VOICE = SURVIVAL
The 8th Floor, 17 West 17th Street, NYC, from June 15 to August 11, 2017
Gallery hours: Tuesday to Friday 11am to 6pm
The title of the show inverts the ACT UP movement’s rallying cry of SILENCE=DEATH. The exhibition is comprised of works that mobilize the multivalent concepts of silence and vocality, and the effectiveness of vocal empowerment to fight for individual and communal survival. It explores the entanglement of the voice and its absence with battleground concepts in HIV/AIDS activism such as agency and citizenship, language and representation, and intersubjectivity and the body. VOICE = SURVIVAL weaves sound and video works together and includes excerpts from seminal pieces such as Marlon Riggs’ Tongues Untied (1989) alongside contemporary works like Adinah Dancyger’s 2016 video of Mykki Blanco reciting Zoe Leonard’s 1992 poem, ”I want a president…”
Ultra-red’s sound installation Untitled (for multiple voices), 2010, serves as a preliminary draft for a multi-vocal composition. It consists of a libretto of demands assembled from SILENT|LISTEN, a series of video and audio recordings of seven testimonial performances from 2005 to 2006. The performances were staged as a series of tactical occupations of major American art institutions. Collectively, they highlight how the arts serve as a crucial arena for open discussion and, in some communities, as the only public space to speak out about crucial societal issues.
The exhibition also includes a selection of archival audio materials from the David Wojnarowicz Papers at the NYU Fales Library, engaging themes such as sound, death, temporality, and memory. The archive includes personal answering machine tapes spanning from 1981 to 1992, sporadic personal “audio journals,” interviews of friends, and his performative readings of his own AIDS-related writing. In addition to the Wojnarowicz materials, audio recordings of speeches by Audre Lorde and Pat Parker, The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action (1977) and Where Will You Be (1979), respectively, trace the intersectional activism of queer women of color in the 1970s and 80s. Framing language as crucial to survival amid oppression, they mirror the text works of Chloe Dzubilo and Shan Kelley.
In diverse ways, these sound and video works mobilize the power of the voice to communicate sonically, affectively, physically, and linguistically in the fight for individual and communal survival.
The artwork and ephemera in the exhibition include posters, drawings, and text-based works that play on the metaphoric implications of voicing vitality, agency, and subjecthood. Kameelah Janan Rasheed’s text-based prints from How to Suffer Politely (And Other Etiquette), 2014, blend satire and societal suppression to, as Rasheed states, “explore how suffering, anger, and responses to trauma are policed to ensure that said expressions of suffering do not disrupt or declare accountable oppressive systems.” The implications of suffering in silence are also evident in Donald Moffett’s poster He Kills Me (1987). Moffett depicted President Ronald Reagan in a poster used in ACT UP’s demonstrations against his 1987 Presidential Commission on the HIV Epidemic, which was widely criticized by activists for the Commission members’ demonstrable lack of expertise.
In LJ Roberts’ embroidered work Portrait of Deb from 1988-199? (2012-2013), Roberts draws from an archive containing activist buttons, stickers, and other articles belonging to a friend’s ex-partner who participated in ACT UP, the Women’s Health Action Mobilization, and the Lesbian Avengers from the late 1980s to the mid-1990s. Compiled and sewn together in Roberts’ work, they illustrate the intersectional politics active during this era.
By exploring the vital importance of the voice in both art and activism surrounding the fight against HIV/AIDS in the US and Canada, VOICE = SURVIVAL reveals the capacity of vocal protest to turn isolation into connection, impotence into agency, oblivion into memory, and extinction into survival. Ultimately, the exhibition highlights the potential of voice to confront the bio-political crises of the present.
About the Curators
Claudia Maria Carrera is a doctoral student and graduate instructor in the Department of Music at NYU working in sound studies, media studies, and performance studies. The exhibition VOICE = SURVIVAL grew out of her dissertation research, which examines the mobilization of the voice as a medium and a metaphor in the early years of the NYC AIDS crisis as a queer survival practice. At NYU, Claudia has co-curated the Music Department Colloquium Series and has served as a shop steward and unit representative for GSOC-UAW 2110, the first graduate employee union at a private university in the U.S. Claudia has also worked as a stage director for theater and opera, including as a Resident Artist director for the Opera Theater of Pittsburgh, and has written about music, arts, and culture for Capital NY and for the Tanglewood Music Festival, where she served as a Publications Fellow. Claudia lives in Astoria, Queens and holds degrees from NYU and Princeton University.
Adrian Geraldo Saldaña curated numerous exhibitions and public programs while working at the Abrons Arts Center of Henry Street Settlement and a Project Booth at NADA New York 2014. He served as a Fellow in NYFA’s Emerging Leaders Boot Camp and a Prevention Justice Fellow in the Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project (CHAMP). Adrian has also worked at the Streetwork Project LES, a needle exchange program serving homeless and street-based youth, and the Harm Reduction Coalition, a national organization founded by needle exchange providers, advocates and drug users. He was a member of Queer Fist, a radical queer collective formed to disrupt the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City. He holds a Master of Public Administration from the NYU Wagner School of Public Service. Originally from Houston, TX, Adrian lives in Brooklyn, NY.
About Visual AIDS
Visual AIDS is the only contemporary arts organization fully committed to HIV prevention and AIDS awareness through producing and presenting visual art projects, while supporting artists living with HIV/AIDS. Visual AIDS is committed to preserving and honoring the work of artists with HIV/AIDS and the artistic contributions of the AIDS movement. Capturing critical and audience acclaim, Visual AIDS’ art exhibitions examine the deep cultural history of the AIDS crisis and contemporary issues around HIV/AIDS today. Exhibitions are organized by guest curators and feature a range of emerging, international and HIV+ artists. VOICE=SURVIVAL was selected for The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation exhibition from an open call for proposals.
About The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation
The Foundation believes in art as a cornerstone of cohesive, resilient communities and greater participation in civic life. In its mission to make art available to the broader public, in particular to underserved communities, the Foundation provides direct support to, and facilitates partnerships between, cultural organizations and advocates of social justice across the public and private sectors. Through grantmaking, the Foundation supports cross-disciplinary work connecting art with social justice via experimental collaborations, as well as extending cultural resources to organizations and areas of New York City in need. sdrubin.org
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For further information, members of the media may contact:
Blue Medium Inc.
The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation