Tonight, the MCA will be one of four museums premiering the seven short films commissioned by Visual AIDS for a Day With(out) Art this week. The film program highlights a sobering statistic: in 2016, African-Americans represented 44% of all new HIV cases diagnosed in the United States. Feeling a sense of urgency to share the stories of those housed within this statistic, the commissioned projects include intimate meditations of young HIV positive protagonists, a consideration of community-based HIV/AIDS activism in the South, explorations of the legacies and contemporary resonances within AIDS archives, a poetic journey through New York exploring historical traces of queer and trans life, and more. Show your support by attending tonight's program or find other venues that are participating.
The film lineup and past works by tonight's featured artists are posted below. View the entire program on Visual AIDS's Vimeo page.
As the AIDS epidemic in New York escalated during the eighties, a young, out, black producer was fighting to get information about the crisis on screen. Thomas Allen Harris, raised by activists in the Bronx and East Africa, produced a series of public television programs focused on HIV/AIDS, bringing folks who were previously ignored by mainstream media to the core of public discussion. Despite the program’s success in breaking open the narrative of the crisis, the pushback Harris received from the channel’s executives and constraints of corporate media ultimately led the artist to suspend work in public television. Twenty-eight years later, Harris draws from these resurfaced tapes and an essay he’d written at the time: “About Face: The Evolution of a Black Producer."
STONES & WATER WEIGHT responds to the need for new interpretations of HIV+ people. Mykki Blanco is portrayed in tasks that test the limits of the body and physical stress and the boundaries of normative health. STONES & WATER WEIGHT is an exercise in how societies perceive the fragilities of those who survive with the virus. In this era of globalized fitness culture through the use of social media, "looking healthy" matters much more than actually being healthy. Using endurance as the motivation for the performance, the video creates a new perception of HIV+ people as strong and resilient. Research references include the Atlas myth, the god of endurance that holds the earth and the skies over his shoulders, as well as the never ending climb of the Sisyphus myth.
The Labyrinth 1.0 is a poetic film essay that cites writer and poet Brad Johnson's poem "The Labyrinth," published in 1995 in the anthology Milking Black Bull. Sourcing 16 mm surveillance footage,16 mm 1970s tearoom porn, and structuralist film footage shot in North Philadelphia, the work visually explores the concept of the labyrinth space as a site for cruising and gestural based desire.
Over the duration of the ongoing AIDS epidemic, an estimated 17 million children have lost one or both parents to an AIDS-related illness. Many of these children living with the virus themselves have ended up displaced or forced out of their homes. In Goodnight, Kia, Kia LaBeija processes a reoccurring dream of the home she shared with her mother Kwan Bennett. Bennett died of an AIDS-related illness in October 2004, resulting in an unanticipated move that reshaped the course of her teenage daughter's life.
Set in an urban fairytale, DeShawn (an unlikely anti-hero) is smack dabbing in the middle of a peculiar crossroads. He is haunted by the ghosts of 100 men (ex-"boyfriends" for one and also the ghosts of everyone they dated, too). His days are filled with spiraling epiphanies and lucid reckless Bohemianism fueled by systemic poverty and HIV ennui. In this particular sketch he is relating his philosophy of the world to an unknown caller on his land line telephone whilst magically shrink fitting his new Levi's jeans that he recently shoplifted from Macy's . . .
Thirty years after Ellen Spiro made DiAna’s Hair Ego: AIDS Info Up Front, the AIDS crisis is still raging in the deep South where the film was shot. Director Cheryl Dunye, after reading about the ongoing AIDS crisis in the South, visits DiAna DiAna and Dr. Bambi Gaddist in the hair salon in Columbia, South Carolina, where they first began their innovative safe sex education work. DiAna’s Hair Ego REMIX is the beginning of a new story and new hope in the face of an ongoing tragedy.
Atlantic is a Sea of Bones is a short film drawing from the Lucille Clifton poem of the same name that follows Egyptt LaBejia, an NYC-based performer through the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s in NYC. The haunting and otherworldly film set to an original score features small every day acts of refusal, resistance, and existence—such as performance and self expression—that have a tremendous impact on the world. The film reveals how the historical and systemic violence, like the killing and policing of black queer and trans life, continue to haunt our contemporary landscapes and is inextricably linked to the ongoing AIDS epidemic and the black queer/trans spaces shaped so intimately by HIV/AIDS, including the spaces where we come together and make life together: public spaces and nightlife spaces.