Strategies of resistance
Contemporary art and AIDS
The borders between art, activism and biopolitics become blurred when trying to analyse, from the point of view of the museum, the ways in which society has dealt with AIDS since the 1980s. In this itinerary we review some of MACBA’s exhibitions, activities and publications that have dealt with this subject.
Along with pain, fear and death, the emergence of AIDS in the 1980s brought about an ‘epidemic of meaning’: a crisis of representation that required new alliances between art and activism to intervene in the public sphere and demand other political, medical and informative ways of addressing the disease.
In this book, the French critic Élisabeth Lebovici offers an alternative view of art history based on feminisms, queer politics and LGTBIQ activisms.
Son[i]a #279 Élisabeth Lebovici
In this podcast, Élisabeth Lebovici invites us to engage with silence. A silence that sometimes inspires and accompanies us, but more often imprisons and isolates us. Silence = Death, said an eighties ACT UP slogan. Lebovici reflects on the AIDS crisis during that decade, and on the crucial role of conceptual art and activism in shaping the new visual and affective paradigms which gave voice to communities that the capitalist, liquefied society was (and still is) striving to smother. We also talk about poetry, pornography, and all that art that museums balk at hanging on their walls.
Being both close and distant, the decade of the 1990s helps us to understand the present. Indeed, with the appearance of antiretroviral drugs, the year 1996 functions as a pivotal point in the so-called AIDS pandemic. As HIV/AIDS ceased to be a matter of life or death, this constituted a point of inflection in the spaces of struggle.
Let's talk about... AIDS with Equipo Re
Under the general name of AIDS Anarchive, the collective Equipo re has been developing a research and production work on the cultural and social dimension of the ongoing HIV/AIDS crisis in Spain and Chile, as well as on selected case studies from other Latin American contexts. This exhibition gives continuity to the project, taking into account the local context – the city of Barcelona – as a spatial axis, and the 1990s as a temporal axis.
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THERE ARE NO MORE TICKETS TO THE FUNERAL
The point of departure for Marta Echaves’s project THERE ARE NO MORE TICKETS TO THE FUNERAL was some of the artists and documents displayed in the “Beautiful Losers” section of the MACBA exhibition Hard Gelatin. Hidden Stories from the 80s, curated by Teresa Grandas. In this programme, heroin and the arrival of AIDS are presented as counter-narratives of post-dictatorship Spain, in conversation with testimonies of the period and through the activation of domestic archives, most of which are not in the public realm. These personal accounts are interwoven with Echaves’s own family history, charting a course through the silence and the sorrow of an era, and offering a tribute to those who did not survive.
The eighties are often seen as the end of the revolutionary period that had rocked the Western world since May 1968: the decline of the social emancipation movements had given way to a neoliberal democratic consensus that replaced ideological opposition with economic growth. But stereotypes aside, the eighties were not just a time of unprecedented intensity in biopolitical management of the body and sexuality, but also of the invention of new strategies for struggle and resistance.
This seminar invites a selection of theorists, activists and artists to carry out an archeology of the languages, representations and practices that emerged during the AIDS crisis in the eighties. The idea is to open up debate around contemporary management of HIV-positive bodies and of the relationship between art and activism as techniques for redefining life beyond biopolitics.
Keith Haring made his first public mural in 1982 at Houston Street, New York. Since then to the time of his death, seven years later, he produced murals in various cities such as Berlin, Paris, Pisa and Barcelona. In a figurative style characterised by wide black lines to highlight the figures, his murals contain all his iconography: children, life, sex, death, and in the last years, his fight against AIDS.
In November 1999, Juan Vicente Aliaga was invited to give a lecture at MACBA as part of the seminar "Art and action. Between performance and object, 1949-1979" under the title "Sexualities and politics in contemporary performance". Published previously in the Valencian magazine Debats, Quaderns Portàtils has recovered the text in a revised and updated version, under the title "Battlefield. The impact of sexuality and the mark of AIDS on some artistic performance practices".
Ebb&Flow. A Onda Traz, O Vento Lev does not take a conventional approach to the issue of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), but goes much further, avoiding visions that simply focus on the pathological aspects of the illness. Mascaro chooses a much more intimate approach, offering an insight into the everyday life of a young deaf man and the communication difficulties that faces day after day.
Son[i]a #152 Han Nefkens
Han Nefkens (Rotterdam, 1947) is a writer and art collector, or, as he prefers to call himself, an art activist. 1999 could be pinpointed as the year when Nefkens – after coming face to face with Bill Viola’s "The Crossing" (1996) and several works by Pipilotti Rist – understood that he wanted to be part of the contemporary art world.
Since being diagnosed HIV positive in 1987, he has fought to overcome the taboos and stigmas that socially afflict AIDS, a struggle that he stepped up with the creation of the ArtAids Foundation in 2006.
This monographic exhibition on Pepe Espaliú (Cordoba, 1955-1993), curated by Gloria Picazo, was organised around three recurring motifs in the artist’s work: the mask, the skull and the turtle. The main thesis of the exhibition was inspired by one of the works in the MACBA Collection, the bronze mask Untitled (1989).
While there are ideas about psychological and emotional developmental processes held within the sculptures I make, the things themselves are actual physical explorations into thinking, feeling, communicating and relating.