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EXHIBITION: ACT UP NEW YORK: ACTIVISM, ART, AND THE AIDS CRISIS, 1987–1993

October 15—December 23, 2009
Opening celebration: Thursday, October 15
following the 6 pm Carpenter Center lecture

Harvard exhibition of visual media in AIDS activism marks 20 year anniversary
of the formation of ACT UP New York --
Premiere of the ACT UP Oral History Project

exhibition poster pdf file

(full schedule of exhibition programming below)



The Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts and the Harvard Art Museum present ACT UP New York: Activism, Art, and the AIDS Crisis, 1987–1993, an exhibition of over 70 politically-charged posters, stickers, and other visual media that emerged during a pivotal moment of AIDS activism in New York City. The exhibition chronicles New York’s AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) through an examination of compelling graphics created by various artist collectives that populated the group. The exhibition also features the premiere of the ACT UP Oral History Project, a suite of over 100 video interviews with surviving members of ACT UP New York that offer a retrospective portal on a decisive moment in the history of the gay rights movement, 20th-century visual art, our nation’s discussion of universal healthcare, and the continuing HIV/AIDS epidemic. The exhibition opens just over 20 years after the formation of ACT UP and also marks the 40 year anniversary of the Stonewall riots, the defining event that marked the start of the gay rights movement in the United States. The exhibition ACT UP New York: Activism, Art, and the AIDS Crisis, 1987–1993 provides an opportunity to reinvigorate a debate around the realities of HIV/AIDS today, and about the links between visual art, political activism, health, and human rights.

ACT UP’s demonstrations in the late 1980s and early 1990s reflected the group’s outrage against a governing establishment that ignored HIV/AIDS as a national health crisis; that failed to secure funding for medical research, treatment, and education; that profited from inflated costs for therapeutic drugs; and that perpetuated homophobic misrepresentations of HIV and AIDS. ACT UP’s successful campaign to achieve concrete changes in legal policy and medical practice prompted changes in clinical trials for antiretroviral drugs and prodded pharmaceutical companies to reduce the cost of these drugs. The group also transformed culturally entrenched ideas about sexuality and civil rights and is largely credited with originating and promoting safe sex education. Working closely with ACT UP, artist collectives such as Gran Fury, Silence=Death Project, Gang, and Fierce Pussy formed to deploy guerilla marketing techniques to disseminate ACT UP’s messages to a mass audience, effectively exploiting the power of art to help put an end to the AIDS crisis. In subway cars, transit stations, taxi cabs, outdoor billboards, and bus panels, their wheatpasted posters and crack-and-peel stickers powerfully communicated ACT UP’s outrage and were ubiquitous throughout New York City. Pairing text and image with penetrating anger and searing wit, ACT UP’s art collectives targeted specific individuals and institutions at the local and national level, advocated for safer sex and gay and lesbian rights, and galvanized broadband support for the AIDS activism movement.

The Sert Gallery of the Carpenter Center features the Silence=Death Project’s iconic neon sculpture of “SILENCE=DEATH” from 1987, as well as a full-scale reproduction of Gran Fury’s famous “Kissing Doesn’t Kill” bus panel from 1989. Other works on view include posters of demonstration announcements, such as ACT UP’s “Declare War. Target An Administration That Kills Us With Neglect. Storm the N.I.H. May 21” (1990); posters that were utilized during demonstrations; and posters disseminated as street-side and print advertisements, such as several versions of Gran Fury’s “Read My Lips” series from 1988 that depicted images of same-sex couples kissing. Examples of the multiple crack-and-peel stickers that once carpeted New York City, such as Gran Fury’s “Men Use Condoms Or Beat It” (1988), and Little Elvis’s “The AIDS Crisis Is Not Over” (1988) are also included. Exhibited for the first time are mock-ups, design-tests, and sketches of some posters and stickers, such as the Gran Fury campaigns “Sexism Rears Its Unprotected Head” (1988) and “RIOT: Stonewall ‘69/AIDS Crisis ’89.” Projectors in the Sert Gallery display footage of past ACT UP demonstrations, a snapshot-based slide show of works by Gran Fury in situ around New York City, and various outtakes from Gran Fury’s “Kissing Doesn’t Kill” photo shoot. The Main Gallery in the lobby of the Carpenter Center features the premiere of the ACT UP Oral History Project. Fourteen video monitors fitted with headphones provide visitors with continuous access to more than 100 interviews with surviving members of ACT UP New York from 2001 to the present. Produced by Sarah Schulman and Jim Hubbard, the project provides an extraordinarily intimate and complex record of the group’s historic moment. The interviews demonstrate the tremendous commitment, talent, and understanding that empowered ACT UP’s economically and racially diverse members to organize collectively, and to revolutionize the face of the epidemic not only in New York City but across the United States. Newly remastered and digitized for this exhibition, this is the first time these videos are collectively shown in this manner. More information about the Project, including full transcripts of the interviews, can be found at: www.actuporalhistory.org.

ACT UP New York: Activism, Art, and the AIDS Crisis, 1987–1993 and the related symposium are incorporated as curricular material for a broad spectrum of undergraduate and graduate courses offered across Harvard University in the fall of 2009. In addition, the Harvard Art Museum is hosting a DIY poster-making event for Harvard undergraduates, providing access for students to artist residencies, and reaching out to on-campus student organizations, encouraging them to use the exhibition as a springboard for their own related events. Public programming organized to coincide with the exhibition includes lectures, a symposium, film screenings, gallery talks, a performance in conjunction with the American Repertory Theatre (A.R.T.), and a poetry reading in conjunction with Harvard’s Woodberry Poetry Room. More information about related student and public programming can be found at the end of this page and also at www.harvardartmuseum.org. Coinciding with the exhibition, Harvard Art Museum's Education Department is inviting local health services organizations in the community to visit the exhibition with the guidance of a museum educator in order to stimulate reflection and discussion about sexual health, political activism, and art.

ACT UP New York: Activism, Art, and the AIDS Crisis, 1987–1993 is co-curated by Helen Molesworth, Maisie K. and James R. Houghton Curator of Contemporary Art, Harvard Art Museum/Fogg Museum; and Claire Grace, Agnes Mongan Curatorial Intern, Department of Modern and Contemporary Art, Harvard Art Museum/Fogg Museum and a graduate student in Harvard University’s History of Art and Architecture program.

Artist Residency
Four central members of the artist collective Fierce Pussy will participate in a 3-day activism and print media workshop, as well as site-specific installation on the Harvard campus, with Harvard College undergraduate students. During their residency, Nancy Brooks Brody, Joy Episalla, Zoe Leonard, and Carrie Yamaoka will work with students to develop visual material addressing issues of gender and sexuality at Harvard and beyond. Fierce Pussy’s residency will also offer an unusual opportunity for students to learn strategies for radical political organizing and collective art production from some of the most experienced and influential women artist-activists at work today.

Credits
ACT UP New York: Activism, Art, and the AIDS Crisis, 1987-1993 has been made possible by support from the Office of the Provost at Harvard University and the following endowment funds at the Harvard Art Museum: the Agnes Gund Fund for Modern and Contemporary Art; the Alexander S., Robert L., and Bruce A. Beal Exhibition Fund; the M. Victor Leventritt Lecture Fund; and the Charlotte F. and Irving W. Rabb Exhibition Fund. Gifts and grants have also been provided by the Barbara Lee Family Foundation; Open Gate: a Fund for Gay and Lesbian Life at Harvard University; Fred P. Hochberg and Tom Healy; Kevin Jennings; the Harvard College Women's Center, the Office for the Arts at Harvard, and Harvard Technology Services with special support from Apple Inc.

Exhibition Programming

Carpenter Center Lecture and Opening Celebration
Collective Action: Calling All Artists
Thursday, October 15, 2009
6:00pm
Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, 24 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA, 02138
Free admission, open to the public
An evening with Robert Vazquez Pacheco, independent artist and writer, member of Gran Fury; Avram Finkelstein, independent artist and writer, member of Silence=Death Project and Gran Fury; Sarah Schulman, co-director of the ACT UP Oral History Project, novelist, historian, playwright, professor of English at The City University of New York; Jim Hubbard, co-director of the ACT UP Oral History Project, independent filmmaker.

Viewing of the exhibition and reception with curators Helen Molesworth and Claire Grace, members of Fierce Pussy, Robert Vazquez Pacheco, Avram Finkelstein, Sarah Schulman, and Jim Hubbard, will follow the 6 pm lecture.

watch the lecture online

M. Victor Leventritt Symposium
ACT UP 20 Years Later
October 16 & 17, 2009
Arthur M. Sackler Museum, lecture hall, 485 Broadway, Cambridge, MA, 02138
Free admission, open to the public


Friday, October 16, 2009
5:00–6:30pm
Opening Keynote Address
Leo Bersani, Professor Emeritus of French, University of California, Berkeley

Saturday, October 17, 2009
10:00am–noon
ACT UP New York
Panel discussion with three members of ACT UP: Gregg Bordowitz, filmmaker, associate professor of film, video, and new media at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; Joy Episalla, independent artist, member of Fierce Pussy; Kendall Thomas, Nash Professor of Law and director of the Center for the Study of Law and Culture, Columbia University.

watch "ACT UP 20 Years Later" online

1:30–3:30pm
Storm the NIH
Roundtable discussion with: Garance Franke-Ruta, National Web Politics Editor, The Washington Post (Harvard College, Class of 1997); Mark Harrington, executive director, Treatment Action Group (Harvard College, Class of 1983); Jack Killen, MD, deputy director for the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health.

watch "Storm the NIH" online

4:30–6:00pm
Closing Keynote Address
Richard Meyer, associate professor of art history and fine arts, University of Southern California

Film Screenings
AIDS Activist Shorts and the Emergence of Queer Cinema
Friday, October 16 and Saturday, October 17, 2009
8:00pm
Harvard Film Archive, 24 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA, 02138
For more information, visit the Harvard Film Archive: http://hcl.harvard.edu/hfa.

Harvard University Center for AIDS Research Conference
AIDS Stigma, Denialism, and Mistrust
Monday, October 19, 2009
12:00–7:00 pm
Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, 24 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA, 02138
Free admission, open to the public
Symposium organized by the Harvard University Center for AIDS Research and the Harvard Initiative for Global Health. CFAR website

Online registration for the symposium is open now:

12:00 – 1:00PM Lunch and Registration

1:00 – 1:10PM Opening Remarks
Laura Bogart, PhD; Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, Division of General Pediatrics, Children's Hospital Boston

Session I Presenters
1:10 – 1:35PM
Seth Kalichman, PhD; Professor of Psychology, Center for Health, Intervention, and Prevention, University of Connecticut
“HIV Does Not Cause AIDS" and the Dangers of AIDS Denialism

1:35 – 2:00PM
Nicoli Nattrass, MSc, DPhil; Director of the AIDS and Society Research Unit and Professor, School of Economics, University of Cape Town
HIV Denialism and HIV Conspiracies in South Africa

2:00 – 2:25PM
Laura Bogart, PhD; Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, Division of General Pediatrics, Children's Hospital Boston
HIV Conspiracy Beliefs as Barriers to HIV Prevention and Treatment

2:25 – 2:40PM Coffee Break

2:40 – 3:05PM
William E. Cunningham, MD, MPH; Faculty Associate, UCLA Center for Health Policy Research; Professor, UCLA School of Medicine
Discrimination and Conspiracy Beliefs are Associated with HIV Vaccines Acceptability and Access to Care: Results from LA VOICES

3:05 – 3:30PM
Sofia Gruskin, JD, MIA; Associate Professor of Health and Human Rights, Director of the Program on International Health and Human Rights, Harvard School of Public Health
HIV Denialism and Human Rights

3:30 – 3:55PM Question and Answer Session

3:55 – 4:10 PM Coffee Break

Session II Community Panel Discussion
4:10 – 4:15PM Panel Introduction
Rhoda Johnson Tuckett, M.ED; Education /Outreach Manager, Infectious Disease Bureau, Boston Public Health

4:15 – 5:30PM Panel Discussion
Iris Rivera, Community AIDS Activist
Ben Perkins, MA, MDiv; Director, Project Saving Ourselves (SOS), The Fenway Institute
Nancy Galloway, Boston Pediatric and Family AIDS Project, The Dimock Center
Reverend Franklin Hobbs, Executive Director, Healing Our Land, Inc

5:30 – 5:45PM Closing Remarks
Valerie Stone, MD, MPH; Director, Primary Care Residency Program; Associate Chief, General Medicine Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital

5:45 – 7:00PM Reception

Reading: The Lady Hamlet, a play by Sarah Schulman
Featuring Kate Burton and Jennifer Van Dyck
Directed by Huntington Theatre Artistic Director Peter DuBois
Tuesday, October 20
7:30 pm
Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Lecture Hall
Free and open to the public

Two artists, both born to play Hamlet, also happened to be born women. With 1920s New York City as their sparring field, Margo Stayden Burns and Helene de Montpelier discover themselves engaged in a war of wits that leaves their colleagues and lovers caught in the crossfire. Tony-nominated actress Kate Burton plays Helene opposite Jennifer Van Dyck as Margo. This reading is presented as part of the American Repertory Theater’s Shakespeare Exploded Festival. For more information about the festival, please visit: www.amrep.org

The Lady Hamlet reading is presented in collaboration with the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts and the Harvard Art Museum and during the “ACT UP New York: Activism, Art and the AIDS Crisis, 1987-1993” exhibition. Sarah Schulman’s Oral History Project, created with Jim Hubbard, is a central component of this exhibition and will be on display at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts October 15–December 23, 2009.

The reading of The Lady Hamlet will be followed by a post-performance discussion with playwright Sarah Schulman.

This event has been made possible through the generous support of Learning From Performers, a program of the Office for the Arts at Harvard, through the Melvoin Family Fund.

Carr Center for Human Rights Policy Lecture Series
ACT-ing UP: The Living Legacy of AIDS Protest
Sert Gallery, Carpenter Center, 3rd Floor at the top of the Ramp
Free admission, open to the public

William Rubenstein, Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
Thursday, October 22, 5:00 - 6:30 pm

Christopher Capozzola, Associate Professor of History, MIT
Thursday, October 29, 4:00 – 5:30 pm,

Amber Hollibaugh, activist and author
Thursday, November 12, 4:00 – 5:30 pm

Evelynn Hammonds, Dean of Harvard College,
Professor of History of Science and of African and African American Studies,
Harvard University
Thursday, November 19, 4:00 – 5:30 pm

Jarrett T. Barrios, President, Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)
Thursday, December 3, 4:00 – 5:30pm

Four-part lecture series with prominent intellectuals and activists, coordinated by Dr. Timothy Patrick McCarthy, Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Harvard Kennedy School. Sponsored by the Human Rights and Social Movements Program, Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Harvard Kennedy School.

Workshops: Sexual Health
Friday, October 23, 5 pm
Friday, November 13, 5 pm
Thursday, December 3, 6 pm
Main Gallery, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts

The Art of Prevention: Workshops with Harvard College Peer Contraceptive Counselors:
Open, interactive demonstrations of contraceptive and STI-preventative methods, followed by conversation with counselors on any and all topics.

For information about Peer Contraceptive Counselors (PCC): www.hsc.harvard.edu/~pcc

Gallery Talks
ACT UP New York: Activism, Art, and the AIDS Crisis, 1987–1993
October 31 & November 12, 2009
Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, 24 Quincy Street, Cambridge
Free admission, open to the public

Saturday, October 31
11:00am
Claire Grace, exhibition co-curator and Agnes Mongan Curatorial Intern, Department of Modern and Contemporary Art, Harvard Art Museum/Fogg Museum

Thursday, November 12
1:00pm
Helen Molesworth, exhibition co-curator and Maisie K. and James R. Houghton Curator of Contemporary Art, Harvard Art Museum/Fogg Museum

Poetry Reading
Mark Doty and Eileen Myles
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
6:00 pm
Thompson Room, Barker Center, 12 Quincy Street
Free admission, open to the public
Mark Doty, winner of the 2008 National Book Award for Poetry
Eileen Myles, independent writer
Introduction by Christina Davis, Curator of the Woodberry Poetry Room.

M. Victor Leventritt Lecture
World AIDS Day Lecture: Seeing AIDS
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
6:00pm
Arthur M. Sackler Museum, lecture hall, 485 Broadway, Cambridge, MA, 02138
Free admission, open to the public. Sackler galleries will remain open until 6:00pm.
Philip Yenawine, co-founding director of Visual Understanding in Education
Philip Yenawine was director of education at the Museum of Modern Art from 1983–93 and was deeply involved in the community of artists who made work in response to the AIDS crisis. Yenawine will reflect on the impact of AIDS on the cultural sector, how artists contributed to political action around the disease, how some artists chronicled the disease through their work, and the establishment of December 1 as "A Day without Art.