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Tom Kalin
Tom Kalin, Ashes, 2014

ALTERNATE ENDINGS is a video program for the 25th anniversary of Day With(out) Art showcasing provocative new works that reflect and respond to the ongoing AIDS pandemic.

On December 1, 1989, Visual AIDS organized the first Day With(out) Art--a national day of action and mourning in response to the AIDS crisis. To honor the 25th year of Day With(out) Art, Visual AIDS has commissioned seven artists/collectives--Rhys Ernst, Glen Fogel, Lyle Ashton Harris, Derek Jackson, Tom Kalin, My Barbarian, and Julie Tolentino--to create new short videos to be screened internationally on/around December 1, 2014. Visual AIDS is partnering with approximately fifty sponsoring organizations and hosting venues to distribute ALTERNATE ENDINGS internationally.

ALTERNATE ENDINGS highlights the diverse voices of seven artists that use video to bring together charged moments and memories from their personal perspective amidst the public history of HIV/AIDS. The short videos in ALTERNATE ENDINGS use a mix of found footage, live performance, still photos, and robotic cameras to weave together connections between personal stories and public memories. They share tales of love and breakups, sing songs of defiance, celebrate action, and remember those whom we have lost. Through these diverse stories we are invited to reflect upon our complex past as we envision divergent narratives and possibilities for the future, because AIDS IS NOT OVER.

To find out when ALTERNATE ENDINGS is coming to your city, click here.

We Didn't Talk About This: The Ephemerality of Utterance

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On the occasion of the exhibition, Ephemera As Evidence, curated by Joshua Lubin-Levy and Ricardo Montez for Visual AIDS, we make available through download (to the side)  a poem by award winning poet Thomas Devaney. The work, "We Didn't Talk About This" is based on a conversation between artist member Charles Long, who is in Ephemera As Evidence, and Ted Kerr, the Visual AIDS program manager. Below, Kerr provides context to the poem, which you can download from this page. The poem and essay are also available in zine form, designed by Bridget de Gersigny. 

The world was most profoundly known through the accretion of language, the nuances of interpretation, anecdotal accumulation and overlay.
Michele Wallace, "Invisibility Blues: From Pop to Theory"

Invitational Rhetoric is an invitation to understanding as a means to create a relationship rooted in equality, immanent value, and self-determination.Invitational rhetoric constitutes an invitation to the audience to enter, the rhetor's world and to see it as the rhetor does. In presenting a particular perspective, the invitational rhetor does not judge or denigrate others' perspective, even if they differ dramatically from the rhetor's own. Ideally, audience members accept the invitation offered by the rhetor by listening to and trying to understand the rhetor's perspective and then presenting their own.When this happens rhetor and audience alike contribute to the thinking about an issue so that everyone involved gains a greater understanding of the issue in its subtlety, richness, and complexity.
Sonja K. Foss, Cindy L. Griffin, "Beyond Persuasion: A Proposal for an Invitational Rhetoric"

Ephemera...a kind of evidence of what has transpired but certainly not the thing itself.
José Esteban Muñoz, "Ephemera as Evidence" 

The Ephemerality of Utterance
Ted Kerr

In the spring of 2012 Charles Long was returning to Brooklyn. After spending ten years doing frontline grassroots social justice activism focused on poverty, health, race, gender, sexuality and HIV/AIDS around the US he wanted to refocus on his art practice.

Hearing him talk about the move it became clear that what he was going through was less of a transition (my initial thought around what was happening) - and more of a realignment. For over a decade he channelled his curiosity, passion, and energy into direct action, civil disobedience, fundraising, and training others. Now he wanted to knit, draw, conceptualize, and perform. Same impetuses, similar goals, different practices. He didn't know how it was all going to take shape, but he knew he had to keep moving and growing--to communicate in different ways. His body and soul were still on the line for what he believed.

Around the time of his return I was co-curating a salon called, "I am not alone in this way." The event was created as an invitation for audiences to consider how our most intimate ways of being--striving and surviving, often in hostile worlds--can be viewed as responsible for positive social change. The salon was part of the exhibition "Don't Worry What Happens Happens Mostly Without You" curated by Kris Nuzzi at Radiator Gallery in Queens, NY. That show explored the personal identities of the invited artists (Jeanie Choi, Camilo Godoy, James Richards, Aldrin Valdez, Sam Vernon and myself) as we--in Kris's words--navigated:

through a world shaped by experiences of marginalization, silencing and difference. Whether speaking from their own life, recreating a historical memory or representing an underrepresented community...communicating issues of immigration, race, queerness and desire.

Seeing connections between the exhibition and what Charles was going through, it was important to me to have his voice and person included in the salon. Specifically, I wanted us to do an interview together in front of an audience about what was going on in his life, the ways in which art, activism, and his life were coming together to create a path he was following. It was my desire that our conversation not only be about his realignment, but to have it be a part of it as well.

Charles and I met two years earlier in Mexico City at the International AIDS Conference. He was a lead organizer with CHAMP (Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project), an activist group I was blogging for. Charles, and his friends and peers like Kenyon Farrow, Coco Jervis, Emily Metzner, Cameron Lefevre, Josh Thomas, Walt Senterfitt and Maxwell Simon opened my eyes wider around what AIDS activism needs to be. They worked with an urgency around race, class, gender and sexuality that articulated that the AIDS crisis not over, and social justice was the effective way to reduce the harm of HIV. Without hesitation they could string sentences together about prison and HIV rates, water scarcity and infection rates, gender determination and harm reduction. And they did it while being cynical, informed, funny, honest, sometimes drunk, and always generous. If someone had a question, explanations came. If someone disagreed, a conversation ensued. If someone thought someone was talking shit, it was stated. And everyone walked away smarter, witnessed, and committed.

It was this informal way of learning and sharing ideas that I wanted to replicate with Charles for the salon. What would others hear when we spoke? What would others glean from the questions I asked, and the answers Charles would share?

In the week leading up to the salon, I went to visit Charles to talk about what we were calling our "live interview". I wanted a sense from him what was off limits, if anything, to ask. "I trust you. I wouldn't do this otherwise," he said. And with that we chatted in his house, arranging to see each other next at the gallery on the day of the salon. We agreed not rehearse or have pre-determined questions and answers. Instead, we would rely on--and feed off --each other.

The salon was on an extremely warm spring Sunday afternoon. It featured readings from Ella Boureau, Riley MacLeod, presentations by Aldrin Valdez, Ariel "Speedwagon" Federow, Camilo Godoy, and a performance of Portuguese Fados from Ryan Green. We set up the stage at the back of the gallery, an all white narrow space, sunlight flooding in from the skylight above. The gallery's cooling system was broken so the packed audience sat where they could, some leaning against walls or each other. Flush faces, and sweat pools gathering on collarbones greeted Charles and I as we stood in front to talk. We decided to keep it simple: we had 10 minutes; we'd stand beside each other in front of a table and take turns thinking in the moment, thinking together, and thinking our present selves against all else. No mics, we projected our voices, and dove in.

I was happy to see the poet Thomas Devaney in the front row. I knew him through working at Visual AIDS with Amy Sadao, his partner. Seeing Tom inspired me to ask at the last minute if he would take notes. A funny thing can happen when you ask a poet to take notes--they may create something beautiful. In my mind, I was hoping for some sort of transcription of what we said. Instead, Tom did something else, something directly in the spirit of the conversation at hand: he captured something of the scene, the exchange. Instead of falling into the trap of trying to quote us, he wrote into what he was hearing, and also some of the spaces in-between that too. At the end of the performance Tom gave me his notes. Two years later I found them and typed them up and sent them to him and he made some slight edits and adjustments and sent it back to us. Years later, now that the "live interview" is but a memory, what remains is the lacuna of our collective poetry.

Or as Tom says, "the poem is the artifact."

'With one eye here and another elsewhere.'

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Now available, the catalog for the upcoming exhibition, "Concreto: Pintado En Periodico", a solo show José Luis Cortés' work at Museo Casa Escute. The publication includes color reproductions of work in the exhibition, information about the artist, and writing about Cortes' work. With permission, Visual AIDS provides a sneak peak of the catalog below by excerpting an essay by writer, scholar and performer Larry La Fountain-Stokes. Click here to view the catalog online for free. 

Concrete painted on newspaper: about José Luis Cortés
By: Larry La Fountain-Stokes

Life. Presence. Memory.

Everything vanishes.

But before the dust, or perhaps after it, there is life.

Or perhaps the straight lines of plans, scale models, our houses, and news print columns, entangled with bars and power lines, in an imaginary map of the city that poses its eye and records, rescuing spatial and architectural memories.

Our daily bread.

The cup of coffee.

The cigarette and the plants.

The little house.

The duplicity: here and there. In English and Spanish.

The dream of permanence, of modernity. The crow of a rooster. Abandonment. The magic trick that changed it all, that turned countryside into city and jíbaros (peasants) into modern citizens. The little house that could withstand the hurricane. Not gone with the wind.

I grew up in a wood house in Miramar, delivering newspapers that no longer exist, like El Reportero, or that have changed several times, like the San Juan Star. My father came to Puerto Rico from the United States to build private housing developments and then met my mother. I grew up accompanying my father to what would become Plaza Carolina. I left Puerto Rico and met José Luis Cortés in a party in New York City, half naked, painting his face and body with black and white paint while he looked at himself in a tiny mirror and the music deafened us.

José Luis Cortés also grew up between places: Philadelphia, Carolina, San Juan. He moved to New York and fell in love with a newspaper (the New York Times), with our daily paper, buildings, men, and night. But then he came back, with his newspapers, brushes, paints, mental maps and memories.

The uncertainty of life. Its fragility. Like yesterday's newspaper (el periódico de ayer).

What happens if we take a piece of newspaper and paint a landscape on it in black and white? Why deny the permanence of canvas and the multiplicity of color? And why monumentalize the architecture of modern simplicity and economy, of square houses made out of hot materials, of perhaps anonymous housing projects?

José Luis Cortés's work appears as a paradox that surprises and requires reflection. In a certain sense, it is radically honest, elaborated with the most primary and accessible materials: the paper that documents it all, that used to accompany us daily and that continues to accompany us in spite of the profound technological transformations. The colors of most basic printing and the first televisions, mixed with the new rainbow of more colorful publications that bleeds into or jumps out in the images. The concrete houses and buildings that, after sixty years of commonwealth modernity, impose themselves, coexist and overtake both the little wood houses and the ancient stately mansions as well as colonial architecture. The visual superimposition of what is behind or can be seen and what comes on top. The newspaper as a palimpsest that holds multiple versions and that is enriched with paint at the same time as it shares its ruin and decomposition. The art of the mundane, of that which accompanies us. The portrait of what we see (or saw when we were small), the shocking image of realism, for example when a factory or sugar mill chimney appears in a landscape by Francisco Oller.

When he lived in New York City, José Luis Cortés monumentalized porn theaters and burlesque houses that were disappearing from Times Square. Now, in his portraits of houses and buildings painted on newspapers in black and white and in his photos of the city, the artist memorializes his childhood town, Carolina, but more than that, he transforms our vision about a moment in the history of Puerto Rico. He rejects dominant abstraction and embraces concrete realism. Of lime, sand and cement. Of wood pulp, paper. Of gouache and acrylic. Of painted houses and painted bodies, graffiti that transforms abandoned buildings, brush strokes that turn his body into a work of art. An ephemeral art that vanishes, but which we take advantage of and see very well today, here. Of art that will be something else tomorrow. With one eye here and another elsewhere.

Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes (also known as Larry La Fountain) is a scholar, writer, and performer. He was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1968 and now teaches at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes (también conocido como Larry La Fountain) es un escritor, académico y performancero. Nació en San Juan de Puerto Rico en 1968 y ahora enseña en la Universidad de Michigan, Ann Arbor.


Big turn out for the opening of Ephemera As Evidence, curated by Ricardo Montez and Joshua Lubin-Levy, at La MaMa Galleria on Thursday June 5th that included a performance by Nao Bustamante with Jason Martin. 

Visit our blog for more photos and upcoming programming. 

Ephemera As Evidence
, curated by Joshua Lubin-Levy & Ricardo Montez for Visual AIDS, featuring D-L Alvarez, Nao Bustamante, Vincent Chevalier, Clit Club Archive, Rosson Crow, Luke Dowd, Chloe Dzubilo, Benjamin Fredrickson, Tony Just, Kiki & Herb (Justin Vivian Bond & Kenny Mellman), Kia Labeija, Nancer LeMoins, Charles Long, Kevin McCarty, Eric Rhein, Michael Slocum, Jack Smith, Hugh Steers, Carmelita Tropicana, Conrad Ventur, Jack Waters & Peter Cramer, James Wentzy and Jessica Whitbread & Anthea Black.

Taking its title from a 1996 essay written by José Esteban Muñoz (1967-2013), Ephemera as Evidence brings together visual art, performance, and pedagogical projects that evidence past lives and future possibilities in the work of artists confronting HIV/AIDS. Thinking through the ephemeral as necessary to the political life of HIV, the exhibition acknowledges a larger history of silence and erasure while at the same time making salient strategies for survival and worldmaking potentials in the face of a violently phobic public sphere. Yet, to consider ephemera in the social and cultural life of HIV/AIDS today is to consider both the burden and blessing of continued life. Within our contemporary moment the question is not merely one of survival but of how survival reverberates beyond the immediacy of a crisis. The works in this show ask us to consider how changing demographics of those affected by HIV/AIDS and the resulting reorientations to crisis force new kinds of temporalities in an engagement with both the past and the future.

Ephemera As Evidence is organized according to three distinct yet interrelated modes of worldmaking--performance, intimacy, and pedagogy. The ephemeral projects collected and staged throughout the run of the show index loss and longing central to queer worlds and social formations. They help to challenge notions of inauthenticity often associated with the ephemeral, not merely using traces to reconstruct a past but also to imagine pasts or futures both longed for and lost, finding new ways to tell untold stories. We present opportunities for visitors to visually and somatically engage with the art works and have constructed an explicitly performative experience in which ephemeral elements reinforce the materiality of the exhibition space as an ever-shifting environment, continually reconstituted in relation to each body that passes through it. Showcasing moments of live performance, evidence of its potential and absence, and student encounters in the archive, the exhibit explores powerful modes of learning that arise in the apprehension of slippery and contingent realities.

Visual AIDS Vanguard Awards 2014!

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On Monday May 12th at the Prince George Ballroom, Visual AIDS honored Bureau (Marlene McCarty & Donald Moffett), Dr. Brian Saltzman, and Kia LaBeija at the 9th annual Visual AIDS Vanguard Awards.

Starting with a stunning vogue performance from the House of Labeija, the evening was an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the contributions of individuals who reinforce the mission of Visual AIDS by strengthening the cultural history of art activism and AIDS advocacy. Host Mike Albo brought humor and gravitas to a night that included powerful performances from John Kelly and Robbi Hager, and moving speeches from each of the honorees  (available online next month for everyone to see).

Above is a selection of images from Photomatonchic, a mobile photobooth installation. See all the images at:

'Kia brings the punch people have been waiting for.'

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The 9th annual Visual AIDS Vanguard Awards recognize the contributions of individuals who, through their work, talent and dedication, strengthen our communities and reinforce the mission of Visual AIDS. This year Visual AIDS is proud to honor Kia Michelle Benbow (Kia Labeija), a multi-disciplinary artist working in photography, performance and installation. A native New Yorker, she is an alumni of the Juilliard School and the Ailey School, where she trained in music and dance. Benbow is a member of the iconic House of LaBeija, a platform she uses to continue her love of the intersections of performance, nightlife and community. As an activist her work focuses on raising awareness of issues surrounding HIV/AIDS--specifically in relation to youth--by educating and creating space for new conversations through art. Currently, she is finishing her degree at The New School, NYC. Benbow is this year's recipient of the Bill Olander VAVA presented to an individual in the creative arts living with HIV, and named in honor of the late New Museum curator and co-founder of Visual AIDS. Below, activist and QUEEROCRACY co-founder Cassidy Gardner shares how she met Kia,and how she is inspired by her to innovate, activate and motivate. 

Visual AIDS: How did you meet Kia?
Cassidy Gardner: I met Kia while we were both studying at the New School. She was living with two of my best friends at the time and hung out with a lot of the same kids. I would visit them in their cramped dorm and I will always remember how you could barely see the floors since they were covered with sequins, feather boas, leather, 9 inch heels. It all pretty much led to Kia's bed.

Visual AIDS: What is one thing people should know about Kia?
CG: If I were to only name one thing about Kia I would honestly not be painting the right picture. She is a million colors, 2 million costume changes and 3 billion brilliant ideas reverberating constantly. Kia is everything darling.

Visual AIDS: As part of a new generation of AIDS activists yourself, what do you learn from Kia? How does she inspire you?
CG: I have learned from Kia that the energy you put into AIDS activism, art or awareness is what counts. She has taught me that in order to reach more people, you yourself have to constantly be creating even if it's coming from a place that just feeds you. No one idea or concept will work. There's so much room for innovation in AIDS activism. Kia brings the punch people have been waiting for. I know I've been waiting for it. 

To learn more about VAVA, including who else is being honored, how to purchase a ticket or make a donation, visit the Visual AIDS Vanguard Award webpage.

Cassidy Gardner is a Co-Director at QUEEROCRACY. In 2010 she wrote up the call for QUEEROCRACY in an attempt to bring more queer voices to the domestic AIDS movement. Since then, QUEEROCRACY has grown to cover a variety of issues that fall within the queer social and economic justice movement. Cassidy continues to be a major driving force behind QUEEROCRACY's direct action planning and community outreach.



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