Back to THE HISTORY OF THE FUTUREFall 1999/ Winter 2000

Wednesday, December 1, 1999, Art in the Age of AIDS
(coincides with "A Day Without Art," Dec. 1st, a day to remember AIDS' toll on the arts community):

Frank Green, "The Scarlet Letters"; Ron Athey, "Four Scenes From a Harsh Life."

S.K. Duff did a performance at Franklin Furnace in 1985 entitled "Pink Triangle Not Forgotten" which reminded us that Hitler not only had it out for the Jews and the Gypsies, but for homosexuals, too, who were required to wear the visual symbol of the pink triangle. It was the first time I had seen homosexuality portrayed from a political perspective in a performance art work. As the AIDS crisis mounted in severity and Act Up members successfully performed politically potent gestures (such as a guy in a nice suit handcuffing himself to a radiator until Burroughs-Wellcome was forced to lower the price of its AIDS treatment drugs), so too performance artists took AIDS as a subject during the 80s. Predictably, in the continuing cyclone of the culture wars, some of these performances were used by conservative journalists to whip up homophobia. Ron Athey's performance at the Walker Art Center, which did indeed include blood imprinted on paper and then suspended, did not drip AIDS-tainted blood on the heads of viewers, as hysterical accounts in the press suggested; rather, "Four Scenes" is a powerful chronicle of life seen from the inside of the AIDS epidemic.


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