy compiled and read the instant messages Chloe had written and we heard Chloe talk to us in her style. It made us all laugh. I compiled a video, and we together witnessed the early days, the more lucid version her. Alice compiled the photos. Antony sang. T sang. Gifts were given to organizations that help queer kids and people with AIDS.

It was a collective, thoughtful, anarchic, goddess-driven process that worked.

Many people said they felt Chloe was definitely there and loving every moment. The room was filled with love. Puma took a picture of me while I videotaped and an orb appears right at my ear. I say the spirits were moving.

December 5, 2011, would have been Chloe's 51st birthday.

We Stand With Michael Johnson: HIV Is Not a Crime

| No Comments
Michael Johnson

As organizations committed to human rights, social justice, and dignity for people living with and vulnerable to HIV, we release this statement in solidarity with Black gay men who have been organizing a response to the criminalization of Michael L. Johnson.

After only two hours of deliberation by a jury in a trial that was fraught with misinformation about HIV transmission, misunderstanding about gay hookup culture and inadequate legal counsel, a nearly all-white jury quickly convicted Michael Johnson, a 23-year-old Black gay man in St. Charles, Missouri, finding him guilty on five felony counts and sentencing him to at least 30 years in prison.

HIV criminalization is yet another tool used to police and incarcerate bodies that are too often poor, Black or brown, or queer-identified. In this case, Michael will be incarcerated for the next 30 years for allegedly exposing sexual partners to HIV, a condition that is chronic and manageable with proper care and treatment. This is atrocious. As a point of comparison, killing someone while driving under the influence of alcohol carries a sentence of seven years in Missouri.

St. Charles is less than a half-hour's drive from Ferguson, Missouri, a city that has made international headlines due to racist police brutality and a record of racial bias in law enforcement.

HIV criminalization laws are widely understood to be based on hysteria, misinformation, and outdated science as it relates to HIV transmission. Expert-led professional associations including the HIV Medicine Association, the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care and the American Medical Association have taken positions supporting the repeal or modernization of these laws, and President Obama's Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS passed a resolution in 2013 calling for HIV criminalization laws to be reviewed and repealed.

This particular prosecution and the media hysteria around it were fueled by homophobia, HIV stigma, and anti-Black racism embedded in portrayals of Black male hypersexuality. Michael Johnson is not the first Black gay man to be incarcerated under these laws, and it is unlikely he will be the last.

Black lives and Black leadership matter. We stand in support of the agenda released today by Black gay men:

  • Support Michael Johnson while he's in prison, continue to raise awareness about his case, work to support any potential appeals or strategies to reduce his sentence or overturn this ruling altogether.
  • Continue to dialog with Black gay men around the country in person and through social media about the importance of opposing such laws.
  • Repeal the laws that criminalize HIV exposure, nondisclosure, and transmission, in Missouri and nationwide.
  • Challenge our allies in Black progressive organizations, criminal justice reform, HIV prevention and treatment, and the LGBT movement to take more of an active role in challenging HIV criminalization.
  • Develop more capacity for Black gay men's grassroots organizing.

When people with HIV are prosecuted under HIV criminalization laws, no justice is achieved. Stigma, fear, and, in many cases, racism, win. And independently of HIV, criminalization, incarceration, and police brutality disproportionately impact Black and brown communities, LGBT folks, and people living in poverty.

Black gay men cannot and must not be removed. With the recognition that anti-Black racism, homophobia and HIV stigma are at the heart of the epidemic and the verdict in the Michael L. Johnson case, we as an HIV community must commit to centering Black leadership and to ensuring that the police state does not factor into addressing the HIV epidemic. Incarceration and prisons are never the solution.

We echo and amplify the love from the open letter to Michael L. Johnson to all Black gay men; we will continue to stand with all of you in this fight for Michael's freedom.

To Michael: we love and will continue to support you.

To Black gay men across the nation: we commit to fight by your side in service of justice, love, and liberation.

In solidarity,

Advocacy Without Borders
The Afiya Center
AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts
AIDS Alabama
AIDS Alabama South
AIDS Foundation of Chicago
AIDS United
Alabama HIV/AIDS Policy Partnership
Amida Care
The Body Is Not an Apology
The CHANGE (Coalition of HIV/AIDS NonProfits & Governmental Entities) Coalition
Desiree Alliance
Harm Reduction Coalition
HIV Prevention Justice Alliance
Houston HIV Cross-Network Community Advisory Board
Legacy Community Health
Louisiana AIDS Advocacy Network
National Center for Lesbian Rights
One Struggle KC
Positive Iowans Taking Charge
Positive Women's Network - USA (PWN-USA)
PWN-USA Bay Area
PWN-USA Louisiana
PWN-USA San Diego Region
Project Inform
SERO Project
SisterLove, Inc.
Southern AIDS Coalition
Southern HIV/AIDS Strategy Initiative
US People Living with HIV Caucus
Visual AIDS
The Well Project
Women with a Vision

Sign your organization onto this statement.


"Stop Locking Up Black Men for HIV," by Keith Boykin

"On Uplifting Voices, Social Justice and Listening to HIV Criminalization Accusers," by Mathew Rodriguez

"'Tiger Mandingo' is guilty because Missouri law ignores three decades of science," by Jorge Rivas

Guiding Principles for Eliminating Disease-Specific Criminal Laws, Positive Justice Project

HIV Criminalization: What You Need to Know, Sero Project

Hunter Reynolds, "Felix," (1996-2007)

Bid on amazing small works by Doug Ashford, Michael Bailey-Gates, Nayland Blake, Ross Bleckner, Chris Bogia, Moyra Davey, Marc Dennis, Hilary Harkness, Lyle Ashton Harris, Geoffrey Hendricks, Nir Hod, Stephen Lack, Lite Brite Neon (in collaboration with Erika DeVries, EJ Hauser, Deborah Kass, and Lovett/Codagnone), Luna Luis Ortiz, Hunter Reynolds, Eric Rhein, Carlos Rolon/Dzine, Donna Sharrett and Betty Tompkins.

Bid online at Paddle8 until Monday, May 18, at noon Eastern. Bids will transfer to the live event that evening--final bids accepted at VAVA VOOM.

Curated by Stephanie Roach, director, the FLAG Art Foundation.

Eric Rhein, "Lovers (Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Ross Laycock)" (2015), from Leaves, an AIDS Memorial, conceived in 1996. Wire and paper. Available for purchase on Paddle8.

The 10th annual Visual AIDS Vanguard Awards (VAVA VOOM) recognize the contributions of individuals who, through their work, talent and dedication, strengthen our communities and reinforce the mission of Visual AIDS. In celebration of the 10th anniversary of the benefit, Visual AIDS intern Kyle Croft spoke with Pavel Zoubok, former vice president of the board of directors at Visual AIDS, about the founding of the first VAVA and his support of HIV-positive artists. Pavel is also the owner of Pavel Zoubok Gallery, which exhibits a range of work in the fields of collage, assemblage, and mixed media installation.

I thought you could start by telling us a little bit about how you got involved with Visual AIDS.
I must have gotten involved with Visual AIDS in 2005, as this is the 10th anniversary of the spring benefit. I went to the tail end of Postcards From the Edge with Sur Rodney Sur, who is a longtime friend and colleague. I started asking him about the organization--its mission and activities were already known to me, but one of the things I asked him was how many gallery owners were involved with the organization and supporting it. At the time the number was about three...and this is out of an enormous community of gallery people. What I realized right away was, here's this established, important organization doing important work, and the artists--who are by and large the most economically vulnerable--are doing all the work, and supporting it financially, when really all of us have a stake in not only preserving the legacies of the incredible people that we lost, but also in supporting people who are living with HIV and making art.

Frankly, it just shocked me that the number of gallery owners involved was so small. So before I officially joined the board I decided to organize a fundraiser in my gallery, which at the time was a much smaller space on West 23rd Street, and we started it in this modest way. I borrowed the space next door so that we'd have a little extra room and I put together a group of co-chairs, which included Jamie Drake, longtime chairman of the Alpha Workshops and a renowned interior designer; John Lyons, a very well-known movie producer; and Liz O'Brien, who's a marvelous antiques dealer with an impeccable eye. I was thinking that here are three people from related but different worlds, and that we could probably put together a nice evening and raise some money. Christopher Tanner and his merry band of fabulously talented people: Armen Ra on the theramin, countertenor Benjamin Marcantoni and pianist Lance Cruce. We had about 100 or so people and raised about $15,000 after expenses.

The event did what it was setting out to do, which was introduce more of the dealers to the conversation around Visual AIDS. The second one we did was out at the Frying Pan on the river. We had Rosie Perez as a presenter and honored Barton Lidice Benes, and John Kelly performed. And that became the beginning of this spring benefit. As I got onto the board, the benefit evolved into an annual event and we did the bowling version of it for a few years.

Over the years it's changed, it's evolved. The composition of the board started to change as well. It marked the beginning of our expanding the community of support. It's kind of extraordinary now that this little benefit has evolved into what it is today, 10 years on!

Could you tell us a bit more about how VAVA has evolved?
Besides just being bigger and better, I think that the change in the benefit mirrored the change in the organization itself. When I was on the board there was a whole process of strategic planning and redefining of the mission and identity of Visual AIDS. Part of it had to do with the change in the AIDS landscape--who are we targeting and why, and which aspects of our activities are really going to be our focus? It's a different world now, and we're always battling this perception that somehow AIDS is no longer an issue. In the realm of non-profits raising money for programs, that means that you're competing with all these other equally worthy causes and organizations.

The biggest change with VAVA is the diversity of who gets involved. That's the part that makes me particularly happy, that more and more dealers got involved, more and more collectors got involved, and some of the artists who have been fortunate enough to achieve great success recognized the importance of getting involved. Visual AIDS is a really unique organization. It's the only organization in the AIDS community that is really specific to our world, the contemporary art world. And so to my mind, because this pandemic played such a vital role in our story, it's our responsibility to get behind it and to make sure that the facts and, more importantly, the images of that story are preserved, are told, are shared, and that the lessons are passed on.

The art world is primarily about the artists, but that means all the rest of us who are involved--curators, collectors, art dealers, so on--we have a responsibility to be a part of this conversation and to be a part of the support structure more than anything. Certainly as a gay man living in New York City for 25 years, I know that my story is possible because of lots of other people's stories that either continue or were cut short. These friends and colleagues taught me, they kept me safe, they inspired me, they opened all kinds of doors and windows, and I'm definitely a believer in paying that forward.

Can you talk a little about how you've worked to preserve and share those stories as a gallerist? I know you had a close relationship with Barton Benes, who was a Visual AIDS board member and artist member.
I started my business in 1997 and in a way, the 19 years that I've been doing this have coincided with the explosion of the internet. There are people that were an important part of my formation as a New Yorker, as an art person, who died in the '90s. And when you Google some of them, they don't show up at all. Some of them weren't art world people per se, but they were friends of mine who were always really supportive of my work in the art world, and of my interest in art when I was younger. It strikes me as such a funny thing that to people on the outside it's like they were never here because they don't show up on some stupid search engine.

Artists have this really unique circumstance when it comes to this question because they have the work, and the work continues to exist and to sort of embody something about who they were in the world. So I've always been a big believer in documenting, publications, all of that.

I think I probably met Barton (Benes) in the mid-'90s when I lived across from Westbeth [Artists Community]. I met him through an artist, Joan Hall, who I showed and was his next-door neighbor. He was such an incredible person, and somebody who I'd always wanted to work with. He was with another gallery that I admire and like personally very much, so I would always include him in group shows whenever I could. And when he came to me and said he wanted to show with me, it was a no-brainer. I was delighted.

Are you still showing his work?
Absolutely. We're have two related exhibitions opening in September, Benes and Eric Rhein, who is also a long time VA archive member. The exhibitions have more to do with other themes in their work, but in our Cabinet, which is the small gallery, we're going to do a conversation focusing on the AIDS-related works by those two artists. I think it's an important conversation to have, bringing the two of them together, but the whole point of the two shows individually and collectively is to talk about their work outside of that context as well. I'm very excited about that, because both of them were voracious collectors of objects and organizers of visual information; each making his own Wunderkammer.

Kyle Croft is a graduate of the University of Washington and is interning at Visual AIDS. He has also worked with MIX NYC and Reteaching Gender & Sexuality in Seattle.

For more on Eric Rhein, see the June 2015 POZ feature "The Course of His Life."

Still from Julie Tolentino and Abigail Severance's "evidence"

To honor the 25th year of Day With(out) Art on December 1, 2014, Visual AIDS commissioned seven artists/collectives--Rhys Ernst, Glen Fogel, Lyle Ashton Harris, Hi Tiger, Tom Kalin, My Barbarian, and Julie Tolentino and Abigail Severance--to create provocative new short videos that reflect and respond to the ongoing AIDS pandemic for a program titled ALTERNATE ENDINGS.

Here, Vivian Crockett considers Julie Tolentino and Abigail Severance's contribution to the video program, "evidence."

Julie Tolentino/Abigail Severance, "evidence," 2014 from Visual AIDS on Vimeo.

Abigail Severance and Julie Tolentino's four-minute film, "evidence," induces a strong sense of longing, an unfulfilled desire: a taunting, a haunting, a wanting. It proffers indeterminacy, repeatability, infinite continuity. "evidence" begins with murmurs that coalesce into a list of recognized and unrecognized names, all evocative of Tolentino's past and present connections, losses, and influential encounters mapped alongside and within Tolentino's body. Tolentino describes this list as simultaneously invocative and provocative. It is an invitation to remember, a refusal to forget. Yet these aural remembrances come to us muffled, scrambled, affected and affective in their meeting with Tolentino's body. They reflect shifts, accruals. There is longevity in trauma and loss in ways that are often immeasurable and illegible. Our attempts to account for and record our pasts and their enduring effects are always already restrictive and insufficient. Details get left out, blur in our minds and in the spaces where we go searching for evidence. Severance and Tolentino's video is both an acknowledgment of and an antidote to this limit. It asserts new possibilities for remembrance amidst the impossibility of full recollection.

We hear the first echoes of this list before Tolentino comes into view. Her naked body first appears as a blurry haze. The names reverberate and Tolentino comes into focus as Stosh Fila (Pigpen) suctions Chinese medicine cups along Tolentino's buttocks, the names now seeming to be inscribed directly onto her body. The listing of names stops as the last of the cups are placed, the inscription left to expand as the cups shape skin.

The process of this mapping is one of extreme vulnerability and trust, between Tolentino and Fila, and between Tolentino and Severance. It is an embodied and intrepid openness characteristic of Tolentino's ongoing performance practice, which has included a long-term collaborative history with Fila. With Tolentino's body as medium and receptacle for memory, the archive is no longer understood as a fixed entity but is instead contingent on transmission and exchange. While watching "evidence," I'm reminded of Tolentino's The Sky Remains the Same, which I first encountered during her residency at the New Museum in November 2013. In this ongoing project (begun in 2008), Tolentino 'absorbs' and inevitably transforms the scores of other performers through dialogic co-performances. The transmission I witnessed in 2013 was that of John Lovett and Alessandro Codagnone's "WEIGHTED," which took place over the course of four hours, as Lovett and Codagnone, Tolentino and Fila, passed the score along in successive pairs. This performance was a prolonged exchange, repeating yet never repetitive. Archiving is understood as relational, experiential, embodied, ongoing, indeterminate, open to various interpretations, absences and recessions.

Codagnone and Lovett are among the names that echo across Tolentino's body (as are those of Ron Athey, Ray Navarro, Robert Garcia, Lia Gangitano, Deb Levine, to name a few). The list-homage includes the names of many of Tolentino's collaborators and companions in art, fellow activist-artists (including some who have passed) whose work is deeply informed and shaped by critical moments throughout the ongoing AIDS crisis. There is the summoning of Diamanda Galas, whose tattooing of "We are all HIV+" by Tolentino's then-girlfriend was for Tolentino "the beginning of me understanding that I did have a voice in this area."[1] Of her early performance work created during this time, Tolentino has also said, "I felt that enduring was our job." Lived experiences are understood as already a form of endurance, so that durational performance and speaking with the body more broadly become means of mirroring and moving through trauma's reverberations. This impulse continues to be reflected in Tolentino's performance work, and in this video-dialogue between Severance and Tolentino.

Severance and Tolentino's "evidence" is also very much about the act of looking. The action we witness in "evidence" is an iteration of a segment from Tolentino's Cry of Love. In its live enactment, Cry of Love: Cups, Tolentino snakes along a traverse of mirrors so that all are implicated in the act of looking. The viewer must see themself seeing Tolentino. Tolentino too, is made even more aware of being-looked-at, of seeing herself being seen, like a mise en abyme of connection, exposure, disclosure.

"evidence" elicits a similar implicated viewing experience. Its filming is dependent on various mediations and negotiations between Severance, Tolentino and Fila. With cupping gun in hand, Fila makes eye contact with Severance's camera, and with a subtle nod, seems to be asking for confirmation--or is it consent?--to begin. As Tolentino approaches the static camera, her movements are slow, patient and deliberate. At the same time that she is limited by the delineated confines of the camera, she asserts her movements within the full range of this frame's possibilities. Like the camera, the cups on Tolentino's body restrict movement and dictate parameters. They imply a similar negotiation of expression amidst restraint. Also important is the knowledge that this action continues as Tolentino exits the frame, that it is ultimately uncontainable. Tolentino reaching the edge of the camera signals the end of the film, but not the end of this process.

For me, "evidence" is also about the politics and intimacies of care, and reflects the ways in which healing practices have been woven into Tolentino's artistic-activist praxis. It recalls the commitment to care at the height of the AIDS epidemic as an integrated, vital part of everyday life. It reflects a practice of care existing in conjunction with artistic practice, cultural production and sexual cultures, with these understood as part of HIV support work and community resistance and persistence. Cupping is also about memories, both bodily and psychic. It clears obstructions, motivates flow. It is a process that literally leaves evidence on the body. It indexes at the site of contact between two (or more) people engaged in care and connection. It marks much like kink play marks, as do many of the durational processes undertaken in Tolentino's work. Along with the ritual of cupping, Fila and Tolentino's corresponding medicine patches also conjoin them in healing. These layered forms of interconnection subtly yet powerfully assert the necessities of intimacy, touch and emotional presencing as integral to healing and caretaking. Care is asserted as a sensual act (although not always or exclusively so). "evidence" blurs distinctions between non-sexual and sexual intimacies.

My relationship to "evidence" is about my own desire as well. It is about my longing for queer of color intergenerational connection, about my always-critical nostalgia. As Tavia Nyong'o describes in his reflection on My Barbarian, Muñoz, and Zamora, it is the feeling of having been late to the party. It reflects my own desires and commitments to continue to build amidst losses and shifts that I can never claim to fully comprehend. And my reluctance is present too, to put into words what is so much more than words can evoke or contain. There are other subtle traces that remind of possibility. There is a circular indentation where a cup once was, a connection gone before the others but that has nonetheless left its mark. Tolentino's feet, dirtied from the outset, have accrued more dirt. In its acknowledgement of the past, Severance and Tolentino's video asserts continuing presences. In the face of pain and loss, it provides evidence of remembrance, of survival.


1] This and additional reflections by Julie Tolentino come out of a panel held at the New Museum on September 19, 2013, titled "ACT NOW: Perspectives on Contemporary Performance and HIV/AIDS." It was held in conjunction with "NOT OVER: 25 Years of Visual AIDS" and the aforementioned New Museum performance project, "Performance Archiving Performance."

Vivian Crockett is a doctoral student in art history at Columbia University, committed to a radically political analysis of modern and contemporary art. Her current work focuses most explicitly on African diasporas, (Afro)Latinx diasporas, and Latin America at the varied intersections of race, gender, and queer theory. She is one of the curators of Dirty Looks: On Location 2015.



Blog Roll

Subscribe to Blog

Recent Comments

  • Shawn Decker: March, 1996, Steve Schalchlin starts Living in the Bonus Round, read more
  • Reggie Dunbar II: This article stimulates the thought process into action for Manu read more

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Visual AIDS on the Web

Visual AIDS on Twitter


The opinions expressed by the bloggers and by people providing comments are theirs alone. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Smart + Strong and/or its employees.

Smart + Strong is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information contained in the blogs or within any comments posted to the blogs.

© 2015 Smart + Strong. All Rights Reserved. Terms of use and Your privacy